Out of the Toybox #1
This morning we begin a new series titled Out of the Toybox. Over the next couple of weeks we’ll be looking at life and faith through some of the familiar toys and games we’ve played. This morning we begin by looking at “The Game Of Life.”
During the early days of the American Republic, Benjamin Franklin, famous for his wit and how muc he thoroughly enjoyed trimming hecklers down to size, spoke about the Constitution of the United States. After one such stirring speech, one of those hecklers stood up and boldly walked a few paces toward the platform. “Aw, them words don’t mean nothin’ a-tall!” he shouted. “Where’s all that happiness you say it guarantees us?”
Franklin smiled benevolently at the man and then Old Ben replied, “My friend, the Constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it for yourself!” (1)
The Old Ben must have been familiar with the Apostle Paul’s his letters to Timothy because there is similar sentiment expressed in today’s passage. We find out that this Game Of Life is NOT really about happiness but is a pursuit for the life that really is life. Let’s look at 1 Tim 6:6-19 (NRSV) it and you’ll see what I mean.
 Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment;
 for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it;
 but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these.
 But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.
 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.
 But as for you, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness.
 Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
 In the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you
 to keep the commandment without spot or blame until the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ,
 which he will bring about at the right time–he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords.
 It is he alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see; to him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.
 As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.
 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share,
 thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.
Like Ben Franklin, Paul understood that the abundant life Jesus talked about is really about the pursuit or the journey and not the happiness itself. We forget that.
So, many people seem to live life as a Game but making up the rules as they go along and altering them to suit their needs. But for Paul the Christian life was anything but a Game. The Christian life is the “pursuit of righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness” which allows us to “take hold of the life that really is life.” So let’s look at those six things this morning.
Righteousness is a word which means “to be without guilt or sin.” That’s what Jesus gives us when we accept Him as our Savior. Apart from Him we have no righteousness but through Him and through His Sacrifice on the cross we are made righteous. Righteousness is also more than that. Righteousness is also a deep commitment on our part. In response to the Grace given to us by Christ, we commit ourselves to a lifestyle that always seeks to do the right thing.
It was a small adjustment that could make a huge difference. Sure, it was against NASCAR rules, but almost everyone else was doing it. So crew chief Tim Shutt crawled under the No. 20 car of Mike McLaughlin, who races on the NASCAR Busch circuit.
“Joe [Gibbs, the team owner] is adamant that we don’t cheat,” says Shutt, a relatively new Christian who encountered Christ at a Christian retreat for participants in the racing industry. “Most teams figure that as long as you get away with it, it’s not cheating.”
He told Mike that morning in practice, “If we’re no good in practice, I’ll put this piece, the illegal piece, on. Probably 30 other teams are doing it.” He was trying to justify it to himself even though he knew it was wrong.
He said, “I got up under the car, I got halfway through putting it on, and that verse, ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God,’ came flashing in red in front of me, and whoa, that was it. I said, ‘I’m leaving this up to you, God.'” Shutt didn’t put the piece on the car.
McLaughlin won the race. It was Talladega, one of the biggest races of 2001.
Tim Shutt says “When we won, the first thing that came to my mind was that verse. God wanted to show himself to me.” (2)
Now listen to the words of Jesus: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.” Pursue righteousness.
Godliness. We don’t hear that word very much any more. We used to hear about Godly people and Godly lives. Maybe it’s just the word that’s gone out of fashion because what it is about hasn’t. Godliness is realizing that you can’t travel in the wrong direction and reach the right destination.
Righteousness is seeking God’s presence, Godliness is seeking a deeper relationship. Righteousness is conforming to divine law, but godliness is becoming or attempting to become like Christ.
In the movie “The Matrix” the character Morpheus, (the Moses, Ezekiel, Elijah character) tells Neo (the reluctant messiah character) “There’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.”
One day, an 8 year old boy was playing beside an open window while a neighbor confided to his mother about another person. When the visitor was gone, the mother, realizing how much her son had overheard, called him to her side. “If Mrs. Brown had left her purse here just now, would you give it to someone else?” “Of course not!” the boy replied.
Then Mom said: “Mrs. Brown left something far more precious than her purse. The story she told could hurt many people and cause much unhappiness. That story still belongs to her, and we shall not pass it on to anyone.” (3)
Godliness is becoming or attempting to become like Christ.
Then there’s Faith. I know, you’d think these are all synonyms for each other, but there are subtle differences. Righteousness is seeking God’s presence, Godliness is seeking a deeper relationship and Faith is seeking to put that relationship into action in our everyday lives.
You see not everyone who has been given Righteousness or even spends time trying to be Godly lives the faith. In Hebrews 11 Paul writes: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Faith is believing God’s promises and setting out to do great things in God’s name. This church was built by people of faith. A faithful person is one who is actively engaged in the work of God’s Kingdom on earth. Faith is acting upon our righteousness and godliness.
On Feb 6, 1709, when John Wesley was six-years-old the parsonage in which he lived with his family caught fire. The alarm was given and his parents thought everyone was out of the house. But when they started counting, they discovered that one of the children was missing. And, to their horror, they saw young John Wesley at an upstairs window, caught in the burning building. The father, a devout, scholarly Anglican minister, immediately dropped to his knees, praying that God would save the boy.
His mother, who not only was a person of great faith but also a very practical woman, immediately ran next door, got a neighbor with a ladder. That neighbor, working with other neighbors, rescued her son from the flaming house. (4)
It was a life changing event for John Wesley which teaches us that there are times when the best way to express our faith is to get off our knees and do something. Faith is seeking to put our relationship into action in our everyday lives.
That brings us to Love. Love is a commitment; a commitment to do good to one another; a commitment to serve Christ by loving others. And as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13, “love never ends.” There is a great example of this in the movie Walking Across Egypt, starring Ellen Burstyn and Jonathan Taylor Thomas, about a juvenile delinquint and an older woman who cross paths and the change each makes in the other’s life. WATCH
That was an act of love. Mattie was committed to doing good to others and of following something as simple “helping the least of these.” It became love in action.
That brings us to Endurance. M Scott Peck’s book The Road Less Traveled begins with three words. Three profoundly true words: “Life is hard.” And because “Life is hard” we need endurance. Endurance is the spiritual tenacity and fortitude to hang on when everyone else says let go and give up. It employs faith. And remember: “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” We need to be like the Energizer Bunny, not the annoying part, but the part that goes on and on despite set backs and failures.
We need endurance. Country singer John Anderson sang, “I’m just an old chunk of coal, but I’ll be a diamond some day.” Diamonds are produced from coal that outlasted the pressures placed upon them. In other words, they are nothing more than chunks of coal that stuck to their jobs.
We’re called to endure and let God make diamond out of us.
Finally, there’s Gentleness. I think this may be one of the most misunderstood characteristics of all. For a lot of people, especially men, gentleness is seen as a weakness. When in actuality it is a great strength. You see, gentleness is having strength under control. It’s being calm in the middle of the storm. It’s being able to treat people with tact and courtesy which allows them to maintain their own dignity. And gentleness brings out the best in others.
Let me tell you about a young friend of mine, John Moon. John is about 6’ 6” a big old boy. He played football for TCU, I don’t remember for sure but I think he was a linebacker. I like to call John “el gigante por Jesus.” My giant for Jesus.
You see, John loves mission work and volunteers with Mercy Ships. They go into places like Nicaragua. They bring medical teams and bring hope to the poor. Occasionally they build homes and schools. But they always teach both children and adults all about Jesus. John started volunteering with Mercy Ships when he was 22.
On his first trip to Nicaragua, the kids flocked to him like bees to honey. They asked him over and over again if he was a giant. That’s how he got his name.
He tells story after story of touching children’s lives by teaching them Bible stories and letting them hang all over him like a walking jungle gym. Somewhere I’ve got a picture of him with at least 25 kids hanging all over him. And I don’t know who had a bigger grin on their face, those kids or John.
John is no wimp, no weakling at all. He could take you down in a New York minute with his tree trunk arms. But it’s not his physical strength that attracts the kids or makes him the man he is. It’s the strength of his gentleness of spirit which comes from Chsist. That’s the gentleness Paul is talking about.
Those of us who live in the United States have no experience with royalty or with “kingdoms” ruled by kings or queens. We have no royal family, so we have to invent our royalty.
We had the “King of Rock’n’Roll,” Elvis Presley. We had the “King of Pop,” Michael Jackson. We had a “King of Soul,” James Brown. We have a Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. We have a “King of all Media,” Howard Stern. We have the Queen of Clean, Linda Cobb. We even have a King of Greasy Goodness,” Burger King!
But in countries like the Great Britain, there is a real royal family. And the public can always keep track of where their monarch is through an ancient tradition. When the ruling monarch is in residence, the Royal Standard, the flag of the ruling monarchy of the United Kingdom, flies above. When the Queen is at Windsor Castle or Buckingham Palace, the Royal standard flutters overhead. When she is NOT in residence, the Royal Standard is replaced by the Union Flag (the “Union Jack”).
At her other residences in Scotland the Royal Standard flies above Holyrood Palace or Balmoral Castle when she is present. When she is absent from the grounds, the ancient Royal Standard of Scotland is hoisted. Long before there was reliable news sources, just one glance overhead would let the citizens of the kingdom know if their monarch was present, or where “the king was in the kingdom.” (5)
When we “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness,” when we stop looking at life as a game, we pursue “life that really is life.” When we do that, we become a Royal Standard for Christ. People can tell where the Son of God has taken up residence, in our hearts.
As our youth embark on this mission trip, as they set out as missionaries; they go as ambassadors of FUMC Glen Rose and the UMC. But most importantly they go as ambassadors of Kingdom of God. The royal standard of our King and Kingdom may fly at the residence we will be staying in but the true standard, the true presence of our King and the Kingdom will be seen flying in the work and the witness of these youth and adults.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
1. The Pastor’s Story File (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651; 970-785-2990), Jan 1987
2. Victor Lee, Sports Spectrum; reprinted in Men of Integrity (May/June 2002)
3. The Pastor’s Story File (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651; 970-785-2990), MAR 1997
4. The Story of Methodism, Halford E. Luccock, Paul Hutchinson, Abingdon Press, 1954
5. Leonard Sweet in Sermons.com weekly email
Other References Consulted