Sermons

Summary: A message of perspective on the changeable nature of circumstances, and the eternal, unchangeing nature of God

From Hero to Zero

(Message #13 in the Series: View From God’s Mountaintops)

Isaiah 40.4 November 5, 2000

Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low:

and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:

You can go from hero to zero in a relatively short time; just ask Wrong Way Riegels. On New Year's Day, 1929, Georgia Tech played UCLA in the Rose Bowl. In that game a young man named Roy Riegels recovered a fumble for UCLA. Picking up the loose ball, he lost his direction and ran sixty-five yards toward the wrong goal line.

One of his teammates, Benny Lom, ran him down and tackled him just before he scored for the opposing team. Several plays later, the Bruins had to punt. Tech blocked the kick and scored a safety, demoralizing the UCLA team.

The strange play came in the first half. At half-time the UCLA players filed off the field and into the dressing room. As others sat down on the benches and the floor, Riegels put a blanket around his shoulders, sat down in a corner, and put his face in his hands…. When the timekeeper came in and announced that there were three minutes before playing time, Coach Price looked at the team and said, Men, the same team that played the first half will start the second.

The players got up and started out, all but Riegels. He didn't budge. The coach looked back and called to him. Riegels didn't move. Coach Price went over to where Riegels sat and said, Roy, didn't you hear me? The same team that played the first half will start the second.

Roy Riegels looked up, his cheeks wet with tears. Coach, he said, I can't do it. I've ruined you. I've ruined the university's reputation. I've ruined myself. I can't face that crowd out there.

Coach Price reached out, put his hand on Riegels's shoulder, and said, Roy, get up and go on back. The game is only half over. Riegels finally did get up. He went onto the field, and the fans saw him play hard and play well. (1)

The Hero to Zero syndrome is evident in so many areas of life. The leaves were heroes a few weeks ago, in their radiant color-filled splendor; now they have left, and the sight is more depressing!

Richard Nixon was a hero in 1972, claiming the presidency with one of the greatest landslide elections in history; by 1974 it was all over – the first president to resign in humiliation, a product of the Watergate scandal.

Isaiah was cousin to the king of Israel. He was a prophet of God during a difficult period – the occupation of his country by the Assyrians. Isaiah had been born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Putting up with Assyrian domination was a hard pill to swallow. Yet he had the privilege of announcing God’s message to the people of Israel – the captivity is almost over – God is going to make it all right. He will smooth out every valley – level every mountain!

Isaiah was a hero for that; a few years later there was Manasseh, a new king. There was a new (and even worse) Babylonian captivity was on the horizon. Isaiah pointed out that the new enemy was God’s further judgment for Israel’s sins. Manasseh had Isaiah placed inside a hollow log, and sawn in two as a warning for any other prophets who wouldn’t cooperate with his program. Hero to zero, just like that!

It can happen to you too! Have you noticed how changeable people can be? One minute you are a hero – someone worships the ground you walk upon. They will nominate you for the next vacancy in the Trinity. Soon, however, the tide changes like the wind blows hot and cold – and suddenly you are sub-zero, less than swine. Hero to zero!

You have a great portfolio; A few dot-com dives on the Dow Jones, and you’re broke. Hero to zero!

Now, the point at which this message needs to take another view from God’s mountaintop is, Do we know which is which? Do you know the difference between what makes you a hero, or a zero?

The difference then (as now) is in perspective. My Granddaughter, Chelsea sent me a letter a month ago. She said how much she missed me, and loved visiting here. She asked about the weather, and then ran out of things to write. So she did some math problems for my reading pleasure. It was:

In Isaiah’s day the king had the final say. His perspective was, I’m in charge! I’m the hero-maker here! Like Chelsea’s third choice, Manasseh wasn’t even close! God’s perspective was somewhat different – and God has a way of getting HIS way! What’s the difference? Manasseh was in charge of a tiny strip of land in Palestine for a few years. God is in charge of forever. Manasseh’s hero stature was transitory, God is eternal. That’s the difference…always!

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