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Mar

19

Just Because You Can, It Doesn’t Mean You Should

By pastorbillwalden

I am a follower of Jesus.

Like you, I am faced with choices, desires, options, and possibilities.  Some options are obviously contrary to the heart of God, and so I know not to consider them as viable.  But what about those other options?  What about my desires, dreams, and hopes?  Everyone has them, or had them at one time.

As a follower of Jesus, there are many paths that are considered acceptable by my church culture.  If I want to pursue something, and it has a “Jesus element” to it, then I usually get approval by most people that I know.  There are other activities that are considered good and acceptable by my popular culture, and are not obviously “wrong”, and so once again I receive a nod of approval.

Following Jesus is completely contrary to the two scenarios that I have just described. Neither public approval nor my church culture approval is enough to validate a trajectory for my life. My own desires, predispositions, and tendencies are not to be the compass for my existence.  Someone has said that, “the enemy of the best is the good”.  It is incredibly easy to be a few degrees off regarding what one ought to be doing with their life.  A few degrees off doesn’t seem like much when a pilot first takes off, but obviously, the further he flies, the more off course he gets.  Such can be the outcome of a person’s life.  We can be well intentioned, but way off course. We can “land” in a place that is distant from where we should have landed.

To some I may sound idealistic.  To others, legalistic and confined.  I have considered those possibilities as well.  I have wondered if I ought not allow myself to be more free, to follow the impulses and passions of my heart.

As I understand it, following Jesus is neither a matter of pragmatism, or logic.  Pragmatism dictates that we ought to do the things that “works”.  Logic is the thing that seems obvious.

A Christian man might be a very talented athlete, with a great possibility of a professional career.  Pragmatism and logic would dictate that that is the course he ought to pursue, but it may not necessarily be the path that God has chosen for him.  Just because a man can follow a path and be successful at it doesn’t mean that he should.  Two examples of this come to mind:  Jim Elliot, and Eric Liddell.  Both men were incredibly gifted athletes, but both set aside their athletic pursuits to pursue a greater prize.

People undoubtedly called Elliot and Liddell foolish for choosing Christian service over athletic careers, but both men stayed their courses as they felt led by God, and their lives and deaths have become models of faith for the Christian Church. Pragmatism and logic would have dictated different paths for Elliot and Liddell.  Their personal passion for sports, coupled with their athletic talents would have seemed to be evidence of an athletic career, but the Spirit of God had a greater plan.

Let me conclude with some scripture that points to what I am suggesting.

Philippians 3:12-14 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

John 8:29 And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone,  for I always do those things that please Him.

Both Paul and Jesus could have been incredibly successful in the eyes of the world if they had chosen different paths.  Paul would have been a shaper of culture, a great author, and a philosopher.  Jesus could have changed the temporary course of history for Israel by driving out the Romans, and He would have been an amazing king.

Aren’t we glad that neither of them chose the good instead of the best?  Aren’t we glad that they did not allow pragmatism and logic to dictate their actions?

Dear reader, if you are a Christ follower, don’t miss the best because you choose the good.  Don’t allow pragmatism or logic to dictate you life path.  Just because you can do something well, and because you have a passion for it doesn’t mean that those pursuits should be the focus of your life.  God may allow you to pursue some things as part time hobbies, but keep the main thing the main thing.

 

Mar

5

Stay In Your Lane

By pastorbillwalden

John 17:4 I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.

2 Timothy 2:5 And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.

In track and field, some races require that the runners stay in their own lanes. If they drift over to someone else’s lane, they are disqualified for that race. There is no reward for them for that effort. Their intentions and preparation can be admired, but they have lost that particular race. They learn to stay in their own lane.

It doesn’t matter how sincere they were about trying to run well.
It doesn’t matter that they didn’t mean to stray out of their lane.
It doesn’t matter if they promise to never do it again.

For that race, there will be no reward. There will be other races, but that one race is lost.

Before Jesus went to the cross, He prayed to His Father. He was able to say that He had finished the work which the Father had given Him to do.

Some might argue that point. There were still sick people unhealed, demon possessed people that were still tormented, and the Romans still ruled Israel with brutality. Some would have told Jesus that He hadn’t done enough.

Both Jesus and the Father would have disagreed. Jesus’ mission wasn’t to be evaluated by human standards, but by Heaven’s standard.

Jesus had run His race, and finished His course. He had healed those who were supposed to be healed, though not all were healed. He had cast demons out of some, but not all. The Father’s plan wasn’t for Jesus to overthrow the Roman occupation.

Jesus ran His race, He didn’t stray into someone else’s lane, he follow Heaven’s course for Him, and was able to say:

“I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.”

That truth would allow Jesus to also say, “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” (John 17:5 )

Jesus ran His race, stayed in His lane, finished His course, and then requested the glory that was due Him.

There are a lot of needs in the world, but the Christian’s life cannot simply be one of responding to needs. We must seek the Father’s will for our own lives, for our own race.

May all we who know Jesus run OUR course, and stay in OUR lane, and finish the work that the Father has given to EACH of US.

It probably is true that God will rewards us for our intentions, because He is such a gracious God. But how much better to make every effort to be running the race He has set before us.

Hebrews 12:1 let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…

Feb

25

Granted Unto You To Suffer

By pastorbillwalden

One of my favorite Olympic memories is that of gymnast Kerri Strug vaulting in the 1996 Olympics.

She was injured, and had severe pain in her left ankle, but she willed herself to give her all for the American team.

It was of special interest to our household, as, at the time, our daughter was involved in gymnastics, and we had a bit of the Olympic fever about the whole thing.

The result of Kerri’s effort was a great vault, and a gold medal for the American Women Gymnasts. It was an incredible moment.

Kerri’s efforts were very inspiring, and were appropriately praised for quite some time. Watching the video clip got me emotional all over again. She proved herself worthy of the title “Olympic Champion”.

You can watch the video of Kerri’s vault here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KsQcwHc1Jfw

The Apostle Paul sat in a jail in Rome, and wrote these words to his beloved Philippian brethren.

Philippians 1:27, 29
27 Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ…that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel…

29 For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake…

“Striving together”. The Greek word is synathleo, a compound word made up of syn– which means “together”, and athelo, which means “to engage in a contest”. We get the words “athlete” and “athletic” from athleo.

It gives us the picture of athletes striving together for a common goal which is bigger than personal recognition. It speaks of a team mentality, as opposed to the “me first” mentality we increasingly see in today’s world of professional athletes.

Kerri was granted the privilege of being on that team. It was a very special position to hold. Kerri was willing to suffer for the team, her parents, her coach and for America, as she wore the Stars and Stripes on her uniform. There was, undoubtedly, a great deal of personal achievement that she had, but it was bigger than just her.

Paul also told the Philppians that, “it had been granted to them to suffer on behalf of Christ”.

The Greek word for the phrase “granted to them” is charizomai, which means “to give graciously”. From that word we get the word charis, which means “grace”. The Philippians had been “graced” with the opportunity to suffer for Jesus.

Let’s connect the dots and come to a conclusion.

Paul exhorted the Philppian believers to live a life worthy of what Christ had died to give them. They were to live their lives in such a way as to resemble what a Christian is. As Kerri lived out the heart of a champion gymnast, so we too, are called to live out what we are: “Christians”. (That is assuming that you, the reader, are indeed a follower of Jesus)

Secondly, we are to have a goal in life that is bigger than ourselves. Have a big picture mentality. The goal is Jesus and His kingdom. It isn’t just you and your personal wants. Make the decision to strive together with other Christians for a goal bigger than yourself. The trouble with many of us is that we strive against each other for personal gain, instead of with each other for Jesus’ honor.

Thirdly, we have been graciously granted the opportunity to suffer for “Team Jesus”. Those young American women were incredibly privileged to be on that that team. Yes, they earned it, but it was still a privilege. Since then, the team no longer exists with that line-up.

We have been graciously granted the privilege of being part of the Body of Christ, which is eternal and has existed for nearly 2000 years. The 1996 Olympics have come and gone. The Kingdom of God is eternal. People earn their way onto an Olympic team. God the Son came to Earth, put on flesh, and died on a cross to grant you the privilege of being in God’s family.

Kerri suffered for an inspiring, but temporary cause. Christians have been “graced” with the privilege to occasionally suffer for that which will never pass away.

We don’t “have to suffer” for Jesus. We have been granted that privilege.

Christians comprise the most privileged people group on Earth. It isn’t because of who we are, but because of who Jesus is. It isn’t because of our temporal personal goals, but because of His eternal purposes.

We, more than any other people group, have the best reason to endure suffering.

The “Voice of The Martyrs” ministry tells us that presently, 500 Christians die each day for their faith. Thousands more suffer daily. They don’t get the earthly recognition that an Olympic athlete does. Their recognition goes far beyond that.

To us it has been granted the opportunity to live, suffer, or even die for the greatest cause mankind will ever know. We are among the most privileged group.

(Editor’s note) For those interested in further thoughts on this, my sermon notes are available on this blog site.