Summary: Running the Christian race requires burning some bridges, and building others.
February 12, 2006
Sixth Sunday after Epiphany
It happened on a Wednesday several years ago. Reepicheep managed to throw everything off! The day started as most do around the Brownworth household; Elizabeth was first out the door, running the race between Thomasville and High Point.
The problem came when she got to Randolph Street, near the bank. As Elizabeth was tooling along close to escape velocity, Reepicheep, a mouse, emerged from under the front seat and ambled along the floorboard towards the front. He was just a mouse (Elizabeth called him a gigantic rat – we later named him “Reepicheep” after the valiant extra-large mouse in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series).
Well, just a mouse, or not, he was an unwelcome passenger in Tony’s Buick (that’s another sermon). When you’ve got a mouse (or a huge rat) patrolling the lower regions of your ride, you’ve just gotta stop!
Elizabeth almost made a new drive-thru lane in one of Thomasville’s banks. When she finally got the Buick stopped, Reepicheep was nowhere in sight. He had disappeared under the dashboard. Elizabeth disappeared through the driver’s-side door!
I answered the phone dripping wet – it was my bride. “You have got to come here right now!” said the voice, “there’s a huge rat in my car.” I said, applying the towel to my dripping hair, “Right now?” “You heard me,” the voice emphatically repeated. Well, it was Wednesday, February 13th, the day in-between our anniversary and Valentine’s Day. I should have been more gallant; I certainly should have been more understanding. I simply said, “I don’t think so!” It wasn’t my finest Sir Walter Raleigh at-your-service-my-lady moment. But, after all, I was sans clothes and only half towel dried. She understood – barely, but she understood. The saga ended with Elizabeth regaining her composure, braving the frontiers of Tony’s Buick and completing her journey to High Point.
Later, that evening, she even got in the car to come home (after assurances from Cecil the custodian, that the mouse had probably high-tailed it during the day – probably went to McDonald’s for lunch). We set a trap for Reepicheep in Tony’s Buick that night; nothing happened. Cecil was probably right – the mouse knew he’d better move his cheese. Better to move on than to ride with Elizabeth!
Reepicheep burned his Buick bridges in order to have a more peaceful life. That is the essence of Paul’s statement in our text this morning. Let me state the principle up front; then I would like to explore the principle, and how it is worked-out in our lives.
Running the Christian race requires burning some bridges, and building others.
Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth is all about races, resources and results. Some of God’s people didn’t understand the requirement of resources in the kingdom. Paul explained it. Some couldn’t seem to get past the idea that the resources are for results in the kingdom – not security in this life. Paul pointed to the prize.
We are going to talk about the Christian race – bridges burned and bridges built. In doing so it’s necessary to look at the connection between money and the Kingdom of God. I warn you, it’s crunch time – listening to Paul’s ministry model in this sermon can be hazardous to your financial bottom line. It can also be the best relocation of your cheese ever!
There are four qualities to consider in the Christian runner:
#1. A Christian Runner Ought To Run By the Rules
No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself. First Corinthians 9.26 The Message New Testament
There’s a bridge to burn if you’re going to run by God’s rules. That bridge is self. Jesus said,
If any man will come after me, let him deny himself,
and take up his cross daily, and follow me. Luke 9.23b
If you listen to our culture (and you don’t have to listen too closely), it is a commonly held belief that following the rules is for other people. Being selfish in this generation is almost considered a virtue. But, that’s this generation; that’s not Almighty God. He considers selfishness sin.
If you’re going to run the Christian race the bridge you’re going to build is sacrifice. Paul sacrificed the luxury of receiving any financial compensation for his work as an apostle. He did so because, to him, the hardship of poverty was worth the results he saw in reaching people for Jesus Christ.
What about this concept? You can take a look at the financial statement of this church and see that there are some folks here – including me – who receive their living from the generous giving in our church. Is that wrong? No, Paul made it clear with examples and in other letters that it is not wrong for God’s people to support those who labor in the Gospel.