sermon: We Must Learn to Fly
John Reid, reflecting on a story of a well-meaning individual who 'rescued' a butterfly from its chrysalis only to discover it could not fly, draws a parallel to our own spiritual development, suggesting if we are 'rescued' from our spiritual tests and trials, we will not be able to fly either. We need struggle, tribulation, pressure, and trials to develop patience. Pressure is the way to the Kingdom, and trials and tribulations constitute God's tools to prepare us for our future roles. The pressure of these present tests (from the world, the flesh, and Satan) serves as our chrysalis which we must struggle against to mature. At our calling, we considered the pressure of standing up for the Sabbath or tithing to be enormous, but after we mastered those tests, God seemed to give us more sophisticated or intense trials to further prove our endurance. Basic training is over and now we must stand individually without the security of a large congregation. We must fight with everything in us to maintain stability in a godless culture or milieu. We need to develop practical wisdom and prudence in our behavior, combating religious deception and syncretism. We must not deviate from the truth, but must struggle against the chrysalis of tribulation and religious confusion, learning to fly into God's Kingdom.
Many years ago, I read a story of a man trying to help a butterfly escape from his chrysalis. The butterfly was struggling to escape, so the man reached down with a pocket knife and freed the butterfly, but to his amazement the butterfly could not fly.
It was God’s design, in making the butterfly, that the butterfly’s struggle to escape the chrysalis be absolutely essential to strengthen its wings and muscles in order to achieve flight. Someone else taking that process away brought death to the butterfly.
The society we live in presents the goal of wealth as allowing an individual to be at ease for the rest of his life. Being at ease is the goal; but in this end time, that goal is extremely, extremely dangerous.
I would like to quote from the Berean of May 18th, Revelation 1:9 by John Rienbaugh. “I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:9).” He states three words in a row: tribulation, kingdom, and patience. Now I am quoting, “This verse emphasizes the overall importance of patience.”
James 1:2-3 …count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.
This shows that patience allows the trial to become completed and produces the right thing.
John emphasizes the word “kingdom” (Greek is written emphatically to draw attention to certain words). The other two words, “tribulation” and “patience,” are like parentheses on both sides of the word kingdom. What this does is to cause the word “tribulation” to define the path to the kingdom! Think of tribulation in terms of trials and pressures that arise as a result of our faith in Jesus Christ, our journey toward God's Kingdom, and our faith that we will be a part of it. The way to the Kingdom of God is through trials. We will not just skate along because God has created work for us to accomplish in our lives so that we might be prepared for the Kingdom. If we are not prepared for it, we will not be there.
The way of preparation is for God to put us through trials, just as if we were going to school. We can think of trials in terms of lessons that need to be learned, character that needs to be built, and attitudes that need to be adjusted. All of these put pressure on us. So tribulation—pressure or trials—is the path. “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (II Timothy 3:12). We are going against the flow of the world, and God has designed it this way to prepare us for His Kingdom. Thus, there will always be pressure on us.
Pressure is the way to the Kingdom and patience is the necessary element for making it. If we are impatient, we will not be there! Salvation is by grace through faith, and faith is needed when we do not have what we desire—the Kingdom of God. There is no need for faith if we do not have to wait! Patience is required while we are waiting. It is that simple.
The way to the Kingdom is through testing and trial, and the way to succeed in testing and trial is to put our faith to work by being patient! That is the path that will exercise our faith. God will see that it is there, and His creative efforts on our behalf will work. All of us must have patience. It is there, but it has to be activated. We have to trust that God really wants us in His Family, and if we want to be prepared for His Kingdom, we had better start using patience. End of quote.
Brethren, we must understand that the world we came out of and the sin that plagues us to this day is our chrysalis. We too must struggle to break loose and fly.
When we were first called, it was a different would. Our beginning trial was to read every label. I remember we read every label in the grocery store to make sure that we did not displease God in any way by having the wrong item in the food.
We held tithing as being extremely important. In our house, I remember sitting down to write my tithe check, walking down to the mail box to mail it, and then paying the rest of my bills. I wanted to make sure that I was not tempted to not send God His tithe.
The second major trial I endured was when I had to stand up for the Sabbath against my district manager. He called the executive vice president from Cleveland Ohio and the western regional manager to have me fired. They held the meeting in this dark hotel conference room with one light. It looked like the Gestapo headquarters. The vice president said, “John, what is this we hear about you keeping Saturday and not calling James [my boss]?”
Back then, I had three little children and a wonderful wife that I cared for, and I loved my job; but I was scared because I had to tell them that I was going to keep the Sabbath. Before I answered them, there was dead silence in the room. Then I said, “You know I work for the company almost seven days a week, and when I come back from Las Vegas from a road trip, I call until midnight. If I cannot go to church one day a week, then something is wrong with the company.” Well, you could have heard a pin drop. The executive then said, “John, you can go home; you are fine.” And I went home and after that my boss treated me like you would not believe. God put words in my mouth that I did not know were there, and because of God, I kept the job for 37 years.
At that time our overall concept of what this calling was all about was very simplistic: we are all going to a place of safety; there, we would be protected and watch the rest of the world suffer. We were special. Our children would never go to high school. I now have a son that is 50 years old, so you could say I am now an antique.
Back then, we thought every minister was perfect, and then we began to see them leave the Worldwide Church of God. In every congregation, we began to see some who were letting down, and we heard messages that relaxed God’s law.
When Mr. Armstrong died, things began to come apart. We were left with the decision: do I stay? Do I hang on to the truth? Do I bend to a new teaching, or do I just leave? A very traumatic spot for us all.
Brethren, it was the beginning of a new environment of individual testing. That is exactly what it is.
Here we are now in a world of confusion, within a godless nation and a godless government. We have come from the protection of a large organization of 140,000 or more and a legal department to help protect us. Plus we had feast sites with up to 6,000 give or take a few, and congregations of 400 or 500 to where we are today with many of us are meeting in homes. And our feasts are maybe 200 or 300 now.
Things have changed, yet we are still here, and that is good.
Basic training is over, and now we must individually stand. I want to stress that.
We must individually stand. This is a lot like Kim Myers’ message.
Philippians 2:12-16 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.
Our job is to work out our own salvation as best we can, and not let doubt in on the important things. Brethren, it was easier in the large congregations, but now it is a different world.
How do we do this? We fight to resist the world around us and fight the temptations that come to attack us.
I saw the beginning of a new TV program the other night that allows cursing. I mean they allow every curse word you can think of; I could not believe it. But, it is coming, more and more.
We are to fight with fear and trembling and with true anxiety reminding ourselves that if we let down and coast, we are in real danger of losing our salvation.
We are in a world that does not really require anything finite, and yet our calling is finite.
For us, it seems difficult to believe that this is our one opportunity. You better realize that there is no second opportunity.
Where are we at this time? We are a nation that basically hates God.
Amos 5:10-13 They hate the one who rebukes in the gate, and they abhor the one who speaks uprightly. Therefore, because you tread down the poor and take grain taxes from him, though you have built houses of hewn stone, yet you shall not dwell in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, [meaning those in charge] but you shall not drink wine from them. I know your manifold transgressions, and your mighty sins; afflicting the just and taking bribes; diverting the poor from justice at the gate. Therefore, the prudent keep silent at this time, for it is an evil time.
They hate him who rebukes at the gate. Now I would like to look at the word “gate” for a moment. A gate is the entrance to closed grounds, buildings, or cities. The gate was a place for great assembles of the people. This naturally led to the custom of using gates for places of public deliberation, reading the law, issuing proclamations, and for the conveying of messages to the leaders.
The leaders wanted to do their own thing, opposite of the laws of God; and when one rebuke was spoken correctly or upright, they hated it, absolutely hated it.
Today, we have a congress, house, and senate. We are dealing with the same fashion with those who indeed hate sound correction that interferes with their personal goals. They put burdens upon people in the form of excess taxes, that they might exert more and more control over the people.
God states in today’s language that they get riches, privileges, rights, vehicles, other material things, and power that the average citizen does not have a chance to get. God states that the righteous are put down and leaders taking bribes is an everyday occurrence, and that is true. It is true.
They take the rights away from their citizens today, and in this nation we would say they ignore the Constitution completely. Therefore, we are to be wise and prudent.
I would like to give you some of the meanings of prudent,
(1) Be careful to avoid errors and to follow the most politic and profitable course, be worldly-wise, see what is happening.
(2) Exercising sound judgment being sagacious and judicious.
(3) [This is the one I think really applies to us.] Characterized by practical wisdom or discretion, not extravagant, to be wise in a true sense, knowing or foreseeing what is about to happen.
We are talking about doing the best we can to see what is happening, and to prepare for it.
Was this something that only happened in the time of Amos? No, of course it was not.
This always happens to the people of God when they forget Him. This has all come down through the ages, but this last correction that appears to be taking place is the real final correction. I hope you really see that. It is no longer fun and games.
I would like to have us consider something. (This is interesting to me.) In the list of Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21, it is interesting that the first thing that Jesus lists that will herald the end time coming is that we will need to be aware of false religious leaders. The thing that we have to watch out for is false leaders. Could this be number one in importance as far as the crisis is concerned? I think so. Could we be facing a national religion? From what I read, that seems extremely possible.
Matthew 24:4-5 And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.
Matthew 24:11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.
Mark 13:5-6 Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name saying, ‘I am He [the Chris] and will deceive many.
Luke 21:8 Take heed that you do not be deceived. For many [not a few] will come in my name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time has drawn near.’ Therefore, do not go after them.
I do not think we have any idea of how difficult it is really going to get. Is it time to have our foundation solid? Is it vital? You bet it is. It is vital if we hope to be in God’s Kingdom. We are going to see, that it requires work on our part.
Have we had any who claimed to be the Two Witnesses? There are at least seven, maybe more, and one man claims to be the pastor who will select the Two Witnesses. How much hokum is that? And yet people are following him.
Brethren, the church world around us is in confusion. Most of you know that we live in Bolivar Missouri, a small town of 10,134 people, and there are several smaller towns near us. Here is a church listing in our very small phone book: Christian Church of Halfway, The Lighthouse Fellowship of God, Berean Baptist Church, the Oliver Christian Church, the Brighton Baptist Church, the Calvary Missionary Baptist Church, the Christian Church of Half Way, The church of Christ, and it goes on, the Church on the Hill, Country Side Assembly, Exodus Ministry of Missouri, Inc., the Baptist Church Prayer Line, the Christian Church Disciples of Christ, The Church of the Nazarene, The First Baptist Church, The Fresh Water Church, Grace Fellowship, Harvest Assembly, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Maranatha Baptist Church, The Midways Baptist Association, Morrisville United Methodist Church, Mount Olive Baptist Church, The New Life Community Church, the Open Bible Church of God, The Pentecostal Church of God, Pleasant Hope Fundamental Baptist Church, The Sacred Heart Church, St. Albans Ozark Episcopal Church, St Peters Catholic Church (we only have one catholic church in the area because this is primarily a Baptist community), The Seventh Day Adventist Church, Sonrise Community Church, The Stockton Christian Church, the Stockton Freewill Baptist Church, the Stockton Presbyterian Church, the United Methodist Church, the Well Spring Fellowship, The Word of God Fellowship Assembly, the Base Ministries First Baptist, Esquire First Baptist Church, Fender Chapel Baptist Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Zion Lutheran Church. I think there were a few more that I just did not list.
We can also relate, as Kim did. We have Harold Smith’s group, United Church of God, Living Church of God, The Church of God, COGWA, Philadelphia Church, David Pack’s group, Pacific Church of God, and last but not at all least, the Church of the Great God, and probably many more that I have forgotten.
Would you believe this information? I find it really astounding. There are new worldly groups that are forming the “Chrislam” churches, which is a blending of Protestant churches with Muslim churches to try and bring world peace. Can you believe that? That just staggers me.
Is there anyone out there saying, “I am Christ, follow me?” You bet there is. And we better know our foundations, and have them solid. I really mean this.
I would like to have you turn to I Timothy where we will cover some who have left the faith.
I Timothy 4:1-5 Now the Spirit [God’s Spirit] expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, [did you get that? The spirit says this.] speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. [people use this scripture to say that all foods are clean, but that is not the case.] For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God, and prayer. [Some will depart from the faith.]
II Timothy 3:1-7 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come [this is what is coming]; For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
You should see some of the questions that we receive. The Sacred Name Society hates us; they do not like our discussions, as do people who say that God has done away with the Ten Commandments. Do not worry about it; they hate us because we stand up for the Ten Commandments.
II Timothy 3:8-14 Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was. But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And, out of them all, the Lord delivered me. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them.
II Timothy 4:1-4 I charge you therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom, preach the word. Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. [He is talking to Timothy here, and it applies to us as well]. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.
And he goes on to say, but you be watchful and have your head on right and do not give into such foolishness.
Titus 1:8-11 Be hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict. For there are many, insubordinate, both idle talkers, and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain.
I Peter 2:1-20 Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious. Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed, by men, but chosen by God and precious, for you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame. Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” [The do not like the truth.] They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed. But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness […and we have been in darkness and we have been called out.] into His marvelous light; who once were not a people, but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. Therefore, submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men—as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king. Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. For this is commendable, if because, of conscience toward God, one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.
II Peter 3:1-4 Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.”
That is going to be taking place, too. How does one combat this? We live in a time that is lax, careless, or slack. Many people facing the world’s problems take the attitude that this is just another cycle, another business cycle; do not worry about it.
This world and the world’s attitude, entertainment, and lifestyle are all a part of the chrysalis that we have to fight our way to overcome, to be able to fly.
All seems well to many people, but it is the unemployed and hurting that probably question: “Is it the last days?” I think it is. He is talking to Timothy, here, but it applies to us as well.
II Timothy 2:1-16 You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, [we are in a warfare, brethren] that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops. Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things. Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained. Therefore, I endure all things for the sake of the elect that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, We shall also live with him. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself. Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness.
In the King James Version, it says to study to show yourself approved. The key here for us at this time is the word study. Jameison-Faussett-Brown made it very simple. All Commentaries have paragraph after paragraph on this.
Study: Be earnest and diligent.
To show: Be able to present to anybody who asks you why do you believe what you believe.
To thyself: This is extremely important. Prove to yourself that you belong to God. It is evidence by how you live.
Approved: He said to be approved you are tested to be found solid. That will be rewarding if you have truly worked and labored for the truth.
Workman: One who has truly labored for the truth.
Do not be ashamed: You should not be ashamed because your work is accepted by God.
Rightly dividing: Be ready to divide the truth. We should look at it and say, how should I live?
Most importantly, we must not deviate from the truth.
Mr. Armstrong said many times that we must pray and study at least 30 minutes a day or we would not make it.
It was much easier back then, because we had the correspondence course to lead us, but now we must put for effort and work at it.
I Thessalonians 5:17 Pray without ceasing.
We are to be regular and consistent in prayer, not letting any minor incident take that special time away from us.
I remember when Mr. Armstrong said to pray and study, boy I would do it. I would get up at 4:15 in the morning to study or pray, go out and jog for 2 miles, then come back in and shower. I was determined to spend special time in study and prayer.
I also remember taking over a new territory for my employer in San Diego, and I really wanted to get out and do it. I also wanted to pray and study. I remember saying oh, I promised you I would pray and study, and as I gowned and grumbled, I got on my knees, and then I prayed and study for an hour. It was one of the best days that I ever had. God knew what a miserable person I was and how this was a struggle; but it paid off.
It was much easier when we had the correspondence course. We needed it then, but now we have to put forth effort, and work at it. Also, in those days, I have to say that we never disobeyed Mr. Armstrong.
Have we let down since then? I bet we have. I know sometimes, I have to kick myself to get back at it.
At the beginning of this message we looked at three words: Tribulation, Kingdom, and Patience. Brethren, if we are going to learn how to fly, then like the butterfly, we too must struggle through the chrysalis of tribulation with patience, not giving up, but persisting in this calling giving to us. How important is this to us? Kim read the verse.
Revelation 3:10 …because you have kept my command to persevere, [individually kept my command to persevere] I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.
Is that important to us? Maybe we do not see it as being important to us, but I assure you, that it is very important.
Brethren, we have an individual in the Bible that suffered a terrible trial, and he refused to give up. That man was Job. We will read what he said when his trial had ended.
Job 42:5-6 God, I have heard of you by the hearing of my ear, but now my eye sees you. Therefore, I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
Job had come to a new understanding. God said something about Job in James 5.
James 5:11 Indeed, we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the persistence of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.
In other words, God was working in Job’s life with pain and tribulation, and Job did not understand it.
Will that be said of us? Have you heard of the perseverance of our Paullette Williams, Shirley Price, David and Annetjie Wyatt-Mair, the Vaghis, the Fletchers, the Hinds, the Prestons, the Boyers, Allyn Aldridge, Carol Allen, Cecilia Pulliofico and seen the end intended for them? That the Lord was compassionate to them and so many more?
Brethren, I hope this is said of us all.
I Thessalonians 5:1-12 But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you your selves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day [you have been called]. We are not of the night or of darkness. [You know the truth]. Therefore, let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober [self-control]. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night [spiritual darkness]. But let us who are of the day, being sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. Therefore, comfort each other and edify one another, just as you are doing. I urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor over you. . . .