• Download

Living Our Vision: A Challenge to Thrive in 2021 and Beyond – Part 2

First Baptist Church https://fbcbartow.org

“Living Our Vision: 

A Challenge to Thrive in 2021 and Beyond”

Part 2 [on screen]

Rev. Matthew C. McCraw, EdD

First Baptist Church, Bartow, Florida

April 18, 2021

Introductory Comments:

Remember last week that we started a two-week series entitled “Living Our Vision: A Challenge to Thrive in 2021 and Beyond.” Last week was Part 1, this week is Part 2. 

We talked last week about living out our vision of developing disciples who love God, love the church, and love others. 

I gave each of us a challenge last week that we’ll come back to at the end of the message this morning. The challenge was to consider how you will . . .

. . . love God more. [on screen]

. . . love the church more.[on screen]

. . . love others more. [on screen]

What I want to do this week is give you some words of exhortation, or a strong message, that will push us forward as we live out our vision. 

Before we do that, let’s go to God in prayer. 


So, I’ve asked you to bring back your cards that we passed out last week. I’ve asked you to………………………………………………………….. pray over them, think about them, and be prepared to challenge yourself.

So, as we prepare to fill out these cards together and pray for them, let me exhort you with the following thoughts:

First, . . . 

I. Be focused [on screen]

As we think about this challenge to live out our vision, we must be focused. 

Focus makes all the difference in achieving a task, doesn’t it? When a teacher is trying to get a student to finish an assignment, when a member of the marching band is trying to memorize a movement on the field, when a marksman is aiming for a target, when a business is trying to reach a market, when you’re teaching a Bible lesson, or when you’re following directions while driving, you need focus. 

Focus helps us put attention on what is most important at the time. Well, church, at this time, the most important thing we can do as a church is achieve the vision that God has given us.

There was a leader in the Old Testament that helped the people of God focus: his name was Nehemiah. 

The people of God had been defeated and removed from their homeland, but they then had a chance to come back and rebuild the city. It was a miracle and tremendous blessing of God that they could do this. However, they had a lot of obstacles in their way. Among those obstacles were some evil men that tried to discourage the Israelites and distract them from the task at hand. 

Nehemiah helped the people focus. Listen to what Nehemiah said in Nehemiah 4:14: [reference on screen]

After I made an inspection, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials, and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the great and awe-inspiring Lord, and fight for your countrymen, your sons and daughters, your wives and homes.”

Nehemiah said, “Don’t be afraid of them.” He wanted to make sure that nothing took away their focus from the awesome task of rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem. 

Listen, church, there will be distractions, there will be discouragement, but don’t lose focus. We must focus on what God wants us to do here at First Baptist Church Bartow. We must focus on developing disciples who love God, love the Church, and love others. 

Second, . . . 

II. Be intentional [on screen]

I’ve said this a million times, but it’s worth repeating a million more times: if you’re going to live a faithful Christian life, you’re going to do so on purpose, not on accident. We must be intentional in fulfilling our vision statement. 

Listen to what Nehemiah said to the Jewish people to keep them focused and intentional. Nehemiah 4:15-23 says: [reference on screen]

15 When our enemies heard that we knew their scheme and that God had frustrated it, every one of us returned to his own work on the wall. 16 From that day on, half of my men did the work while the other half held spears, shields, bows, and armor. The officers supported all the people of Judah, 17 who were rebuilding the wall. The laborers who carried the loads worked with one hand and held a weapon with the other. 18 Each of the builders had his sword strapped around his waist while he was building, and the one who sounded the ram’s horn was beside me. 19 Then I said to the nobles, the officials, and the rest of the people, “The work is enormous and spread out, and we are separated far from one another along the wall. 20 Wherever you hear the sound of the ram’s horn, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us!” 21 So we continued the work, while half of the men were holding spears from daybreak until the stars came out. 22 At that time, I also said to the people, “Let everyone and his servant spend the night inside Jerusalem, so that they can stand guard by night and work by day.” 23 And I, my brothers, my servants, and the men of the guard with me never took off our clothes. Each carried his weapon, even when washing.

Let me just point out a fact about what was happening here in Nehemiah 4: this was not easy! It’s hard enough to work to build a wall. Then, you add in the fact that you have to constantly be on watch for enemies, you have to carry tools and weapons, and you are keenly aware that things could go wrong, well, that makes the work more difficult, doesn’t it?

Their work was hard and their situation was hard, but catch this: it was worth it. The people were doing the work of God and experiencing the blessings of God. 

So also, our work to achieve our vision statement may be hard, but it is worth it. We must intentionally do the work of God and, if we are faithful, God will bless our church tremendously. 

Finally, let us . . . 

III. Be encouraged [on screen]

Listen, church, we must be encouraged that this vision that we are working towards is a worthy goal. If it’s not, let’s figure that part out first. Come sit down with me or one of our other pastors and let us know what the issue is with our vision. 

However, if this vision is from God, let us be encouraged that we are doing the work of God. 

Turn to Nehemiah 6:15-16 to hear about how the people felt after the wall was done.

15 The wall was completed in fifty-two days, on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul. 16 When all our enemies heard this, all the surrounding nations were intimidated and lost their confidence, for they realized that this task had been accomplished by our God. [reference on screen]

Church, let us keep our eyes on Jesus and His ways, let us obey the Word of God, and then we will be able to look back and say, “ . . . this task has been accomplished by our God.”

Be encouraged, we can do this by God’s Holy Spirit. We can do this for God’s glory. We can do this because of the work of Jesus. 

So, let us be focused, let us be intentional, and let us be encouraged as we seek to achieve our vision. 

Concluding Thoughts:

As we close, I want to share a few words of encouragement that I received this week. I was at a mentorship program at the North American Mission Board where young pastors like myself can learn from more experienced pastors. One of my mentors happened to be there. His name is Jimmy Scroggins and he’s the pastor of Family Church in Palm Beach County. Here are three statements that Jimmy Scroggins said, which really encouraged me:

1. This is our time. [on screen]

Listen, church: there’s no better time to pursue the Lord and His ways than now. God has given us His will in His Word. He has given us a vision to pursue. Let’s lace up our boots and get to work.

This is our time. 

2. We have to choose to leave the past in the past. [on screen]

We’ve gone through a lot in the last year. Our church has also gone through a lot over the last five years. We need to put all those problems behind us and move forward. 

At the same time, some of you can reflect back to the good old days and you may long for former times. Listen, the pastors of our past are gone. The programs of our past are gone. The successes of our past are gone. God has something for us now. Now is our time. 

We have to choose to leave the past in the past. 

3. We have to move forward into the future God has for us. [on screen]

As God said to His people long ago in Jeremiah 29:11: God has plans for us; plans to prosper us and not to harm us; plans for our hope and our future. 

We have to move forward into the future God has for us. 

Will you join me on that journey?

Here’s our bottom line for today’s message:

Bottom Line: We can do it! We can thrive[on screen]


We’re not called simply to survive; we are called to THRIVE!

We can do it, church. Do you believe that?

In just a minute we’re going to take some time to commit to writing on our cards and praying for the commitments that we’re making. 

Before we do that, let’s challenge ourselves in the following ways:

Weekly Challenge: [on screen]

1. Commit [on screen]

Commit to making this commitment and then commit to fulfilling it. It’s going to take effort and follow-through. Will you commit?

2. Talk [on screen]

Sometimes the kind of talking that takes place in churches is not godly or helpful. We don’t want that kind. We want the good kind. Talk to each other. Encourage one another. Hold each other accountable. Challenge one another. 

Let’s talk about what God is doing here. 

3. Pray [on screen]

Let me be clear: this will take prayer to achieve. We cannot do this on our own and that’s the way it should be. If we can achieve our vision without God, then it’s not a worthy vision. 

Join me as we move forward in prayer. 


(Challenge to fill out cards)

Now we’re going to enter into our time of commitment. 

First, let’s take out the card that says, “I will love God by . . .” [on screen]

Write down your commitment on your card. How will you love God in a greater way this year? (pause for time to write on cards)

Now, let’s spend some time in prayer over our commitment to love God more. (prayer)

Next, let’s take out the card that says, “I will love the church by . . .” [on screen]

Write down your commitment on your card. How will you love the church in a greater way this year? (pause for time to write on cards)

Now, let’s spend some time in prayer over our commitment to love the church more. (prayer)

Finally, let’s take out the card that says, “I will love others by . . .” [on screen]

Write down your commitment on your card. How will you love others in a greater way this year? (pause for time to write on cards)

Now, let’s spend some time in prayer over our commitment to love others more. (prayer)

In just a moment, as we exit, I want to encourage you to tape those cards to the plastic wall in the back. Let these cards be a reminder to us of our commitment as a church.

You may be here this morning and you are not a follower of Jesus. If you’re wondering why all these crazy people are committing their lives to following Jesus, let me tell you about how great Jesus is. 

(Gospel presentation)

(closing prayer)

COPYRIGHT DISCLAIMER: The text contained in this sermon is solely owned by its author. The reproduction, or distribution of this message, or any portion of it, should include the author’s name. The author intends to provide free resources in order to inspire believers and to assist preachers and teachers in Kingdom work.