Leaving People with Hope
Topic: Hope Passage: 2 Corinthians 13:11–13:14
Grace Community Church
June 20, 2021
Leaving People with Hope
Let’s turn in our Bibles to 2 Cor. 13. We started this journey in 2 Cor. nine months ago today. Over that time we’ve seen a messy and messed up church and this morning we come to Paul’s parting words to this messed up church. What will those words be? What would you say if you were Paul?
A year ago, Ben and Erin Napier from HGTV’s show Home Town decided to take their renovation skills on the road by choosing a small, struggling town and work with the community and other HGTV stars to rebuild and renovate that town, helping a struggling community regain hope for a brighter future.
They chose Wetumpka, Alabama, a town that had been in the process of rebuilding itself when it was struck by a devastating tornado in January of 2019, destroying most of the work they done and leaving the town exhausted, out of resources, and out of hope.
The owner of Tapp 18, a clothing store, said she was just days away from closing her business down –along with all the hopes and dreams it represented – when they received the call from Ben and Erin saying they were coming to Wetumpka.
I was surprised how much I was touched and how uplifting it was to see them approach discouraged small business owners and worn out home owners and say, we want to give your business a face lift, we want to renovate your home! You could see the hope and positivity grow as the entire town began to go from broken down to rebuilding, from hopeless to hopeful, from dying to bustling with life and energy! The owner of Tapp 18 said two days after the show aired, her entire business inventory was sold out. She had to call on friends to help package and mail out the orders, the demand was so high.
As Ben and Erin left Wetumpka, they had made an incredibly positive difference in the people of that town, and they had made some life-long friendships in the process. What the long-term effect it will have is yet to be seen, but the town of Wetumpka has a new lease on life and I’m betting they’re going to make it.
As we’ve worked through 2 Cor, we’ve gotten to see that the church in Corinth is not a healthy church. They have some good things going on, there are good people in the church, but the sin, the relational breakdowns, and the influence of heretics has left the church damaged, discouraged, and in a bad way.
As Paul comes to the end of his letter, how will he leave this messy and messed up church? Will he give up on them? Wash his hands of their problems? Offer a parting shot of correction or criticism?
Actually, he leaves them with hope. Let’s pray and pick up in verse 10.
For this reason I write these things while I am away from you, that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.
11 Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.
12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All God’s people here send their greetings.
14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 2 Cor. 13:11-14
Paul leaves them with hope. Hope built on the gospel, hope built on the assurance God hasn’t given up on them, hope that when Paul comes again, he’s coming to build them up, not tear them down. He‘s coming with a hammer and a paintbrush to help them rebuild what’s been damaged. Paul leaves them with hope!
- Rejoice! I’d be afraid to tell a messed up church to rejoice – they might think that means everything’s ok. But Paul’s not afraid to say it, rejoice!
- Aim for restoration. Set your sights on rebuilding, not tearing down.
- Encourage each other.
- Be of one mind, live in peace, pursue unity (only possible when Christ is our unifying principle).
Where there is gossip, slander, anger, division, discord, and hostility Paul says pick up a hammer, pull that rot out and rebuild joy, restoration, encouragement, and unity. Rebuild with grace, love, and Holy Spirit fellowship. God is with you! God’s people here are with you and they’re cheering you on!
Paul closes with a power packed, life-changing, future-bending, church-transforming prayer: 14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
This is the Trinity in action in the church. Jesus brings the grace, the Father brings the love, the Holy Spirit brings the fellowship. This is a prayer for the church community to experience together: be with you all. Paul leaves them with hope!
We live in a broken world. There are a lot of people like Wetumpka, worn down, discouraged, overwhelmed, and ready to close up shop. On the verge of giving up. And feeling very alone in their hopelessness and pain.
There’s a lot of that outside the church and there’s a lot of it inside the church too. Jesus came to this broken world, not to criticize and condemn, but to reclaim and rebuild. The gospel is Jesus calling and saying, “I’m coming to your life with the mercy, grace, and love it will take to rebuild you into the man or woman God meant for you to be.” Salvation isn’t just us going to heaven. Salvation is our broken lives being rebuilt into something new through Jesus Christ.
Jesus left us, the church, the phone to make those calls. That’s our job, that’s our mission. To call those who don’t know Jesus and are lost, and to call those who do know Jesus and are discouraged, and to say, Jesus in us wants to come to your life! Leaving people with hope.
- Build with positivity, not with negativity
When I say positivity, I’m not talking about the positive thinking that says things like what the mind can conceive, the mind can achieve and all that. I’m talking about seeing the world, and seeing people, through the lens of grace and love. I’m talking about building rather than tearing down. Building up is positive. Tearing down is negative. That’s what I mean.
It’s harder work to build up then it is to tear down. It’s harder to believe the best than to believe the worst. It’s easy to become cynical in this sinful, messed up world, and sometimes it’s easy to become cynical about the church cause honestly it may not be much better.
I can bend towards the negative. It’s not hard to do, and it’s not completely unwarranted. But here’s why we want to do the work to build with positivity, not tear down with negativity.
Anyone can look at a Wetumpka and see what’s wrong with it. It doesn’t take a special gift to point out all the problems. But it takes a special kind of faith to pick up the phone and say, “we’re coming to Wetumpka! Let’s work together to build this town back up!” That’s what Paul does: he sees all the problems in Corinth, and he picks up the phone and says, “I’m coming to Corinth again and my goal is to build you up, not tear you down! Until then aim for restoration and I pray God does awesome things in you.”
He leaves them with hope!
Rebuilding with hope needs to be built on truth. Verse 8 says For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. Paul says in Eph. 4 that we should not speak words that spread rot (corrupting words) but only words that build up according to the need. Sometimes what someone needs is to face the rot in their life. You can’t build over rot, it needs to be pulled out. Sometimes ripping out is the most loving thing we can do for someone. Ripping out sinful habits. Ripping out sinful thought patterns. Ripping out destructive behavior.
You can’t build love over gossip and slander and expect it to last. You can’t build unity over anger and hostility. When Paul says aim for restoration, he means pull out the gossip, the slander, the anger, the hostility, and rebuild with the materials of grace: love, kindness, compassion, truth.
If someone doesn’t want to let go of the rot, the rebuilding can’t go forward. The rot has to be ripped out before the good goes in. But let’s make sure we don’t get real good at ripping out but not good at rebuilding with hope.
I knew someone who wanted to renovate their home, so they went through the entire home ripping down sheetrock, not just on one floor, but one every floor, until most of his house was ripped down to the studs, with piles of broken sheetrock everywhere, making the home unlivable. Then they ran out of resources to continue the job. He ripped down but couldn’t build up. The house was left in a worse state than when he began.
Truth with grace means our end goal isn’t ripping, it’s building. We want to leave people with hope!
- Involvement is contagious – let’s be super spreaders!
OK, maybe too soon after all the super-spreader concerns with COVID. But there is a synergy to involvement that builds momentum. As people in Wetumpka saw progress, it inspired them to grab a paintbrush or a hammer and get involved!
Paul writes to the Ephesians that the church builds itself up in love as each part does its part. That’s synergy: us doing more than you or I could. It’s also involvement – each part, every part, doing its part. The picture I get is of a snowball rolling down a hill gathering momentum (and more snow) as it goes. Involvement is contagious!
The challenge for the church (not just ours) is that while COVID was spreading, involvement took a big hit. We had to pull back from most of the avenues of involvement we used to have. We weren’t able to have people over or even get together with people. We spent more time with Netflix than we did networking.
And it’s gonna take some work to rebuild the momentum of involvement, both in one another’s lives, and in serving together in the mission of the church. But this is where we need to remember the “why” of what we do.
Because God has broken lives He wants us to help rebuild. That’s the gospel work God calls His church to. There are people – both outside the church and inside – in whose lives you can make a difference. That’s why. Community is really another word for involvement. Without involvement a group of people are just a crowd, but as they integrate their lives they become a community. As we start to restart and rebuild ministries in the church, it’s not because we love a program, it’s because we love people.
Do we love that first time visitor? Do you know that most people make up their minds about a church in the first 5-7 minutes of their visit? Long before the sermon. Someone caring enough to welcome them is an expression of love in a way they can feel. Trust me, when someone walks into the church and no one reaches out, they feel that too.
Do we love families with young children? Then we need to have a children’s ministry that will serve their needs. Do we love that person who has never stepped foot inside the church but watches online (and yes, that happens. I got message from someone just the other day who joined our service online for the first time and God spoke to his heart and encouraged him). The video ministry is a practical way of getting hope to people who aren’t here.
It’s been a year of unplugging, and many of us enjoyed the break, I get that. But let’s together rebuild the momentum of involvement. Involvement is contagious – the more people in a church are involved, the more others want to get involved. Uninvolvement is contagious too, but let’s not go there!
The exciting thing is there’s a Holy Spirit synergy that happens when we work together to move the mission of the church forward! Involvement is contagious – let’s all do our part to be super-spreaders!
- Let’s believe, work, and then believe again
As we come to the end of this letter, Paul leaves them with hope. And then what happens? What happened to this church that Paul invested so much heart and time and work and love into?
We don’t really know.
Will Wetumpka take off after Home Town Takeover? Will they gain, or lose, momentum? We don’t really know. The cynic can say, “yeah, whatever good accomplished probably won’t last.” We can say that over pretty much any good thing we might invest our lives in. But let’s not be that person.
If we only invest in work we know will succeed and take off, we’ll never invest because there are no guarantees. We need to believe, work, and believe again, committing our work to God and knowing that in the end, nothing done for Christ and by Christ is in vain. So believe, work, and believe again.
I’ve heard people say – I’ve said it myself – I can’t wait for things to go back to normal. I’m not sure things will ever go back to the old “normal”. And I’m beginning to think that’s not what we should be aiming for. Things have changed – we aren’t the same church we were a year ago. Let’s not make it our aim to go “back” to something. Let’s make it our aim to go forward into the next chapter God has for us. Together.
God’s grace, love, and friendship energizing us to pick up hammers, paintbrushes, and circular saws to build broken lives in the name of Christ and do the work God has given us to do.
And as we work together to build up, as Paul prays, May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with [us] all.
More in Messy Grace: Second Corinthians
June 13, 2021Examine Yourselves Part Two
June 6, 2021Examine Yourselves Part One
May 29, 2021Minimizing Mess, Maximizing Grace in Relationships