Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Measure of Life


1 Corinthians 9

24 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.

The Apostle Paul said that he does not run the race with uncertainty!

We also need not run our race of life with uncertainty. How can we be certain? We cannot unless we know where we are going and - how to get there. You see, unless we know where we are going and how to get there, it is uncertain whether we are getting closer or farther from our goal. For example:

Let’s suppose one of your goals is to have a good marriage or perhaps to succeed at your job, get a scholarship or lose 10 pounds. Tell me … What you did yesterday, did it move you closer or farther away from your goal? Answer me this:

· How do you measure life?

· How do you measure your day?

· How do you measure success?

· How can you tell if yesterday was a win or a loss?

And by the way, there are few ties, and no standing still for long in this life.

Can you imagine a game with no goals or a race with no finish line? Most likely people would soon lose interest and perhaps cease to participate or even spectate for that matter. We are born in a race for life and from that moment forward life is a challenge … some challenges we win and some we lose. Life itself refuses to stand still.

Sometimes life seems like a loaded truck going uphill with no brakes.

Early on in life we begin to be encouraged to achieve. I have 8 grandchildren and they presently range in age from 9 months to 13 years old. The youngest one lives with us along with his mom and four siblings, while his father is completing yet another remote battlefield tour with the Army, this time in Afghanistan. It seems that each day, as we have seen with the rest of our grandchildren, the youngest one, Cash is his name, learns something new. Every time he does we all sit around and clap our hands, praise him in our high pitched baby voices and encourage him to do it again. When he does we all clap again – this is repeated over and over.

Moms and dads all around the world get in front of their babies and do things over and over again for what seems like endless attempts to encourage their child to achieve … and when they do … the child is most often amply rewarded. All together, it’s:

The perfect picture of a winning strategy!

· The goal is set

· The course is laid

· The race begins

· The runner is encouraged

· The progress is measured

· The win is rewarded

This is not only how parents treat their babies … Similar attempts continue through elementary, middle school, high school, college and on into adulthood’s adventures. How many times have you studied spelling words, memorized scripture verses, planned to say “Uno”, strategized over monopoly, taken a test for promotion, competed in athletics or vied for the attention of a member of the opposite sex and in the end knew for sure that you had either won or lost … succeeded or failed … achieved your goals or came up short? Just in case we are uncertain, there are always those around us who believe it their duty to inform us as to whether or not they believe we are winning.

We grow up and live life continually measuring ourselves and being measured by others, some fair measures and some by unfair measures of success. Report cards, performance reports and even medical charts all serve to tell us if we are succeeding or failing in those endeavors. These tools are valuable, not only to our teachers, doctors and employers, but also to us. Progress reports give us the opportunity to review our performance, adjust our goals and increase our chances to succeed.

Perhaps one of the worst and most frustrating scenarios in life is to not know what is expected of us and to therefore not have a clear understanding of where we stand along the way. Studies done in Great Britain revealed dangerously high levels of stress among employees who could not clearly define their job duties as opposed to those who always knew what was expected of them.

Recently, after reviewing these and other studies on stress in the workplace both on employees and employers alike, I decided to visit with our pastoral staff and church employees. After much prayer, counsel, and consideration, we began restructuring some of our ministry and administrative departments in efforts to more clearly define expectations and set achievable goals which can be easily measured.

While health, the economy, and the current US political situation can produce stress in a person’s life, I believe that the highest potential for experiencing unhealthy levels of stress comes from the relationships we have with our friends, family members and people we encounter within the workplace. We have mechanisms in place to measure the progress of our health, define our economy and even chart the outcome of political races, from polls to voting records. However, little exists to measure the current success of some of the more intangible elements of life such as our relationships. Although vitally important, they aren’t often accurately measured. In fact, many people have never clearly defined what a winning day would look like. So, how can they know if they are closer or farther away from the goal today than yesterday?

Have you clearly defined what it takes to have a winning day with your children, spouse, co-workers or employees? How do you know if you moved the ball closer to your goal or if you are farther away today? How would you describe success? What would it take to realize your goals? How often do you measure your attempts? Did you achieve your goals or your employer’s goals at work on Monday, Tuesday, how about Wednesday? What about your goals for your family, friendships, marriage, money? Are they attainable … are they measurable … are they being reached?

Not just your dream or hope of a better life but your daily progress report...

You see, it is impossible for us to know if we are doing better or doing worse, getting closer to our objective or farther away, about to win or about to lose, achieving success or failing unless we first:

1. Define our goals (Identify and clearly define a win)

2. Develop a winning strategy (Put a plan in place)

3. Measure our progress (on a consistent daily basis)

4. Adjust our course

This morning I want to ask four questions which I would like each of you to answer for yourself this coming week. It does not pay to be uncertain!

1. Are you becoming more like Jesus every day?

You could be the best father, mother, friend or employee the world has ever seen and still miss the boat. Life is not all about being good or getting better … life is spiritual and life is all about a relationship with the Father through the Son. Good will never be good enough … are you becoming more like Jesus or less like Jesus with each passing day?

2. What is God’s goal for your marriage, money, or ministry?

Have you identified and clearly defined the goal – a win?

3. Was yesterday a winning day?

4. What is one thing you can do today to move yourself closer to the goal?

After answering these questions, pray and then make some progress.

1 Corinthians 9 (Paraphrased)

24 You realize that everyone runs a race but not everyone wins. Run in a way that will win.