Monday, November 22, 2010

November 22, 2010 - Thankful (Even When Losing)

In this week leading into Thanksgiving I have to ask you, is your life is characterized by thankfulness? By joy? By rejoicing? By that I am not asking you to sit back and think about all the great things you have in life, I am asking you are you simply thankful for the life and opportunities God has given you to glorify and serve Him?

I have been preaching a series the last couple of weeks centered on the Apostle Paul’s secrets to success. This guy had an incredibly difficult life after becoming a Christian. (See 2 Corinthians 11:24ff) Yet from a prison cell he penned a letter about what our focus should be in life. Basically he boiled it down to a couple simple goals: 1. Magnify Christ. 2. Serve others. He went as far as looking at his physical circumstances and bragging about how they were creating opportunities to further the Gospel.

Philippians 1:12 But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, 13 so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ;

Maybe you have some problems as you are reading today; are your “chains in Christ”? Are you looking for ways to further the Gospel through them? Are you excited about the character that God wants to build in you by allowing these problems?

I know that we have heard these things before; yet what a great time of year to be reminded about being thankful! What a great time of year to be reminded to stop complaining and grumbling! (See Philippians 2:14)

But wait a minute; I haven’t brought the sports part of this into play yet. Well it is definitely on my mind. I spent the weekend at a basketball tournament that involved Christian schools. I again listened to the crowd around me and had much concern. Many fans and coaches behaved like the rest of the world does – complaining and grumbling, sometimes screaming and whining, when things don’t go the way they think they should have. (Not to mention that even that is usually through very biased eyes that are not near as impartial as the refs.) I kept going back to the philosophy I developed as a coach and athletic director: “at the end of the game would you feel comfortable witnessing to the referee if given a chance?”

Maybe you think I am going too far with this. One leader in a ministry told me I am na├»ve to be in my 40’s and not expect people to voice their opinions at games. My question is what makes games different than real life. Would you approve of an employee going into work and screaming at the janitor, “Can’t you see? You missed a spot over there? We need a real janitor?” Would you feel comfortable if you walked into a fast food joint and heard someone screaming at the girl at the register, “You idiot can’t you count?”

You see we wouldn’t ever openly admit that it is ok to belittle and berate people in everyday life. (Although I think if some are honest we would have to admit we are better at the American / Burger King mantra of “have it your way” than we are of the Biblical mantra of considering others as more important than self!)

If you are a Christian reading this would you agree that we are called to be different in our approach to life?

I read an article today about a college football coach. It was a story on one of the major news wires that called out this coach for his whining and screaming and blaming officials, etc. Basically the article came down to saying the coach did not understand proper decorum.

Most of us would be offended by the apparent actions and attitudes of this coach. Yet have you ever sat in the stands of a game at a church league or Christian school event. It doesn’t sound any different. There is nothing peculiar about it.

When life hits us with a crisis is there something peculiar about us? Or is the following quote about the college coach more descriptive: “…coach raged. He yelled at officials. He yelled at his own players. He gritted his teeth while…”

It is easy to be thankful during the good times. It is easy to seem joyful when things are going our way. It is easy to seem at peace when we are “ahead on life’s scoreboard.” But what about in those times like Paul was enduring…….?

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