MELVIN M. NEWLAND, MINISTER
RIDGE CHAPEL, KANSAS, OK
(PowerPoint slides used in this sermon are available at no charge. Just e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your request - #248.)
ILL. There is an old story about a happy little boy who went out into the field wearing a baseball cap. In one hand he carried a baseball, & in the other a baseball bat. His face bore a look of tremendous confidence.
Cocking his bat, he tossed the ball into the air, saying, "I’m the greatest batter in the world!" Then he swung & missed. "Strike one," he said.
He picked up the ball, examined it, & then threw it into the air again. As he swung, he repeated, "I’m the greatest batter in the world." Once again he missed. "Strike two," he said.
This time, he stopped to examine his bat to make sure there wasn’t a hole in it. Then he picked up the ball, adjusted his cap, & tossed the ball into the air for the 3rd time.
He repeated again, "I’m the greatest batter in the world," & swung with all his might & missed for the 3rd straight time. "Wow" he cried, "What a pitcher. I’m the greatest pitcher in the world!"
A. Today is the 1st Sunday of a new year, & as we look back over the last 12 months, I’m not sure whether most of us would be considered pitchers or batters. One thing for sure, at times we have all struck out.
So I guess it’s good to be able to start over afresh. This week most boys & girls will have returned to their school classrooms. A lot of young people will be heading off to college. And most of us are recovering from the activities of the Christmas season & are well into doing our jobs & the activities of the new year.
What do you anticipate for this year? Are you full of enthusiasm, looking forward eagerly to what each day will bring? Or are you filled with a sense of dread, worried that this year will be worse than last year was for you?
B. Like the little boy with the bat, may I suggest that your attitude, your frame of mind, your reaction to its events will largely determine whether this year is a year of victory or a year of defeat.
The Apostle Paul was never one to let circumstances conquer him. Rather, with the help of God, he was determined to win the victor’s crown. Listen as his attitude, dedication, determination shine through in these words found in Philippians 3:12 14.
"I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.
“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind & straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."
PROP. With Paul’s words fresh in our minds, here are some suggestions to help us be all that we can be this year.
I. RECOGNIZE THE VALUE OF TIME
A. First of all, recognize the value of time.
ILL How do we value ONE YEAR? Ask a student who failed a grade.
How do we value ONE MONTH? Ask a Mother whose baby arrived prematurely.
How do we value ONE WEEK? Editors of weekly newspapers know.
How do we value ONE HOUR? Ask someone who lies terminally ill waiting for a loved one who is late.
How do we value ONE MINUTE? Ask someone who missed a plane, a train, a very important engagement that would never be rescheduled.
How do we value ONE SECOND? Ask an Olympic Medalist, or someone who just missed having an accident, or someone saying “goodbye” to a loved one they will never see again.
Of course we know that time is a human invention. I’m convinced that God doesn’t wear a wristwatch, or use a calendar. The Bible says, "With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, & a thousand years are like a day." (2 Peter 3:8) God deals with eternity, & therefore time is not an important factor with Him.
But time is important to us because we live in a limited time frame. We begin with infancy, then go on to adolescence, adulthood, middle age, old age, & to everything that follows. We measure life in segments of time.
B. Now, what makes something valuable? Oftentimes it is scarcity. If there is a scarcity, then that product quickly escalates in value.
So, if something is rare, it is usually valuable. But if we have a lot of it, it loses its value. Now, the same is true with time.
APPL. Maybe that helps explain the generation gap. Young people feel that they have plenty of time, therefore time loses its value, & they aren’t too concerned about wasting or squandering it.
On the other hand, as we get up in years a bit, we begin to realize that our time is becoming rare & therefore more valuable.
So those of us over 60 tend to look at those under 20 & say, "Don’t squander time, because it’s valuable." They reply, "No, it’s not. We have lots of time. So we can waste it any way we want."
And the wider the age gap, the wider the generation gap because of the different values that we place on time.
C. The Bible often speaks of the brevity of life. It compares life to the weaver’s shuttle rapidly going back & forth to the shadows of summer that quickly disappear to grass which grows up, dies, & then is burned.
No wonder the Psalmist asks God, "What is man that you are mindful of him?" (Psalm 8:4)
ILL. Statisticians tell us that the average life span is now around 76 years. If you’re under 30 then you think that is a long time. But if you’re nearing that age, you’re beginning to realize that’s not really very long at all.
ILL. I ran across some interesting statistics a few years ago. Someone went to the trouble to research what people do with their time, & came up with these results:
If we live to be 75, most of us will have spent 3 solid years, 24 hours a day, acquiring an education grade school, high school & college.
We’ll have spent 7 years eating, 24 hours a day, some less, & some more, obviously. We’ll have spent 14 years, day & night, working. We’ll have spent 5 years riding in automobiles or airplanes.
We’ll have spent 5 years talking with each other again some more & some less. We’ll have spent 1 year sick or recovering from sickness. And get this, we’ll have spent 24 years of our life sleeping!
We’ll have spent 3 years reading books, magazines & newspapers. And 12 years amusing ourselves watching TV, going to the movies, fishing, etc.
That totals up to 75 years & that is what the researchers say, on the average, most of us will have done with our lives.
APPL. As I looked at these statistics I began thinking. Let’s suppose that you spent every Sunday of your life, for 75 years through infancy, childhood, adulthood, old age in God’s house worshiping during the Church Service.
Now if you did that, how much time would you have spent worshiping God? Figure it out the answer is less than 5 1/2 months.
But let’s double that, because you’ve always attended S.S. You’ve never missed Sunday School in all your life. That makes it 11 months.
Think about that 5 years in an automobile & just 11 months in Church & S.S.! Twelve years amusing ourselves in front of a TV, & just 11 months in Church & S.S. And that is just if you always attended S.S. & Church, & never missed!
SUM. That tells us a little bit about the brevity of time, & it also tells us something about our priorities in life.
D. The Bible also teaches us that life is uncertain. Time is like a valuable commodity in a very precious & delicate vessel. It might break at any moment & we might lose it all. So we have this moment. We don’t know anything about the future, but we have this moment & that is all that we really have.
Because of the uncertainty of life, the Bible says, "Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation." (2 Corinthians 6:2)
Hebrews 3:15 says, "Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts." Because life is uncertain we must take advantage of the time that we have.
II. DON’T BE IN BONDAGE TO THE PAST
A. Secondly, don’t be in bondage to the past.
We are special beings in that God has given us the ability to remember. Your memory may be your friend or your enemy. When you remember, hopefully you’ll remember some very pleasant things about this past year, but chances are that you’ll also remember some negative things.
In fact, sometimes we dwell upon the negative & begin to feel sorry for ourselves. Maybe this past year was a time of transition in your life the kids grew up & married & left home & you’re now trying to deal with the empty nest syndrome.
Maybe your job came to an end & you’re having a tough time making ends meet. Maybe a loved one died & you’re trying to deal with the lingering grief & loneliness you feel.
Maybe it was a time when sin got a real hold in your life, & you now feel the burden & guilt of that sin.
B. You see, those things can cripple us & hold us in bondage to the past. That is why Paul said, "Forgetting what is behind…" Paul had a lot to forget. Paul had a very shaky past.
He persecuted the church. He used his authority to kill Christians. By his own admission he said, "I am the chief of sinners." (cp 1 Timothy 1:15) He could have walked around all his life with this tremendous burden of guilt crippling him & he would never have become the great apostle we know & love today.
But Paul said, "Forgetting what is behind…" In other words, "God, I commit it to you. I seek your forgiveness for all the sins of the past, & I look forward to what lies ahead. And right now I’m going to live today the best I can."
SUM. I believe that is good advice for us as well.
III. WE NEED TO ESTABLISH A PRIORITY IN OUR LIVES
A. Finally, I think that we need to establish a priority in our lives.
Paul says it this way, "This one thing I do." Now Paul obviously did more than one thing. He made tents. He preached sermons & established churches. He healed the sick. He wrote books. He did a lot of different things.
But he said, "The top priority in my life is to ‘press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.’ “
ILL. A while back an expert on the subject of time management was speaking to a group of business students.
After speaking to them for a while, he said, “Okay, it’s time for a quiz.” He set a one-gallon, wide mouthed Mason jar on the table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks & carefully placed them, one at a time, inside the jar.
When the jar was filled to the top & no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?” Everyone in the class said, “Yes.”
“Really?” he said. Then he reached under the table & pulled out a bucket of gravel. He dumped some gravel into the jar & shook it, causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks.
Then he smiled & asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?” By this time the class was on to him. “Probably not,” one of them said.
“Good!” he replied. And he reached under the table & brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in & it filled all the spaces between the rocks & the gravel.
Once more he asked, “Is this jar full?” “No!” the class shouted. Again he said, “Good!” Then he grabbed a pitcher of water & began to pour in the water until the jar was filled to the brim.
Then he looked back at the class & asked, “What is the point of this illustra-tion?” One eager beaver raised his hand & said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit something more into it!”
“No,” the speaker replied, “that’s not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is this: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.”
What are the big rocks of your life? - They should include these: Each day drawing nearer to God, spending time with Him in prayer, & seeking His guidance for your life through reading His Word. Remember to put these BIG ROCKS in first or you’ll never get them in at all.
It was Jesus who said, "Seek first His kingdom & His righteousness, & all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33)
CONCL. We’ve just gone through another Christmas season in which the world was reminded again that "God so loved the world that He gave His one & only Son." In His love, God offered us the most wonderful gift that we could ever receive.
ILL. An old beggar woman ran out of money. She couldn’t pay her rent. She couldn’t pay any of her bills. The landlord had threatened to throw her out if she didn’t soon pay her rent.
She had only a candle to keep her warm, & on Christmas Day she warmed her hands over the candle. There was a knocking at her door & she was afraid to answer for fear that it was the landlord coming to kick her out.
She blew out her candle & sat quietly in the dark & waited for the intruder to leave. Two weeks later she found out that the knocking on her door was the knock of a friend who had come to bring her enough money to pay her rent & pay her debts.
I wonder how many have from time to time heard the gentle knock of the Savior who wants so much to come in & free them from the burdens of their sin? But they have ignored His knocking.
This morning God’s invitation is offered to any & all who would accept Him & receive Him as the Lord of their lives. He came as a baby in the manger. But He also came as the Redeemer, & this morning He patiently waits for you. Will you come as we stand & as we sing?