1 Corinthians 9:24-27
January 3, 2016
It’s the first Sunday of the year and it’s time to lay out all of our New Year’s Resolutions. Let’s pause for a moment of silence. Maybe we’ll just skip them, then we won’t have to worry about anything – or feel disappointed if we give up on them. Or maybe you’ll say, yes, I need to make some changes in my life, so I’ve outlined some resolutions I want to make for 2016.
Too often we have great ideas and hopes, but we have no idea how we are going to get there. We just want to get there . . . and if we were to be honest, we don’t want to have to work to get there. We just want it to happen. If we could, maybe we’d like to put a little microchip in our brain so we’d know the Bible backwards and forwards. We’d know what to do in every situation. We would have another chip to give us a little zap when we think bad thoughts or when we have a desire to eat more than we should.
You see, it would be nice if it were that easy. But to get where we want to get, it takes work. Too often we just don’t want it, even though we say we do. It’s like saying . . .
“I’m going to pray more this year,” but having no plan and wondering why you didn’t.
“I’m going to eat better, go on a diet,” but in 3 months, nothing has changed.
“I’m going to save money this year.”
“I’m going to get more involved in church.”
“I’m going to get a new job.”
We could go on an on about the life changes we want to make. The new year seems to kick start it all, but it could happen at any time. So, really, as we walk into the new year, why not now? Why not take a real inventory of who we are and what we’re about.
Are we giving our all to all that we do? I believe we settle way too often for mediocrity. But that’s not how we are supposed to live our lives. I don’t believe that’s God’s plan for us.
Your work place may accept it, your family may accept it, your school and your friends may accept it, you may even accept it . . . but I do not believe God accepts it. I don’t believe God accepts the excuse that life’s been hard. I know it is, we could all compare notes and in the end, you may stick with your hardships over your neighbors.
So, what’s God calling us to do? I like this passage from Paul in 1 Corinthians 9 –
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.
25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.
26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.
27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. – 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
So, what’s Paul telling us? Firstly, we’re all in a race. It’s called life. We may not think it’s a race, we may not like it, but we’re in a race. And it’s a marathon. The race consists of all shapes and sizes and varieties. And we are in multiple races all at the same time. It may involve work or school or retirement, or just trying to live our lives, it could be our health, our finances, our kids. It’s all a race!
As Paul said in his final letter in 2 Timothy 4:7, 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have kept the faith.
Notice Paul refers to life as a race. Not because he was a track star, but because he understood this is life. It’s a race. And too many of us are competing to win the praises of others and not seeking to win the praise of God.
You see, we often make life all about us. It’s about how we can have all of our needs met, without having to do the work.
Give me that magic pill to lose weight and put on muscle – but I want to keep eating and lounging.
Give me that new job making 6 figures. Call me when my ship arrives.
Make me kids perfect . . . attitude . . . grades . . . friends . . .
Fix my relationships, while I stay the same!
You get the picture . . .
But Paul tells us
25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things.
27 I discipline my body and keep it under control – 1 Corinthians 9:25, 27
It takes hard work to get where we want to be.
For some people, the goal of being in church is to have someone meet their personal needs. That may be how we start out. We’re drawn here for some unknown reason. We have a need, and that’s great to get here, but then once we’ve said YES to Jesus, we need to move forward . . .
Here’s the rub . . . we can’t stay in that mindset. It’s not about us – – – it’s about others. Because if we keep the “it’s about me” mindset, then we’re always going to be frustrated with the church. Because the church is not always going to meet your needs.
I read the following story – – I don’t know if it’s true or not, but you’ll get the point.
A pastor was in a store and a lady came up to him and gave him a look and raised her voice and said – “I want you to know I left your church. I left your church.”
The pastor said, “If it’s my church, that was a wise decision. If it’s my church, I’m going to leave too.”
She said, “I left because you weren’t meeting my needs.”
It’s a church of 5,000 . . . and the pastor responded, “I don’t remember meeting you, let alone talking to you and knowing your needs. Did you ever tell anyone what your needs were?”
She didn’t think she had. So, the pastor asked her . . .
“Can you tell me, if we have 5,000 people sitting in that church, all with your attitude, how will anyone’s needs be met? If you reserve the right to have that attitude, then you must give everybody the freedom to have that attitude. And if everybody has that attitude, who is going to do all the need meeting?”
Standing her ground, she demanded, “Then you tell me who will.”
He said,“This is what will work: when people stop sitting in the pew saying, ‘They’re not meeting my needs’ and start saying, ‘Whose needs can I meet?’ Then needs will be met. When a Servant Spirit flourishes in a congregation, they minister to each other as unto the Lord.”
Again, I’m not sure that conversation took place, but we can see how that can be very true in the church world. We want our needs met. And if they aren’t met, we just aren’t very happy!
When we have that type of mindset – – – we will never really accomplish what we are to accomplish in this lifetime. We will end up really frustrated and blame others for what never worked out for us. In the end . . . if these people could take a really honest look at themselves . . . I believe they ended up settling for a life of mediocrity!
That may sound really strange! But think about it, they never tried to move beyond where they were. They were kind of, sort of comfortable . . . yet, strangely, they really weren’t comfortable, but they were not willing to work for what they really wanted in life.
So, going back to Paul — He’s telling us we need to discipline ourselves. If we don’t, we will end up simply being mediocre. Because without discipline we will never get to the level we were hoping to achieve.
It’s true for the church as well. Mediocre will not get the church anywhere. I believe the call is for excellence. But how can we attain excellence? How can we move beyond the ordinary – – – to – – – extraordinary?
It’s going to take work. And that’s my theme for myself and this church for 2016!
EXCELLENCE! There’s no substitute for the hard work. And that’s what it’s going to take for us to be the church Christ has called us to be.
It means we have to work harder than ever.
It means we have to step up and volunteer and get involved.
It means we have to give financially so the mission can get accomplished.
It means we can’t just sit back and say . . . meet my needs!
It means we look at ourselves and ask – ‘Lord, who are you calling me to be?’
The goal of the athlete is to win the competition. And in order to win, you have to train and work and discipline yourself harder and harder. You may not win, but at the end of the day you can look yourself in the mirror and fully believe you worked as hard as you could.
It’s true in all aspects of life. It’s true – –
at work, are you doing the best you can, or are you just earning a paycheck?
in school – are you doing the best you can, or as average — good enough?
in sports and music and theater — are you doing the best you can?
At home — are you doing the best you can?
At church — are you doing the best you can?
Even when you’re relaxing, are you doing it to the best of your abilities?
At the end of the day, you don’t want to look back and say, “yup, I could have done more.”
In many respects when we look at the mission of the church . . . our mission is to WIN! We want to win people over to Christ. We want people to come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. At the same time we need to be growing in who Christ calls us to be. So, how do we know if we are winning? To an extent we have to keep score!
Do you remember when many churches had Attendance Boards in the sanctuary? They would give you information like – – – attendance, offering and Sunday School
That’s all great information to have, but there are so many other ways to measure if we are coming close to Excellence and being effective.
The main question . . . and . . . . I’ve really been thinking about this – – – and have so many thoughts flying in and out of my brain!
Yet, I think the main question starts with our hearts and our passions.
What are we really passionate about? What burns in our hearts about what God wants us to become?
That gets followed up with the self control and discipline. As we discover if we are becoming the person God has called you to be?
Of course, that’s a loaded question, because pretty much all of us can say “hey I need to do better in so many areas.” And that’s really what I want us to focus on this year, how can we do better and be better in all aspects of our lives.
Not to impress others, but to show God we are becoming more and more the people He has called us to be.
So, we are going to hit the brakes and stop . . . today! But I want you to consider your hearts greatest desire as it comes from God . . .
Who is God calling you to be?
What makes your heart burn for God?
What are you really, really passionate about?
That’s where we are going next week!