I came to work one day to find one of my fellow workers reading his bible. This naturally led to a conversation about God, church and the Word. He asked for some verses; I suggested just keep reading and let God speak to you specifically about some verses.
That phase passed and the other day he was reading “The Invisible Man”. I asked what happened to his bible reading and he explained how it seemed that when he tried to get closer to God all these things started happening in his life and he would back off, as he has done this time. I began to encourage him to go to church faithfully and fight through those moments. He is a football coach so I compared going to church like football practice. Without practice you won’t be able to handle the tough moments in the actual game.
The day progressed and this idea stuck in my head and I realized it would be my Sunday morning sermon. It was a strange day at school as we had to escort too many students from their classrooms to the detention hall. You usually do a little counseling along the way with the student. At one point I am watching his desk as he comes back with a student he is gently encouraging. The comment I overheard from the student was: “I just want to do nothing”. Depressed.
By the end of the day Deandre asks me how it is he can try and help someone else who is depressed but when his turn comes he can’t help himself. I now again explained the importance of church comparing it to the importance of practice. I let him know I was going to preach it Sunday morning. He asked me if I could record it. He told me he would let me know how church went for him Sunday.
1 Cor 9:24-10:1 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
I. Practice, Practice, Practice
Life is a race, run it to win. Salvation is a race, run it to win. Marriage is a race, run it to win. Work is a race, run it to win.
How can I win? Practice.
Epicetus wrote this about the games: “Do you wish to gain the prize at the Olympic games?-Consider the requisite preparations and the consequences: you must observe a strict regimen; must live on food which you dislike; you must abstain from all delicacies; must exercise yourself at the necessary and prescribed times both in heat and in cold; you must drink nothing cooling; take no wine as formerly; in a word, you must put yourself under the directions of a pugilist, as you would under those of a physician, and afterward enter the lists. Here you may get your arm broken, your foot put out of joint, be obliged to swallow mouthfuls of dust, to receive many stripes, and after all be conquered.”
The church service is the practice field for the church.
Heb 10:23-25 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
Acts 2:42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
This has been the pattern of the church since the day of Pentecost which this verse refers to. God gave the law and 3000 died. God started the church and 3000 were saved.
The best advice you can give any Christian is “go to church”. Should we be surprised then that Satan does all he can to keep us from church as well as do his most to diminish the church and narrow its access into society.
II. The Crown
There is opposition to your receiving the crown. John 8:44 You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.
He is a liar with his counterfeit church always available with bright lights shining.
2 Cor 11:14-15 And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.
Be careful when the message is sin is OK. It is not: the wages of sin is death. The wages of Christian sin is death.
Practice by: learning to run the race to receive the crown.
Jesus said: John 10:1 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
John 10:9-10 I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
Practice by: being temperate in all things.
Gal 5:19-26 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
Practice by: disciplining my body.
Rom 8:13-14 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
1 Peter 2:11 Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul,
Why? To receive a crown that lasts for eternity in Christ.
III. The Warning
Heb 2:1-3 Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. 2 For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation,
Be careful when you hear people tell you it doesn’t matter what you do as a Christian. Paul, seems concerned.
1 Cor 9:27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
The Living Bible: 1 Cor 9:27 Like an athlete I punish my body, treating it roughly, training it to do what it should, not what it wants to. Otherwise I fear that after enlisting others for the race, I myself might be declared unfit and ordered to stand aside.
So you skip practice, you don’t do what you need to do to be a contributing part of the team and the big moment comes, and you are not ready.
1 Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;
Mark Brunell and Billy Joe Hobert
Mark Brunell: takes the Huskies to the Rose Bowl and victory as a Sophomore. Injured, sat out with limited time playing as Junior. Back up as senior, only because of suspension of Billy Joe Hobert, he leads the team to victory in his last Rose Bowl. He is drafted in 5th round without much of a pro future. He gets picked up by Jacksonville expansion team and leads them into playoffs 3 of their first 4 years. He even got a super bowl ring as backup quarterback and place holder for the Saints in 2009.
Billy Joe Hobert: Gets his chance to take team to National Championship with Brunell’s injury. He would lead the team the next year until he was suspended for getting undisclosed loans from Huskie boosters. He would be drafted into the NFL in the 3rd round way ahead of his teammate Brunell. He failed to shine and when called upon to go into a game for Buffalo he admitted he had not taken the time to learn the plays. That was the end of his pro career.
Mark Brunell the college Christian speaker, even testifying at Seattle’s Billy Graham Crusade goes on to overcome diversity and rejection to have a career in football.
Billy Joe Hobert with all of his talent, destroys the Washington Huskie football program and fails to produce in the pros with drinking and divorce being his mode of operation.
The end of the story: Mark Brunell chases money and gets slaughtered in the 2008 meltdown and has to declare bankruptcy; Billy Joe Hobert finds Christ and living a stable married life.