Let us pray: Dear Savior, in our walk of faith it is easy to get frustrated and distracted. It is easy to blame others for our failings instead of taking personal responsibility. It is also easy to be seduced by those who tell us to take short-cuts when it comes to living our faith. Today remind us that the road to heaven is narrow and that we will fall off it if we stray from a total trust and reliance on You, alone. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, WHO IS THE WAY THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE!
TEXT: Philippians 3: 12-21
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Today the Red Sox play the Yankees and the Patriots play the Chargers. All across the Boston area people will be glued to the television. Media commentators will remark about the “Fenway Faithful” and the shine on Landsdowne Street. They will call Fenway the “cathedral of Red Sox nation.” Likewise, 50,000 people will live it up at Gillette Stadium and spend more this afternoon on supporting their team than they will this week on groceries. And tomorrow, tomorrow the headlines will scream out the scores and countless people will either have a “good” day or a “bad” one depending upon who wins. Is it any wonder that sports in America is aptly labeled: the new religion?
Like many of you, I like to watch, too. I find it relaxing. It is escapism from the grind of modern life. But, it is still only a game. It’s not reality. What is real is taking care of your family, tending a sick child, and most of all probing the mysteries of God and having Him fill you with His wisdom and love. Baseball games last but a few hours. Likewise football games. But the game of life is eternal. And we’re all in the 4th quarter, the 9th inning, right now.
St. Paul writes here to the Philippians. These were Greek speaking people who were very familiar with games—specifically the Olympic games. And so, he uses that imagery to portray the race through life which Christians run toward heaven. Note well what he says about that triumphant prize of heaven.—“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it (the laurel wreath of eternal bliss). But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
So, with all that imagery in mind, today I want to remind you, Paul wants to remind you that:
PATIENCE AND PERSEVERANCE WIN THIS GAME
Countless times I’ve watched a team which was well ahead late in the game and then they let down. They thought they could coast to a win. But, usually when that occurs the other team gets a second wind, scores some points, and the “sure winners” become losers. All this because they ceased being patient and persevering. They let their emotional immaturity get the better of them. “All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.” In short, don’t rest on your laurels. Don’t get frustrated, either, when life’s problems seem to get in your way. Don’t give up on God. Always remember that in Christ He’s not given up on you so keep living in repentance and faith every day. Always remember the past blessings He’s provided and never forget that His love which provided them is still intact—in Christ!
Sports heroes are role models for young people. That can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how they act. We’ve all seen the petulant superstar, the steroid-driven athlete, the star who has succumbed to greed via gambling. And we tell our kids not to follow their footsteps because it is self-destructive. But, we’ve also seen people like Teddy Bruschi of the Patriots who is unselfish and devoted to family and friends. Those role models we hold in high esteem. Paul tells us that we need to look to and be such positive role models when it comes to our Christian faith. “Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.”
Maturity is realizing your own limitations. There will always be someone stronger than you, someone richer than you, someone smarter than you, someone healthier than you. Just think back on the high school superstar who became an also-ran on the college campus. And even if you hit life’s lottery and achieve fame and stardom, even if you become the Tom Brady of this world, someday you’ll age and lose a step and another will take your place.
When it comes to our faith, we need to recognize our limitations. We need to be honest about our sinful failings. And we need to shut out the siren’s song of our own reason or strength or ability. Before God we are nothing, but a speck of dust. So, don’t get hung up on money, fame, or prestige. Don’t neglect the commandments, even though your neighbors ignore them. Don’t allow false prophets to tempt your pride or simply feed your flawed ego. For only patience and perseverance will win this game we call the Christian life!
I’ve known a few perfectionists in my life. And they were never happy, and usually not very successful. The reason for that is that perfectionism either paralyzes you into inaction, or when you do act, you’ll always end up dissatisfied with the result. So, when God demands perfection from us in the form of His commandments, we either refuse to play in His World Series, or we quit His Superbowl at half-time. Don’t let that happen to you! No, take the long view of your life. There still is time left on the clock. And always, always, remember that when you cling to the Real Superstar, Jesus Christ, the outcome is a certain win! For He has already won the trophy of heaven just for you. He did that by His perfect life lived in place of your imperfect one and by His innocent death on a cross to save you from eternal death. Yes, He lives in heavenly joy and by faith in Him, so will you!
Paul now ends with that reminder of where our confidence must rest. “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”
So, my friends, take the field this week knowing that the outcome is a certain win—in and through Christ. Don’t ever let frustration with your walk of faith cause you to quit. For only patience and perseverance will win this game! Amen