Summary: If we want to live a life that matters, we must sacrifice, suffer, submit and serve. We don’t like those words, because they seem to be steps down to obscurity, but in Christ’s Kingdom they are steps to true greatness.
The movie, Pearl Harbor, tells the story of two friends, Rafe and Danny, who survive the attack on Pearl Harbor and enter World War II as fighter pilots.
In training before the war, Rafe McCawley is one of America’s top fighter pilots. When America initially holds back from entering the war, Rafe volunteers to help the British in their fight against the Germans.
When Rafe first arrives at the English airfield, he walks by British airmen (Spitfire fighters) shot up from the previous day’s battle and is greeted by the commander of the British squadron. As the commander shows him the plane he will fly, a messenger announces to the commander that two more British planes have just been shot down.
The commander turns to Rafe and asks, “Are all Yanks as anxious as you to get themselves killed, Pilot Officer?”
Rafe does not hesitate: “I’m not anxious to die, sir,” he says. “I’m anxious to matter.” (Pearl Harbor, Touchstone Pictures, 2001, rated PG-13, written by Randall Wallace, directed by Michael Bay, 00:31:05 to 00:32:20, DVD: Track 9; www.PreachingToday.com)
I suppose that’s what most of us want with our lives. We want a life that matters. We want a life that means something. We want a life that makes a difference.
The question is, “How?” How do we live a life that matters?
Mark 10:32a They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. (NIV)
They were afraid, because Jesus was walking into a city where people hated Him and wanted Him dead.
Mark 10:32b-34 Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.” (NIV)
Jesus knew about the pain and the suffering that awaited him in Jerusalem, but He did not shrink back in fear. On the contrary, he led the way through the pain into victory. Jesus was going to Jerusalem to sacrifice Himself for us, and He invites his fearful followers to come along.
Nearly 20 years ago, Scott Behnke, a man who became my good friend, visited a church I helped to plant in central Kansas. He was a Vietnam veteran, and his cousin had invited him to try out this new church. Well, that Sunday afternoon I got a call from Scott who expressed to me, “Pastor, I believe you’re a real sky pilot.”
I didn’t know what he meant at the time, but I soon came to learn that a “sky pilot” is a military officer who not only tells his men what to do, he gets right in there and does it with them. In fact, a “sky pilot” leads the way into battle. He leads the way into the hardships of war. He leads the way through the pain into the victory ahead.
Well, that’s what Jesus is doing here. He is leading the way! He was going to make the ultimate sacrifice. & He invites us to go with Him. For you see, if we want to live a life that matters, then like Jesus we must be willing to die. We must be willing to…
SACRIFICE OUR OWN LIVES.
We must be willing to give up our own comforts. We must be willing to forfeit our own agendas for things that really matter.
Pat Tillman was one such man. He loved football, but he loved his freedom as an American more.
When Pat arrived at Arizona State as a freshman in 1994, he received the school’s last remaining football scholarship that year. Initially that meant a spot on the end of the bench, but by the time Pat graduated summa cum laude from ASU, he was no bench-sitter. Tillman was named the Pac-10’s Conference Defensive Player of the Year and chosen by the Arizona Cardinals in the 1998 NFL draft.
It didn’t bother Pat that he was the 226th pick out of 241 to be drafted. Five months later, in spite of his undersized 5’11”, 200 pound frame, he became Arizona’s starting strong safety. In his third season, Pat set a franchise record with 224 tackles. In 2001, the then Super Bowl Champion St. Louis Rams offered him a $9 million, five-year contract, but Pat declined out of loyalty to the team that had drafted him.
After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the 25-year old superstar began to evaluate his priorities. In the spring of 2002, after returning from his honeymoon, Pat announced his decision to leave the team after only four seasons even though it meant turning down a three-year, $3.6 million contract. Tillman felt called to lay aside his privileged life in order to defend the country that had allowed it. So in May 2002, Pat enlisted in the U.S. Army as a Ranger and following basic training was deployed in the Persian Gulf. He went from earning millions a year to an annual salary of $18,000. Then on April 22, 2004, Pat Tillman died in Afghanistan after a firefight with anti-coalition militia forces.