Many of you are caught up in sports right now. Auburn is going to the Final 4 NCAA men's basketball championship for the first time in team history. Pretty cool for Auburn and SEC fans!
My Lenten sermon series is all about 'The Big Game' which, contrary to what is buzzing around right now, isn't the NCAA tournament. It is the game of life. But there are lessons we can learn about life from current events and even from sports. So ... what can we learn about the Big Game from Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith!
The teams that have made it this far in the basketball tournament have some things in common. Here are a few:
1. They have a coach that knows the nuances of the game;
2. The coach has both the success of the team and the success of the individual parts of the team near to his heart (these things are important to the coach);
3. The coach has learned about 'the game' from his own life experiences; and
4. The coach is focused on the mission.
Let's unpack these things a bit!
Hebrews 4:14 says "Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess." Elsewhere in Hebrews the author talks about how Jesus has experienced life in our world. Michael Card calls it ... "eternity stranded in time." Jesus, fully God and fully submitted to the Father's plan, allowed Himself to be 'stranded' on this earth in 1st Century Israel, being tempted, tested, thirsty, hungry and human! Jesus knows the game of life because He walked among us, and during that walk He conquered sin and sinfulness. Jesus knows the game fully ... He has been there!
Jesus also desires our success and the success of a 'team' He calls the Church. In Matthew 16 Jesus tells Peter he is the 'little rock' and that He is building the Church to be successful. That team will bind and loose God's plan upon this world. That team is built so solidly that even the very gates of hell cannot withstand it! Jesus' team is built for success!
Our coach has learned a thing or two about the game of life from His own experiences. He has seen our hurts and hangups. He has encountered people caught up in self. He has seen amazing/beautiful passion where a tax collector returns stolen money to the people because he has met something more important than money. He has experienced the disappointment of a young man so tied to his possessions he cannot join Jesus' team. He has seen and experienced ridicule over His devotion to the Father's plan. And He has experienced victory over hell and death. Philippians 2 says Jesus did all this and because of His submission to God's plan (the mission) Jesus is "exalted to the highest place, that every knee will bow and every tongue confess Jesus ... the name above all names (Phil. 2:9-11 paraphrased)."
And ... about that mission. At the beginning of Lent John Riley and I set down and made a list of three things to focus our collective Lenten prayers. They were about God's 'prime directive' expressed in Exodus 19 ... to bring people to Himself (God). Jesus said (Luke 19:10) "The Son of Man came to seek and save that which was lost." The three prayers for Lent (we gave this to everyone) were ... 1) pray for a burden for the lost, 2) pray for people everywhere to come to Christ, 3) pray that God will use us to bring the lost to Christ.
All of those teams in the men's basketball Final Four have bought into the coach's mission. The question for this week is ... have we bought into the coach's mission? How are you a part of this mission that Jesus said will prevail even against the gates of hell? How will you be part of seeking and saving the lost today? Randy