Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,--Hebrews 12:1

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Give your all...ALL the time

For the past several weeks God has been laying this idea for a sermon on my heart. This week, at our school's monthly Fellowship of Christian Athletes Potluck Prayer Breakfast, I had the opportunity to deliver it.

I didn't video it, and it wasn't transcribed. I didn't have it written down, other than the verses I used, so this written version isn't verbatim. However, anytime I have the opportunity to preach, I post a written version here.

Though I seldom bring up politics on this blog, it's obvious to most who know me that I was disappointed in the election results this year. My family, my friends, my students, and my colleagues probably wondered if I'd even be suitable to live with when the votes were all counted and the winner declared. A few even posted on Facebook and Twitter on election night, postulating my mood as the news was announced, some even consoling me as soon as they'd heard. I felt like I'd been kicked in the stomach by a mule.
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." -- Romans 8:28

This verse has been a great comfort to me these past couple of years. After Amanda was killed, I found myself turning to it over and over and over again, every time life threw an obstacle in my path. I've called on it countless times when counseling kids, friends, and others going through tough times. So it wasn't a surprise when it popped into my head on Tuesday when I was feeling down.

And when it came to the fore of my mind, it also reminded me of this sermon God had been calling me to write, Give Your All...ALL the Time. I realized, though I have no idea what the future holds for my country, God can and will make it all work for good. Knowing that, how could I go to work the next day with anything less than a positive attitude, giving anything less than my all?

When things don't go our way, the way we have planned, the way we think will work best, we too often get discouraged. We feel beat down, let down, just plain down, period! We go to work or to school or anywhere else with a bad attitude, in a foul mood, and pretty much everyone around us is brought down by our negativity.

Our work suffers, ALL our work!

It's bad enough if I let something bring me down and do a less-than-stellar job of teaching kids some days, but that's not the worst part. Teaching math is just a part of my job, and I often tell kids it's not even the most important part.

A lot of people think that's where teaching stops, at the subject matter you were hired to pass on, but they couldn't be more wrong. A good teacher cares too deeply for his or her students to stop there. You have to be part psychiatrist, therapist, counselor, and motivational speaker to be most effective.

Even as a high school teacher who spends 83 minutes per day with my students, I spend more time with many of these kids than their parents do. What they see and hear from me, how I interact with them and others, how I respond to challenges, has a huge influence. That can be a double-edged sword.

When I'm at the top of my game, with a great attitude, and giving it everything I have, my students have a positive role model and that influence is a good thing. BUT, if I let the weight of my troubles, regardless what they are, bring me down, throw me off, and especially reduce me to giving less than 100% effort, my influence is leading them a direction they don't need to go.

I've got to give my best. I've got to give my all...ALL the time. Good days, bad days. In the wake of good news or bad. If the world is in flames around me, or if there's peace in the middle east, rainbows in the sky, and unicorns roaming the street. I have to give my all.
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." -- Hebrews 12:1-3

How does one give it all, everything he has, when the world seems to be falling down around him?

That's where this verse comes in, and it also targets the biggest reason to keep up the fight, to push on in the face of adversity...Jesus.

The only way I know how to keep moving forward amidst great personal turmoil is to focus on what the apostle Paul referred to as "The Prize," an eternity to spend with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Let Him and His promise of eternal life be the source of your strength, the well that quenches your thirst, and the reason you give your all, even when things aren't going your way.

God's Word never promised Christians an easy life. If you were taught otherwise, you were taught wrong.
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." -- John 16:33

Yes! Jesus, who suffered more than we can even contemplate, suffered wrongly, suffered for us, suffered to pay the price for our sins, is enough!

Knowing the day will come when all the grief, the pain, the suffering in this life will end is enough. It's enough to get you through, to keep you going, and enough to motivate you to give your all...ALL the time!
"3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope." -- Romans 5:3-4

This is the hard part, the hardest for me anyway, to "glory" in our sufferings. But our biggest, most important job as Christians isn't to boast about how great life is. Our greatest task isn't to go to church several times a week, to serve on committees, teach a Sunday school class, or lead a Bible study.

As Christians, our number one duty is to lead others to Christ, to bring them to know the One who died to set them free. That's why we must persevere when times are tough. The only way I know to do that is to lean on Jesus.

That's what builds character, because when you depend on Him for strength, He's constantly whispering in your ear, through your conscience, to do what's right. That character is what others see, admire, and respect as you give everything you've got in everything you do, even through the storms of life. That's what makes them want to know how you do it. It's what draws them to you.

And they'll ask you how you keep moving, how you keep going, how you keep from throwing in the towel. And the only answer I've found to those questions is the hope that's found in Jesus Christ.

By giving 100% effort, in everything you do, you let His light shine through you. You become the lighthouse through which His light leads others to safe harbor, from the storms of life and to eternal life. That's the most important reason to do everything you do to the best of your ability, for His glory.

Be a beacon and let God's light shine through you. In good times and bad times, on smooth roads or rough roads, when the sun shines or the darkness closes in, give your all...ALL the time!

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

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