Well it’s 2017, who would have
thunk it.  And I would suspect that there
have been a pile of New Year’s resolutions made in the past 11 hours and if the
truth was known there have probably been a pile of New Year’s resolutions
broken in the past 11 hours.
We have probably all verbally or
silently, publicly or privately resolved to do something different this year than
we did last year.  Some will finally
decide to give up the demon tabbacy, other’s myself included have decided to do
battle with a more acceptable vice and that is food.
For many years I resolved to lose
weight and then I discovered that I wasn’t overweight I was under tall, and so
I changed my resolution to getting taller. 
And while you think I’ve lost weight, I’m actually just 7 inches taller
than I used to be. 
So what are your resolutions for 2017?  Big, little, practical, impractical, what
have you decided to change about your life in the next twelve months?  On December 31st of this year will
you be the same person you are now? A better person? Or a worse person?  Will you have won a victory over some area of
your life or will you have gone down to defeat? 
I want to go on record right now
as saying I believe you can do it.  And I
know that you are sitting there thinking “But Denn you don’t even know what I’m
struggling with.”  You’re right, I don’t,
but I know my God and I know that he can give you victory.  Do you believe that? Do you believe that you
are a partner in faith with the Almighty God? 
Do you remember what Gabriel told
Mary in Luke 1:37?  That’s right, Nothing
is Impossible for God. Luke 1:37 “For nothing is impossible with
God.”  And if no thing is impossible with God then all things will be
possible with God.
When Paul wrote his letter to the early believers in Philippi this
is what he told them  Philippians 4:13 For I can
do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
It doesn’t say “I can do some
things” or “I can do the easy things” or “I can do certain things.”
What the word of God says is “I
can do everything.”
Perhaps as we step into a new
year you need to apply those words to your particular situation.  Perhaps you need to write your goals down
this way 
“I can quit smoking, with the
help of Christ who gives me the strength I need.”
“I can lose weight, with the help
of Christ who gives me the strength I need.”
“I can stop being negative, with
the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need.”
“I can learn to love the
unlovable, with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need.”
“I can become a stronger
Christian, with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need.”
You know there are a lot of
things in life that are impossible, there are a lot of things in this life that
you will never be able to accomplish by yourself, but when God is your partner there
is no limit to what you can accomplish.
Each year we resolve to be better
parents, better spouses, to give up this and start that but how about making a
commitment to walking deeper with God? 
To becoming better and stronger Christians? 
Perhaps by December 2017 it could
be said of you as Paul said of the believers in the city of Corinth in 2 Corinthians 8:7 Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted
speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and your love from us—I want you to
excel also in this gracious act of giving. 
And so, Paul begins this
statement with these words: You excel in so many
ways:  Paul is writing to the
believers in the city of Corinth, which was located in what we now know as
And even though the letter was
written specifically to the believers in that church 2000 years ago, because
God in his infinite wisdom included it in what we now call the New Testament it
applies to us today. 
Paul has just finished a litany
of praise for the churches in Macedonia which were just north of Corinth.  He talks about how even though they were
going through some tough times they were still joyful, that even though they
were poor that they were very generous. 
He tells about what great people and terrific Christians they were. And
I’m sure that those reading the letter were yeah, yeah, yeah.  Macedonians this and Macedonians that.  Have you ever been in a situation like that?
Standing and listening to how great somebody else is. Feels great, doesn’t it?
It’s probably a character flaw of
mine, because as much as I like to hear positive things about people when it
drags on and on inside I’m thinking “Yeah whatever.”  And here’s Paul laying it on with a trowel
about how good the churches in Macedonia are. “Wow guys you would really like them
they are a great bunch of Christians, you couldn’t help but love these
Macedonians.”  And probably the
Corinthians are thinking, “yeah, right I’m sure.”
It was in 1988, I had just
performed a funeral for a church member the day before and I was out for coffee
and ran into a friend of mine from the church, he sat down and ordered a coffee
and said “You did a good job yesterday on the funeral” I thanked him and then
he added, “Let me tell you about the best funeral sermon I ever heard.” And
before he starts he realizes what he just said and quickly adds “you probably
don’t want to hear about it.” He was right.
Well it would appear that Paul
suddenly realizes that he’s been going on and on and he switches gears and
says: You excel in so many ways. What a
compliment, the word that Paul uses here in the original language literally
means to super excel or to excel to the point of flowing over.  We’re not talking about almost enough or even
barely enough or a bare minimum instead Paul is talking about having so much
that you are unable to contain it and it runs over the top.
When Christ promised the believers in John 10:10 that we would
have life and have it abundantly  he used
the same root word that Paul uses for excel. Here were Christians who didn’t
want just enough to get by, they wanted it all and they more than excelled in
what they had.  Is your Christian walk
one of fullness or do you feel like your spiritual gas tank is permanently on
One of my bad habits is running
my car on empty.  I think it’s a throw
back to my student days when it was a necessity, “yeah put in 2 bucks and check
the oil would you.”  Can any of you
actually remember seriously buying two dollars’ worth of gas let alone having
someone else pump it for you?   And all the time my gas gauge is on empty I
wonder: “Am I going to make it or will I run out of gas? Just one more errand
and then I’ll go get gas, if I can make it.”
But when you are running on empty
you’re never really comfortable, never really sure that you will have enough to
last you. When your spiritually gas tank is on empty you never really have the
joy you are supposed to have as a Christian. You are never really convinced
that you are where you are supposed to be spiritually.
But after the car has been tanked
up and I’ve given a little bit of my forty dollars to the service station
owner, and a little bit of my forty dollars to Esso and a little bit of my forty
dollars to some prince in the middle east or Alberta. and a whole lot of my forty
dollars to Mr. Trudea and Mr. McNeil I don’t have to be concerned about running
out of gas because my tank is full. 
Now the neat thing about filling
your spiritual tank is that God comes to you. 
And so in 2017 my aim is to excel, no to super excel in spiritual
qualities.  I want so much of the Lord
that I’m like the old lady who said “I can’t hold much but I can overflow
2 Corinthians 8:7 Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and
your love from us—I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving. 
I am Resolved to Excel in My Faith
The first thing that Paul said
the believers in Corinth excelled in was their Faith.  Now in the New Testament faith is used to
mean one of two things.  The faith that I
most often preach about is faith the way that it’s defined in Hebrews 11:1 Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will
actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. 
And I love to preach on a seeing
faith, of a believing faith of dreaming God given dreams and believing in faith
that no matter how big those dreams might be that they can be accomplished
through our God.
That is the first type of faith
that is commonly mentioned in the New Testament, but that isn’t how Paul was
using the word faith here.  Instead Paul
was using the Greek word Pistis which referred to a conviction of religious
truth.  It is simply the depth of belief
that you have in what you believe. 
Paul was saying “You excel in the
belief of your salvation and the truth of the Gospel.”  We would say that these people were well
grounded in their faith.  When I was a
teenager my parents made sure that I was well grounded several times, but that
has nothing to do with what we are talking about here. We Need to Excel in our Faith.
After I graduated from Bible
College Angela and I moved to New York and one morning after a major windstorm
we looked out our back window and there was a great big spruce tree laying
across our back yard.  Now when that tree
was standing it was tall, strong and majestic. 
It looked like nothing could knock it down. But when it had fallen down
you could see that the roots were only about six inches under the surface in a
sandy soil.  The tree hadn’t been
grounded well and the only reason it had stood so long was that the wind had
never hit it from that direction before. 
But the day the wind blew hard enough and blew in the right direction
down came the tree.
Christians aren’t always grounded
deep enough, some people put their faith in the good things that happen to them
as a Christian.  “Why since I have been a
Christian everything has been just peachy keen. My marriage has improved, I got
promoted, my children always behave and never talk back and we have more money
then we’ll ever need and Jesus is a wonderful God because he has made our life
And then one of your children
arrives home and informs you that you’re going to be a Grammy or Grampy and you
haven’t even gotten used to being a daddy or mommy yet and another kid winds up
in jail, you lose your job and end up in the hospital and now things aren’t wonderful
anymore and you start to question the reality of God.
Or you have your roots set in
Jesus Christ because Denn Guptill preaches that you should and you have the
utmost faith in Denn Guptill and what he says. 
And then he runs off with all the money in the building fund and buys
himself a motorcycle, a really used motorcycle there’s not much in the building
fund right now, and your faith is shattered.
It bugs me when a scandal happens
with a major church figure and someone says “My faith has been destroyed.” If
that’s all it took to destroy your faith then you didn’t have that much to
destroy. You ever talk to backsliders, you know someone who used to serve God
but doesn’t now.  And they usually can
pinpoint at what moment they walked away from God, and often it’s because a
Christian disappointed them in some way.
That big old tree stood in our
back yard for a lot of years before the wind blew just hard enough from the
right direction. If you roots are shallow then Satan knows how the wind needs
to blow to bring your faith crashing down. 
The old hymn says “My faith is built on nothing less than Jesus blood
and righteousness, I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus
name. On Christ the solid
Rock I stand, All other ground is sinking sand.”
Apparently some people have a
belief in God but not the faith to back it up.  
Buckminister (Bucky) Fuller said “Faith is much better than belief.  Belief is when someone else does the
2 Corinthians 8:7 Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your
enthusiasm, and your love from us—I want you to excel also in this gracious act
of giving.   I am Resolved to Excel in My Speech
The second thing that Paul
commends the Corinthians for excelling in is in their speech Now there’s one thing most of us don’t
lack in and that’s words.  But that isn’t
what Paul is talking about here, and he’s not saying they have good
preachers.  What Paul is talking about
here is not the quantity of speech it is their purity of speech. 
It is a speech that builds up and
doesn’t tear down, it is a speech that is full of love and encouragement, not
jealousy or maliciousness. Controlling
our tongues is probably one of the most difficult things that most of us
endeavour to do, and it is probably a commendable resolution for 2017.  Listen to what James the brother of Christ
writes in his letter James 3:2 Indeed, we all make many
mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could
also control ourselves in every other way. 
How many people here have ever
said something they later regretted? I have and there are people in this world
that I will never be able to minister to because of something I’ve said.  And I will be held accountable for that.  James goes on to write James 3:10-11 And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the
same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!   Does a spring of water bubble out with both
fresh water and bitter water? 
You can’t stand and sing “10,000
Reasons” and then go home and talk about what a dummy the preacher is. You
can’t testify to the wonderful love of Jesus in your life and go home and run
your spouse or children down.  We need to
heed the advice of Mark Twain who said “Keep your words sweet because you never know when you might
have to eat them.”
The scriptures tell us that everything should be done in love, it
could very well say let everything be said in love.   As a matter of fact it does in Ephesians 4:15 Instead, we
will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ,
who is the head of his body, the church.
 When you excel in speech does it make people
better or bitter? Do your words draw people closer to God or push them further
from God?  It’s your choice.
2 Corinthians 8:7 Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your
enthusiasm, and your love from us—I want you to excel also in this gracious act
of giving.  The third thing that Paul commends these believers for was their knowledge.  The knowledge that Paul speaks of here is
head knowledge, something acquired something learnt.  These people were knowledgeable about their
I am
Resolved to Excel in My
Knowledge Our greatest failing as evangelicals is a lack of sound biblical
knowledge.  If I was giving a course in
Remedial Nuclear and Molecular Physics and you only came to half the lectures
and never opened the text outside of class what type of mark do you think you
would get? You would fail.
Most of us will be in serious
trouble if God pops a surprise Biblical Knowledge quiz on us when we get to
heaven.  And I know that some of you are
thinking, “But Denn Bible study comes hard for me.” I’ve got news for you;
Bible study comes hard for me too and if the rest of this bunch was honest
you’d find out that it comes hard for most people. 
And I’m pretty sure that anyone
who has an education especially a post-secondary education would concur that
there is very little in this life that we don’t have to work at learning.
I went to college with a fellow
who was asked to leave Bethany in his second term because of his grade point
average. At college a 4.0 was an A, a 3.0 was a B, a 2.0 was a C.  Just to stay you needed a 2.0 and in the
ministerial program you needed at least 3.0 in your major courses This fellow
was from Louisiana and I asked a friend of his where’d Vance go, and this was
his response.  “Vance, Vance, Vance’s
grade point average couldn’t have got him arrested for drunken driving.”  I said “So what’s he doing now?” and he replied
“He’s a fuel injection for Exxon” “Really” “Yeah he’s pumping gas”
Now Vance wasn’t a dummy but he
wasn’t willing to do the work to get the knowledge. I saw some talented young
men and women leave college because they thought that if God had called them to
the ministry then he should unscrew the top of their heads, pour the knowledge
in, screw it back on and turn them loose on the world.  
Well, God called me into the
ministry and there were times that I was wading around waist deep in Systematic
theology that I wished he had called me to be a fuel injection specialist.  Gaining knowledge may not be easy but it is
essential.  Nobody can learn for you
except you.  God doesn’t expect you to
have a doctorate in theology and biblical knowledge but he does expect you to
learn to the very best of your abilities and talents.
It’s unfortunate that Christians
are like everyone else in the world 5% think, 15% think they think and 80%
would rather die than think. In 2017 let’s make every effort to excel in
2 Corinthians 8:7 Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and your love from us—I want you to excel also in this
gracious act of giving.  The next thing that Paul talks about is Their
Enthusiasm In some translations the word that is
used is diligence and earnestness and they probably capture better the intent
of the original language. 
Christianity was not
a game to these believers; they didn’t go to church because it was the right
thing to do or they were afraid of what people would think if they didn’t.  By embracing the claims of Christianity, the
early believers were forfeiting their right to worldly happiness. Their work,
their homes, their belongings, even their families and lives could be demanded
of them by the Roman Authorities because of their alliance to Christ.  I am Resolved to Excel in My Diligence
Maybe the reason we
sometimes fail to be as diligent as we ought to be in our Christian life is
that our faith cost so little.  If we
could no longer claim what we give to the church as a tax deduction we’d cry
persecution but there are still countries in the world where believers lose
their freedom and their lives just for being Christians.  In 2017 let us be resolved to become more
earnest in our faith.
2 Corinthians 8:7 Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your
enthusiasm, and your love from us—I want you to excel also in this gracious act of
giving I am Resolved to Excel in My Love 
And finally Paul
thanks the Corinthians for their love.  The word that Paul uses here for love is
the Greek word Agape which means an unconditional love.   God doesn’t want us to love people because they deserve it he just wants
us to love them.
If God had waited
until we deserved his love before he sent His Son, we’d still be waiting.  And the scriptures are filled with admonitions
for us to love .
John 15:12 This is my commandment: Love
each other in the same way I have loved you. 

John 15:17 This is my command: Love each

1 Corinthians 13:13 Three things will last
forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.  
1 John 2:9-10 If anyone claims, “I am living in the light,” but hates
a Christian brother or sister, that person is still living in darkness. Anyone
who loves another brother or sister is living in the light and does not cause
others to stumble.
So in 2017 let us resolve to
overflow with Faith, pure speech, knowledge, diligence and love.