"WORTHY OF PRAISE"

First Corinthians 16.15-18

INTRODUCTION:

1. The subject of my message this evening is praise. I was once told by a lady named Bea Shirk, who was one of the most effective first grade teachers I have ever had the experience to pastor, that praise is the stuff that really makes people go. So Iím glad Shawna Carreker and Wenona Rigali praise our little Academy kids as much as they do.

2. Anyone who has read the Word of God realizes the significance of praise. Itís presented in the Bible as an integral and inseparable part of worship. You simply cannot be right with God without having praise of Him as a part of your daily lifestyle.

3. However, when the child of God is involved in that part of worship which is called praise, what exactly is he doing? Well, for one thing, he is speaking. When you praise you must speak.

4. "Yes, pastor, but what do you speak about when praising God?" Two things. When you are involved in praising the Lord you praise Him on two fronts. First, you ought to praise Him for Who He is. You just praise God for being God. He is, after all, worthy of praise and adoration and worship. Why, even if He had never done anything that benefited you He would still be worthy of all praise and glory because of Who He is. Amen?

5. Remember that fellow named Job? One of the things God accomplished when He allowed Satan to afflict Job was to prove that He is worthy of praise and worship, even from a creature who is not presently benefiting from anything He is doing.

6. Though he was receiving nothing from God at the time, that he was aware of, Job said, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him." Job also said, "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." He was praising Godís name.

7. But thereís another aspect of our praise of God. Thatís praising Him for what He has done. Thank God He doesnít, or has not yet, put us in Jobís shoes. Amen?

8. We ought to praise God for being God . . . merciful, just, righteous, holy, omnipotent, immutable. But we can also praise Him for what He does. He has saved those of us who are Christians, by calling us to His Son, Jesus. He has indwelt us by His Holy Spirit. He hears and answers our prayers, something an unsaved person has no assurance of. He meets our material needs. And the list goes on forever.

9. The child of God who isnít praising God is missing out on one of the greatest blessings of life. Every Christian ought to cultivate his personal praise of God. Hey, think about this for a moment. Isnít witnessing, in part, just praising God to a lost person? Sure it is.

10. This evening, getting back to the real area of expertise of that woman I mentioned, Bea Shirk, weíre going to examine another major area of a believerís praise. The praising of other people. Itís an area of my Christian life that I consider myself to be undeveloped, but itís an area that Iím determined to develop, by Godís grace.

11. Everyone needs praise. Amen? When you think about it, one of the primary reasons the Christian serves Jesus Christ is for that anticipated moment of praise that we will hear from His lips at the judgment seat of Christ, "Well done thou good and faithful servant." "You did good. Iím pleased with your life." Oh, what glory it would be for me to hear those words spoken by my Savior. I want to hear those words someday. Donít you?

12. And what person is really being honest when he tries to let on that an attaboy from a friend, from a spouse, from mom or dad, or a slap on the back from the boss, doesnít cause him to walk especially tall for a while? Isnít that right? "I donít care what he thinks." Sure.

13. Folks, praise is extremely important in a personís life, and Christianís lives are not exceptions. But letís get our theology straight on this matter of praising other people, because there is a great deal of inappropriate praise given out. And there is a tremendous amount of praise being improperly sought.

14. While we are to praise God for what He is as well as what He does, praise of other men should not be focused on what they are, but should properly be given only for what a person has done. And especially with Christians, praise should be given for those traits and characteristics that are particularly Christ-like, not for attention-getting behavior that kowtows or for childlike "Look at me, Dad. Look at me!" type of behavior.

15. Why is this? Let me explain and Iím sure you will see the truth of it. God is inherently good, inherently holy, inherently just and loving. You and I, however, are not. You and I are inherently sinful, inherently selfish, inherently undeserving of any kind of praise, if the Bible is to be believed. Amen?

16. So, this evening we are going to examine a portion of Scripture in which the apostle Paul praises a Christian family. And as we examine the text, keep several questions in the back of your mind:

17. First, ask yourself, "What is Paul praising these people for? Does he praise them for what they are, or for what they have done?" Second, ask yourself, "How does Paul praise these people? What are the ingredients in truly effective and heartfelt praise?"

18. When we finish our study tonight we ought to know enough about praise to know both when and how to praise in such a way as to really help people do right and be right, and to advance the cause of Christ through our praise of people.

19. Having said all that, please turn in your Bible to First Corinthians 16.15-18 and stand for the reading of Godís Word:

15 I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,)

16 That ye submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us, and laboureth.

17 I am glad of the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus: for that which was lacking on your part they have supplied.

18 For they have refreshed my spirit and yours: therefore acknowledge ye them that are such.

20. It is obvious that Paul is directing his words to the Corinthian Church about the family members of the household of Stephanus, as well as two other men who were certainly members of the Corinthian Church. His words are words of praise.

21. Pay careful attention, now, as we examine the two parts, the structure, of Paulís praise. I do this so you will know how to praise others, as well; your children, your friends, your spouse.

1A. THE FIRST PART OF PAULíS PRAISE INVOLVES EXHORTATION (15-16)

I know that the first part of Paulís praise involves exhortation because thatís what the word "beseech" means. It means to exhort. But notice that the exhortation is not directed primarily toward the household of Stephanus, but toward the Corinthians as a congregation.

When you praise your child, donít direct your words of praise to your child only. When you praise a worker, donít direct the word of praise to the worker only. Make sure that you direct your praise for a person to others. You see, in this way your praise means more to the one who is being praised, and your praise lets the others know what kind of commendable behavior will result in praise. Thus, the others will be influenced to do right, as well.

Now, letís break Paulís exhortation down into parts:

1B. First, The Reference

1C. Iíve already mentioned this, but Paul directs his praise to the Corinthian Church. His praise actually refers to the ones praised, but is not exclusively directed to the ones praised.

2C. Notice how he refers to them. "Ye know the house of Stephanus." Here Paul brings them to the attention of his readers.

3C. "That it is the first-fruits of Achaia." Here Paul reminds the folks back home that these folks were among the first ones saved in Greece, which Paul refers to using the word Achaia.

4C. "And that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints." Paul does not call them good people. He does not indicate that they are better than anyone else. But he does point out their commendable behavior. They are addicted to serving other Christians. No pride problem with these folks. And the kind of addiction problem everyone ought to have. Amen?

5C. Some Christians are so addicted to some things that they will never be addicted to serving God. They are into prominence, or influence, or showboating, but not actually rolling up their sleeves and serving. This family, however, meant business for God and they were praised for it.

6C. So, the first part of praising someone is to exhort others by referring to their praiseworthy behavior.

2B. Second, The Requirement

1C. As Paul speaks to the Corinthians about the commendable behavior of the Stephanus family, he directs them to do something.

2C. "That you submit yourselves unto such and to everyone that helpeth with us, and laboureth." You people who are not serving God, I want you to submit to those people who are serving God.

3C. The word "submit" is a military term meaning "to rank under." Paul is telling his readers that anyone who is serving God outranks anyone who is not serving God in the spiritual chain of command. That means, if you are not serving God, then start helping someone who is serving God. Amen?

4C. Donít be a dead head. Donít be an obstacle. Donít be dead wood. Instead of standing around asking yourself what's going on, begin to help someone who obviously knows what's going on . . . and before long youíll know for yourself whatís going on.

3B. Finally, The Recognition

1C. When you praise someone, and when you properly direct that praise toward other people, you are referring to those who have done right, you are requiring something of those you are trying to get to do right, and you are recognizing what those folks did right to deserve such praise.

2C. Paul finished verse 16 with these words: "and to everyone that helpeth with us, and laboureth." Paul is telling his readers why Stephanus and family were praised. They served and helped the apostle Paul in his ministry.

3C. Would you like to be praised? Then get with it. There will be no praise coming forth, and there ought not to be, for people with great potential, for people with strong desire, etc.

4C. God will praise us when we perform. Jesus Christ will say, "Well done," when we are faithful to the task. Paulís praise came for those who didnít plan to serve God, but for those who, in fact, did serve God. Isnít that right?

5C. Parents, donít you ever praise your children for planning to do right. That will only encourage them to plan to do right. Your rule of thumb should be like Paulís, and the Lordís. Salvation is free, but youíll be praised only when you perform.

6C. And remember, praise in front of others as much as you can. That way, you show everyone what kind of proper behavior is praiseworthy. Boy, Iím lousy at this. So many of you folks merit praise for your ministries that have too often gone unrecognized by me. But by Godís grace Iím going to become the pastor, the husband, the father, who knows when and how to use praise to exhort others, as well as praising what is praiseworthy.

2A. THEREíS A SECOND VITAL PART OF EVERY ACT OF PRAISE. THE SECOND PART OF PRAISE INVOLVES EXULTATION (17-18)

17 I am glad of the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus: for that which was lacking on your part they have supplied.

18 For they have refreshed my spirit and yours: therefore acknowledge ye them that are such.

Now, donít let my word "exultation" throw you for a loop. It just means to show your delight, to show your pleasure, to show your excitement.

Do you know people who will walk up to you after youíve done something really marvelous and praiseworthy and they will say, with a monotone voice and a straight face, "John, I was tremendously pleased with what you did. It really thrilled my soul"? Baloney. Real praise necessarily includes exultation. "Man, that was great! Did you see what he did, George? That was fantastic, wasnít it?"

Thatís exultation. Now, letís see how Paul showed his exultation.

1B. First, Paul Showed His Exultation In The Form Of A Recital

1C. He didnít recite poetry, but he did recite exactly what it was that thrilled his soul about what these people did. Verse 17: "I am glad of the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus: for that which was lacking on your part they have supplied."

2C. He recited their resources and their resourcefulness. They were the kind of people who took note of what he needed and supplied it. Whatever should have been done by the whole congregation, but wasnít, they took on as a personal ministry to Paul.

3C. This is the kind of ministry in our Church that is supplied to me by Shirley French, by Archie French, by Lee and Melinda Moyer, by C. R. Rigali and Toni DiGiovanna, by Brian and Dali Spicer, and by a whole host of other people.

4C. Diane Imm was on her toes in this fashion when she came up with the idea of obtaining postal routes for passing out our door hangers. And she, like the others of you who are like this, had no expectation of public recognition for what she did. I appreciate that.

5C. Of course, those who have no servantís spirit say such people are boot lickers and kiss ups. But Paul bragged on such people.

6C. Verse 18a: For they have refreshed my spirit and yours." Notice the result of what they did and the way in which they did what they did. They refreshed both Paulís spirit and their own Churchís spirit.

7C. When you are praising, make sure you show your delight. And as you show your delight to folks, tell them exactly why you are praising that other person. You see, they might not know what praiseworthy behavior is until they hear you praise another personís life or ministry in front of them.

8C. When you do that your enthusiasm, coupled with what the people receiving the praise have done that merited praise, will help others to appreciate them all the more. And what will that do? It will further encourage praiseworthy behavior by others.

2B. Second, Paul Showed His Exultation In The Form Of A Request

"Therefore, acknowledge ye them that are such."

1C. See what he is doing? Paul is directing the Corinthian Church to recognize and acknowledge what the members of Stephanusí household had done.

2C. He wanted their Church to join in and admit that it was wonderful. Folks, requesting that the Church join in praise of Stephanus and his house proved Paul really meant it when he praised them.

3C. And do you think the Stephanus clan ever did anything praiseworthy again? Youíd better believe they did.

CONCLUSION:

1. Did Paul praise Stephanus and his household for their sinless perfection? No. For all we know, Stephanus might have dipped snuff when no one was looking.

2. But Paul did structure his praise of their Christian conduct in such a way as to really be a blessing to them and to encourage others to serve God and minister to other Christians in like manner.

3. You know, we have times in our Sunday School auditorium class and on Wednesday evenings when folks take the time to offer up a word of praise to God and give a brief testimony. At least they ought to be brief. I think that would be a good time to praise others, as well.

4. Not directly, like feeding the glory hogs of this world, but indirectly, to others, giving God the glory and at the same time teaching and showing others what God would have us to do.

5. But whether here or elsewhere, strive to be a good praiser. And as you think about praising others, find a place in your heart to forgive me. I simply have not developed the godly behavior pattern of praising people the way I should.

6. And itís not because there is little to praise here. From Mrs. Carrekerís continual and forever faithful service to me, to Violet Rodarte, to Julie Carlsberg, to Arjelia Mendez, and our nursery workers. There are so many of you who silently and invisibly serve in ways that merit frequent praise.

7. And there are others of you who do not live and serve in a praiseworthy life. But I assume much responsibility for that. Had I the habit of praising that which deserved praise you might long ago have learned what habits and practices were worthy of praise. I will acquire that habit.

8. And recognize, along with me, that a person doesnít have to be perfect to merit praise. I can praise the humility of someone who is lazy or the cheerfulness of someone who smokes cigarettes. When you praise someoneís behavior you are praising their behavior. You are not endorsing their entire lifestyle. So, donít be afraid to praise someoneís commendable efforts.

9. Finally, pray for me, that I might heap praise on you continually, as God gives me light and as Scripture permits. Let us band together with a common commitment to praise what in our children is praiseworthy, to praise what in our brothers and sisters in Christ is praiseworthy, and to praise God in all things. Amen? What a wonderful way to teach each other and to encourage each other as Christians.

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