Everybody is a Player on God’s Super Team (2/5/17)

Posted by on Mar 8, 2017 in Sermons, Worship & Prayer | 0 comments

Super Bowl Sunday… Things were a little different in church on this particular sabbath.  Pastor Jim wasn’t wearing his usual clergy robe.  Instead he was trying to look like Jerry Rice with his red 49’ers jersey.  The service listed in the bulletin looked a bit strange too: things like “The Huddle Up”, “A Time Out”, and the “Coin Toss” marked the schedule.  We were surrounded by object lessons, and Pastor Jim’s sermon put them to use, turning a “secular” event like the Super Bowl into a learning experience.  For more about this strange environment, check out the post about Super Bowl Sunday…

Brady Can in Superbowl. PUMC Souper in Cans! (2/5/17)

 

But this article is about the sermon: 
Everyone is a Player, not a Bench Warmer, on God’s Super Team!

The following recording is from the 11:00 service. Click on the play button, then scroll down to follow along…

 

Our scripture was from 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. Pastor Jim read from The Living Bible (the New Living Translation is shown below):

The Playbook

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

24 Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!

25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.

26 So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing.

27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.

 

Tonight a football game will be played.  Millions of people who desperately need exercise will sit and watch a few guys who desperately need rest.  In each play, these large men will face off across a line of scrimmage.  A call will be made, leather will slap, and bodies will collide and crash.  For four 15 minute quarters men will expend enormous energy and Herculean efforts to move a piece of pig skin up and down a field of grass. 

In the end, one team will emerge victorious.  In the end, one team will hoist the Vince Lombardi trophy as the crowd screams.  Days later, that trophy will be the star attraction throughout a parade of players in the victorious team’s city.

Years later, what will be remembered of the victory?  What will happen to the trophy?  Will anyone remember?  As the trophy and memories tarnish away, so will the value of the victory.

What does it take to become a Super Bowl champion?  Or more importantly, what does it take to be a “champion” on God’s team; to win a trophy that does not tarnish?

In the audio, Pastor Jim gives a brief introduction to the “Five Traits of a Super Bowl Christian,” but he then focused on the first and second traits.  If you’re following along in the audio, be prepared to jump back and forth a bit…

The remaining material from his notes is supplied here as a special bonus feature for our website readers.

– Chuck

 

Five Traits of a Super Bowl Christian

The five traits of a Super Bowl Team are the same traits that define a Super Bowl Christian.  Take a look at the following two passages written by Paul…

Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!  All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.  So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. 

I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.

I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.

No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,  I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

 

1:  Desire

In a speech about “What it takes to be number 1”, Vince Lombardi, former coach of the Green Bay Packers (and namesake of the NFL Championship trophy), stated:

“Winning is not a sometime thing- it’s an all the time thing.  You don’t win once in a while.  You don’t do things right once in a while.  You do them right all the time.  Winning becomes a habit.  Unfortunately, so is losing.”

A team that’s playing to “not loose” is not going to win. 

Paul tells us to run to win; not just to survive!  In Philippians 4:13, Paul said that could “do everything through him who gives me strength.”  The Bible places a high value on the Desire to win the prize of a relationship with God…

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.
I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands.
O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.

Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts.

My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you. When your judgments come upon the earth, the people of the world learn righteousness.

Pant, thirst, long, yearn…  these aren’t the words of someone who is just trying to get by.  On God’s Super Team, everyone is giving 110% so they can run with God.

What is our level of desire when we gather to worship?

 

2: Discipline

Playing most within the system that the Head Coach has determined.  You must know the game plan and study from the same Play Book.

High School football teams often begin practice in the heat of the sun in July.  They start getting their bodies ready.  Then they receive the playbook, start reading it, start studying it.  The get prepared and set the goal of winning the championship.

One of the biggest  lessons from the Play Book is that everyone on the team is important.  There are no bench warmers.  God has “drafted” each of us; no body is on His team by accident.  God has put us on His team and He’s given us the abilities to do the part He needs us to do.  This means that we can’t be a “prima donna” and try to do everything (because we don’t trust anyone else to do it).  Each person has a role to play.  Notice these verses from 1 Corinthians 12…

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.
1 Cor 12:12-15 The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body — whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free — and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Now the body is not made up of one part but of many.
But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
… But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

In following our Super Bowl Object Lesson, it shouldn’t be surprising that football offers similar statements on teamwork.  Bill Walsh, the former coach of the San Francisco 49’ers once said:

“Don’t allow people on hour team  to blame a certain individual or segment of your program and make them the scapegoat for your problems; it will divide and destroy your team.  No matter what their role, encourage everyone to do their job and provide unwavering support for every segment of the team.”

 

Not only does the Play Book tell us to accept our role as a team mate totally dependent on God,  the Play Book also tells us to work hard to develop the skills that we need in order to fulfill our role.  Maturity in Christ- or skill in football- doesn’t just happen.  It takes hard work.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

… train yourself to be godly.

And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?

 

Here’s another Football quote to chew on.  Tom Landry said,

“I believe in getting a team prepared so it knows it will have the necessary confidence when it steps on a field and be prepared to play a good game.”

 

Most of us want to win. We want to see hatred ended. We want to see the elimination of poverty. We want everyone to live in peace.

But- if Christians and the Church aren’t disciplined and committed to seeing God’s will accomplished, then we will continue to see hatred, poverty, and war…

 


 

3:  Determination

Play a complete 60 minutes.  Don’t get discouraged if somebody misses a field goal.  If  you’re at half time you remember that you still have another half to play.

Focus and commitment- in other words, Determination, will determine whether or your you view Christianity as a recreational sport or a serious full time competition.  Unfortunately, commitment is a dying quality in American life.  It is a quality known to prior generations; yet, woefully lacking in the Baby Boomers and the younger generations.  When life gets tough, they tend to check out other options and alternatives. 

We see this trend in every area of life.  Determination and “stick-to-it-iveness” have become passe.  Yet, a super bowl quality performance cannot be achieved without determination.  Only those who are committed to riding out the crests and the troughs will succeed.

Here’s what Paul said about determination in his letter to Phillipi…

 

12 I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me.  Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward — to Jesus.  I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.

15 So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision — you’ll see it yet!  Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.

– Philippians 3:12-16

(from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson.)

 

Paul was focused and committed to completing his own Super Bowl.  He didn’t give up on “4th and long.”  He kept the end game in mind.

In 1998, quarterback Tony Rice led Notre Dame’s football team to a national championship.  Before the season, sportswriters wondered whether Notre Dame could beat the tough teams with a quarterback like Rice, whose passing was often inaccurate.

They didn’t know that coach Lou Holtz had bought Rice a dart board and told him to practice throwing darts an hour a day.  Rice didn’t see how that would help his passing, but he did as his coach said.  He was committed and focused.  Soon he began to throw passes with more accuracy and confidence— both of which were evidenced in a banner season.

 

 

4: Self-Denial

Think of the offensive line.  Talk about sacrifice!  Those guys get hit every play so they can protect the quarterback.

The key to success in any venue is a willingness to sacrifice self. 

Here’s what the writer to the Hebrews said…

 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, 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,

looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

– Heb 12:1-3

Here’s what Vince Lombardi said…

Success is like anything worthwhile.  It has a price.  You have to pay the price to win and you have to pay the price to get to the point where success is possible

Most importantly, you must pay the price to stay there….

Football is a great deal like life, in that it teaches that work, sacrifice, perseverance, competitive drive, selflessness and respect of authority is the price that each and every one of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.

A member of God’s Super Team will sacrifice.

And, sacrifice isn’t just a one time event.  The Super Bowl Christian, like the Super Bowl athlete, continually trains and sacrifices.  There is on off season, and no retirement.

Paul didn’t rest on his laurels, not even when he was old.  He continued to press on.  He knew that the goal line was still a few yards ahead.  He wouldn’t reach it until he closed his eyes in death.

 

5: Distinction and Character

You don’t need a hot head.  You don’t need a loose cannon.  You need players who are playing for the whole team.

When the Israelites returned to the Promised Land from Egypt, they engaged in a series of battles to claim the land that God had promised to them.  One of the first battles was the famous “Battle of Jericho” as recorded in Joshua chapter 6. 

It was a weird victory; all they had to do was to march around the city, blow horns, and yell.  God did the rest.  Since it was the first victory, God didn’t want them to keep the plunder for themselves:

“Everything made from silver, gold, bronze, or iron is sacred to the Lord and must be brought into his treasury.”

-Joshua 6:19

Right after this great victory at Jericho, the Isrealites were feeling pretty good about themselves.  So they sent a small group to knock off the city of Ai.  And, they got thrashed!

Why did God let them get beaten so soundly at Ai?  Chapter 7 tells us that one man didn’t follow the playbook at Jericho.  This man, Achan,  had his own ideas of victory and wasn’t playing for the team.  He disobeyed God’s specific command, and confessed his sin when he was found out: 

Among the plunder I saw a beautiful robe from Babylon, 200 silver coins, and a bar of gold weighing more than a pound. I wanted them so much that I took them. They are hidden in the ground beneath my tent, with the silver buried deeper than the rest.”

– Joshua 7:21


 

God has Already Given Us the Victory!

In the end, one team will emerge victorious.  Tonight at around 9:45 PM or so, someone will be lifting the Lombardi Trophy which signifies the Super Bowl champions for this season.  There will be celebrations and a parade in either Boston or Atlanta.  The next day, the work starts all over.

For the players on God’s Super Team, there is only this season.  There’s no next season.

God has promised us the victory!  Check out these verses which speak to the victory that God will give us…

Deuteronomy  20:4 For the Lord your God is going with you! He will fight for you against your enemies, and he will give you victory!’

1 Corinthians 15:57 

But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 8:37 

No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

1 John 4:4-5  But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.

Zecheriah 4:6 

Then he said to me, “This is what the Lord says to Zerubbabel: It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

2 Corinthians 2:14-15  But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume.
1 John 5:4  For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith.  And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

 

In 1887, George Kitchin wrote a hymn which reminds us of the victorious people we are and to lift high our championship trophy, the cross of Jesus.  The words of that hymn go like this:

Refrain: Lift high the cross The love of Christ proclaim, Till all the world Adore His sacred name.

Led on their way By this triumphant sign, The hosts of God In conquering ranks combine.

Each newborn servant Of the Crucified Bears on the brow The seal of Him who died.

O Lord, once lifted On the glorious tree, As Thou hast promised Draw the world to Thee.

So shall our song Of triumph ever be: Praise to the Crucified For victory.

 

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