1 Corinthians 9: 16-24
JOHN 16: 25-33

February 7, 2021

Have you ever started a project and before you even began working on it you decided that you would only try to do it half way?  I am talking about something that you want to get done for you … not for your spouse … not for your kids … not for your employer but for you. Seriously, have you ever thought about not doing your all for yourself in getting something done that you personally want done?

Can you imagine at tonight’s SUPER BOWL … by the way thank you again for all who bought Stromboli’s and for Mary Ann and the CRT team that created what is now a St Paul’s Tradition … SUPERBOWL STROMBOLI’s … you know that team did their all for the church trying to raise money for our mission projects while also making it special … Anyhow, back to tonight’s SUPER BOWL.   Can you imagine if Patrick Mahomes has a wide receiver out in the open near the end zone but Mahomes decides to throw the ball half way just because … just because he didn’t want to do his all for his teammates.  What would people say … do you think Patrick would tell the media afterwards  ‘I didn’t feel like doing my all for them at that moment.’

Friends, who are you willing to give 100% for in your labors?  Who are you willing to stand up for 100% of the time?  And, now I am expanding the group from yourself to the universe of people whether they are family or complete strangers.  This morning when a little bit of snow is hopefully falling outside this church so that I can play in it later with 100% of my energy … WHO … WHO ARE YOU WILLING TO GIVE YOUR ALL TO? 100% FOR?

I am sure most of you have heard the phrase given to motivate people … “I want you to give 110% today” whether it is in today’s game, to get a job done, or just go far beyond expectations.  A humorist named Artemis Ward back in the 1800’s first used that phrase apparently and by the early 1900’s it was being used to motivate individuals competing in sports.  But, the truth is our all is just 100% there is no such thing as 110% … however, just like in that challenge there are times when we need to be pushed, we need to be challenged, and we would prefer to not give all of our energy, which therefore means that a coach, or a personal motivator is needed … do you know that people actually pay other people to motivate them …

In today’s lesson from First Corinthians Paul uses a sports reference as he would in his letter to the church of Philippi, to catch the attention of those reading the letter and those hearing it read to them.  Just like in the 21st century, sports was both popular and competitive then.  No one enjoyed losing … you heard this morning Paul’s reference, “Don’t you know that all the runners in the stadium run, but only one gets the price.  SO RUN TO WIN.”  In Philippians Paul clarifies the race by writing, “The goal I pursue is the prize of God’s upward call in Christ Jesus.”  

You see friends, when you start to consider your expenditure of energy … your devotion of time … what you are doing with your life … what is the goal?  What is the purpose?  What are you hoping the end results will be?   For Paul it was heaven with God and Christ … of course, he was living his life on earth and still interacting with others because we have his history but it was his life he writes that was focused on his intent to win the race … to give 100% of his energy … striving to feel the tape across his chest as he crossed over the finish line no longer merely being in the race but instead because of how he ran the race ending up in the winning circle of God’s Holy presence.

Paul actually continued the athletic references in First Corinthians 9’s closing verses but one added verse that stands out to me is verse 25, “Everyone who competes practices self-discipline in everything.”  You know you could hear one of today’s Super Bowl athletes making a statement like that … they train, they workout, they practice self-discipline giving up things they might like in order to be victorious in the end … knowing some things aren’t good for them but others help build them up into being winners.  Self discipline … living for God … giving up things and building up faith.

So, I return to today’s question for you … and for me. WHO are you willing to give 100% to?  WHO matters that much to you?  For WHOM are you willing to practice self-discipline in everything for?  What does self-discipline even mean? Giving up what?

Are you willing to do that for GOD?   Are you willing to do that for GOD?  

I am willing to assume this morning that if you are hearing my message that you accept God’s reality and existence.   If you are with me in that … do you agree with this simple statement from the TORAH, the book of Exodus in our Bible, that provides an early Scriptural context for the lives of those who not only accept God’s reality and existence but also those choosing to worship God … who believe in God … who actually praise God for providing Jesus Christ for our Salvation and for the teaching lessons that are needed for living a life of “self discipline” for God … those Jesus lessons in the Gospels provide us with that and more … do you agree with these words this morning after having already paused in the confessions of your sins to the Creator of the universe:

You shall have no other gods before me …” Simple … it’s easy to say that you agree with it but do you?

So, in choosing who we do our all for …. Who is your God?  Who are your gods?  Who or what is your priority? You know what I mean … your daily goals? Promotions at work? More money? Rushing to interact socially in this time of pandemic? Chanting the popular political chants that put down half of your neighbors’ points of view?

Jesus taught that every single law … every single prophesy … every requirement that God has for God’s creation, the human race in which every one of us was created in God’s Holy Image … WE ARE TO LOVE GOD FIRST … and LOVE ALL of our neighbors as we love ourselves.  Micah shared that message with the people of Israel before Jesus arrived in that stable’s manger … “What does the Lord require FROM you?  To do justice; embrace faithful love of all, and to walk humbly with your God.”

Church, on this Communion Sunday … on this first Sunday in February when the stirrings of the world’s priorities can get our minds spinning like the fastest whirling top anyone can ever imagine … WHO IS YOUR GOD?   WHAT ARE YOUR LIFE’s PRIORITIES?  And, are you in need of this Table as much as I am this morning?  The Sacrament of God’s love?

Paul preached in his letter to the Colossians, “And, whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”

Now, that just might be the self-discipline’s first requirement for us if we want to be doing our all for GOD during the short lives we have here on earth.  WHATEVER we do in WORD or DEED do it in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.  I wonder how many of us would cringe if the words we have used these past 12 months whether verbally or in writing were put before us and Jesus … would Jesus be shaking His head saying “I’d never say that … I would never have written that … OH MY no no no”. If given an inventory of your recent prioritizing of words, themes, actions, and messages would you pass the Colossians’ test?  If not then clearly you are amongst the many not doing your all for God and Christ not focused on the race to the kingdom of God … the after life press conference would say this one gave 30% for You God … 45% … they did give 95% to fit in with the ‘in crowd on earth that rejects you God and has other gods.’

The good news friends is that God continues to show God’s amazing grace to all of us and to every other human on the planet … EVERY ONE of them.  The good news is that this love from GOD never stops and can easily overwhelm the world’s insanity and defeat the evil of the world.  We only need to allow God’s love to be ours rather than minimizing God to mere minutes each week.  Jesus in today’s Gospel lesson shares a couple of essential points of information … perhaps we need to hear them in reverse order because Jesus left us with this closing statement right before He started to pray to the same God we pray to.  Jesus said, “I have said these things so that you will have peace in me.  In the world you have distress.”

So in that one statement our two choices are presented to us.  Neither God nor Christ is forcing anyone to choose one or the other.  Our choice … your choice … the world’s choice.   PEACE in JESUS or DISTRESS in the world.

Now, Jesus added the clarification for those who somehow think that aligning with the evils of the world somehow gives them personal satisfaction, power or strength … JESUS SAID, “I HAVE CONQUERED THE WORLD!”

In reading backwards we hear Jesus state that his disciples, much like most of us, “will be scattered to our own homes and will leave Jesus alone.”   But of course Jesus states He is never alone because God the Father is with Him.  

But this morning are you leaving Jesus alone?  Do you believe that Jesus came from God?  That God’s love led God to send Jesus to teach us so that we can understand the self-disciplines we need to follow … the lifestyles we need to lead … the calling of people of faith to actively cross the road to give 110% to the broken and the hurting and the poor … ok to give 100% … to do our all not for ourselves but to pick up our cross and leave behind our personal desires to achieve the call of God through Christ Jesus.

We come to the Table of the Lord today, which is where I hope you like I find renewal, the energizing Spirit of God, and the overwhelming gift of God’s forgiveness but of course God teaches us and we pray that first we forgive those who “trespass against us.”  This morning use that simple quiet personal conviction as your first self discipline. Truly forgive those who have trespassed against you … truly forgive them right now … you know who they are but today we need God’s forgiveness if we are going to do our all for God. “God forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.” FRIENDS THOSE BE JESUS WORDS; HIS TEACHING!

As we head towards the season of Lent again commit yourself to reading the Gospel lessons of Jesus daily … when you have read them enough times you might even start to remember them.  Pray and then listen for God’s response it might come in music or from God’s creation but don’t cut God short.  Consider right now … what are the personal gifts you have in the person you are and how can you use them fully and faithfully for God’s purposes here … to help you in the race towards the heavenly Kingdom of God … the prize of Jesus Christ … the work of God … the call of Christ to demonstrate love and the insure that you have the actions of faith keeping your faith alive.

And, friends … when you truly understand and when you actually change and love God not merely with a nod of your head but when you truly love God with your heart, mind, and soul then the GOOD NEWS of JESUS CHRIST this morning are for you just as they are for me … “The FATHER Himself loves you, because you have loved Jesus and believed that Jesus came from God!”

That is GOOD NEWS and should be the inspiration for DOING OUR ALL for GOD, which means we will be DOING OUR ALL for ALL of our NEIGHBORS no matter who they are, what they look like, where they come from, or what they sound like! AMEN

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