Every Second Counts
Make Life Count
Jeff Jones, Senior Pastor
January 12/14, 2007
Intro to Series: Welcome to Fellowship and to 24, our new series that starts today, and extends over these next few weeks. You really won’t want to miss any of the episodes, and what God will do in your life each week.
In the show, Jack Bauer and the others have an urgent mission, very limited time, and a unique role to fulfill. They choose not to opt out, but rush into their mission with both feet, risking whatever is necessary to do their job. As with 24, you and I as believers have been given an urgent mission, limited time, and a unique role. Today and in this series that is what we will be exploring.
God gives you one life here on earth, 24 hours so to speak: what are your going to do with it? Because the clock is always ticking…time is an earnest laborer, never quits, never takes a break…just keeps on ticking. Before we jump into the message, I want that thought to haunt us a little while. To accomplish that, we’ll hear from two poets, two philosophers, in both song and prose, Pink Floyd and Shakespeare. Sounds like a fun dinner party to me…but listen to what is said here…don’t just let this pass by.
“Time” and “St. Crispin’s Day Speech”
Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day. You fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way. Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town, waiting for someone or something to show you the way. Tired of lying in the sunshine, staying home to watch the rain. And you are young and life is long and there is time to kill today. And then one day you find ten years have got behind you no one told you when to run. You missed the starting gun. And you run, and you run to catch up with the sun, but it's sinking. Racing around to come up behind you again. The sun is the same in a relative way, but you're older: shorter of breath and one day closer to death
Today and this series is a starting gun moment. For people who don’t just want to fritter and waste the hours of life in an offhand way, God gives the opportunity to invest time in a way that matters for eternity….to make life count.
That’s the life God invites you to live. 2000 years ago, Jesus gave a simple but profound invitation to his first group of followers, the disciples. They were a group of fishermen, living life, doing their thing. Nothing wrong with their life. They weren’t doing anything wrong making Alabama jokes or inappropriate body noises. They were pretty good guys making a living and raising a family. But Jesus comes along and offers them something higher…something more than just living life and letting time click by. He came along and said, “You are fishermen, which is fine. But if you choose to follow me, I’ll make you fishers of men.”
Those fishermen had a choice to make. They could stay in that life and let the time click away—or they could seize the day, choose the opportunity Jesus was giving them to make their life count for eternity…to live a missional life.
When I watch 24, I sometimes think how cool it would be to be Jack Bauer…not so much when he is getting tortured…but when he is running around so urgent, so much excitement. What a cool guy. What a life. Yet, what I want us to realize in this series is that God points us to something bigger than that, and there is a role for you to play As with the disciples 2000 years ago, he offers the same invitation to you. And I believe God also has you at a unique place at a unique time, a unique opportunity. We heard from Shakespeare’s Henry V, as Henry motivates his troops for battle pointing out what a huge opportunity they have, how if they fought in this battle, they would always be able to look back and be glad that they stepped forward, that they were part of it. For those today who make the choice to follow Christ fully, I believe that they will look back with similar gratitude for that choice.
Slide:_____________ Matthew 6:31-33
Jesus said in Matthew 6: 31So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.. And that is our choice. Be consumed with life here on this planet, just letting the time click by doing our thing…or we can choose to live for something bigger…we can choose to live a kingdom life, a missional life.
Today we are going to explore that choice and give an opportunity to make it, or in some cases re-make it. If you are a tire-kicker, checking Christianity out, today might be the day you choose to get in the car and drive. If you are in the car and have made the commitment to follow Christ, today is an opportunity to honestly look at the direction you are driving your life…are you really living the mission? Today is an opportunity for others of us to put our foot on the accelerator. Let’s explore the life that God is calling us to, inviting us to live…not just letting time fly by but investing our lives, making them count.
- An Urgent Mission: Be Focused
No doubt, in 24 the mission drives everything. They do, after all, have a big mission, an urgent mission. If they are not successful, a lot of people die. A lot is at stake. There is also no doubt that you and I have been given a far more urgent mission, with stakes that are a lot higher. With god’s mission that he has given us, people’s eternity is in the balance. If we really believed that, and I think we do, we’d be extremely urgent with the mission.
Our mission is to bridge people to a growing life in Christ, to help those who do not yet know Jesus Christ, who if they died today would not be in heaven, to begin a relationship with him and grow in their faith. Jesus came and died on the cross so that people’s sins could be forgiven, that people could escape the forever punishment of sin, but it is you and I, his church, that are called with the mission of bridging people to new life in Christ.
Slide:_____________ Matthew 16:18
In Matthew 16, Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” God has chosen to use the church, expressed in local churches like this one, to be the bridge, to be the connectors.
Slide:_____________ Acts 1:8
In Acts 1:8, he says, “You shall by my witnesses, ” building relationships with those who do not know Christ and letting them know through what Christ has done in our lives how they too can begin a relationship with God. In Matthew 5, he tells us as his church to be salt and light, pointing people to relationship with Christ.
The amazing thing is that God has chosen to hand his mission over to people like you and me. Jesus came here to this planet, but he left. He ascended to heaven. Between now and when he returns, he has handed over his mission to you and to me.
Yet, he does not force it on us. We have a choice to make. We can live a mission-less life. We can ignore our mission. We could choose to blow it off. It would be easier to live without an urgent mission…just blend in and live as if it just doesn’t matter that much. We have a choice to make. We can also choose to live the mission faithfully, and do all we can to bridge others to life in Christ as we help build Christ’s church.
When Jesus approached the disciples, they had a choice to make. Jesus invited them to a missional life, to be fishers of men. But they had a choice. They could have stayed right with their nets and continued to let time fly by. I believe for every believer there is a decision point that we have to come to and then we have to revisit that decision often. For me, I was 12 years old when first confronted the decision with what my life was going to be about. And with all my heart, I decided that my life was going to be about the mission. I certainly haven’t lived it as consistently as I would like, have been as bold as I could have over the years, and I have had to revisit that decision many times…but I knew what I was doing and I meant it and I have never regretted that decision.
We heard from Shakespeare earlier, the St. Crispin’s day speech, where on St. Crispin’s day, there is this big battle in front of them. In the middle ages, they would have been more familiar with St. Crispin, the one whose name was honored that day. Crispin and his twin brother Crispinian, were raised in a wealthy, noble family in Rome in the 3rd century, the 200’s, in the early days of the church. It was a time where Christians were being persecuted in very horrible ways. But Christ reached into the lives of these two brothers, and they gave their lives to him. They became Christians. To do so for them was a big decision. They knew it would mean saying goodbye to their comfortable life in a wealthy ruling Roman family. They knew it would mean inviting persecution and probably death. But that didn’t matter. They decided that their life was going to be about the kingdom of God, the mission of God on this planet.
The Romans did try to arrest them in their home town, but they fled to what is now the country of France. They decided to be missionaries to the Gauls who lived there. They learned how to make shoes to support themselves, and stayed up many nights making shoes so that they could tell others about Christ and start a church during the daytime. The good news is that they were very successful in their missions endeavor, and many people did come to know Christ. The not so good news is that success caught the attention of the Roman governor in that area, and he had them arrested. They were tortured in prison to renounce their Christianity and worship the emporer, but they did not do so. Shortly after their imprisonment and torture, they were beheaded. But they left behind them believers who formed a church that reached others throughout that region. Their lives made such a mark on that area that the early church decided to honor them as saints.
They decided their lives were going to be about Christ and his kingdom, and they would let God worry about the rest. I promise you that up in heaven right now they have no regrets. What about you? Have you made that decision? Have you committed your life to Christ and to his mission? Or are you just living life, going to church, letting time fly by? You have a choice.
If you have already made that choice, how is it going? Do you need to revisit it? Would you say that the primary filter that helps you make every decision about time, money, career is the mission of God? Would you say that every day you go to school, to work, to some gathering, that the mission is on the top of your mind?
When Jesus made the invitation to the disciples, it says, “They left their nets and followed him.” They left their nets. They left everything behind. Have you made that choice? Or are you still holding on to your nets?
In addition to an urgent mission, you and I as believers also have very limited time.
- Limited Time: Be disciplined
The thing about the 24 show is that they know they only have 24 hours to accomplish the mission. They know therefore that every single second matters. They know that the clock is constantly ticking, and they can’t afford to waste a single minute. The problem with us as Christians with our mission is that we do have longer than 24 hours, which can fool us into thinking that we have all this time on our hands.
That is especially true for those who are young. When you are young, you hear these old people, people who are like 40 years old, talk about how quickly time flies by…and you yawn…because it doesn’t seem that way. You’ve got lots of time.
And certainly we do have more than 24 hours.
In fact, if you live to be 85 years old, that means God gives roughly 745,110 hours or 2,682,600,000 seconds…so you are given a lot of hours and seconds. Yet, if you are 20 right now, you have already burned through about 22% of those hours and seconds…or roughly _________ hours or 631, 200,000 seconds. If you are 40 right now, your about half-way gone. You’ve burned through 1,262,400,000 seconds. Since I am 40, when I saw those numbers I had a little mid-life crisis. I even went out and bought a gold chain (show it). If you are 60, you burned through about 70% of the time God will give, and if you are 80, well you probably ought to get busy.
Video of the Joneses at the beach
The other day Christy and I found an old video from when the kids were younger. Here they are at the beach. They are now 13 and 10, and this is 8 years ago, when they were 2 and 5. I know I am sounding like an old man here, but it really does seem like yesterday. The kids are so different now, but it is hard to believe 8 years passed by this fast. Time really does fly. I don’t know how many times Christy and that to each other as we sat and watched this moment in time already lost to us.
Slide:_____________ Ephesians 5:15-16
That’s why Paul tells us in Ephesians to “redeem the time.” He says, “15Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.
Slide:_____________ Psalm 90:10-12
It is why Moses, who wrote Psalm 90, says, The length of our days is seventy years—or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Teach us to number our days, to use our time wisely—because we only get so much.
What that means is that you and I don’t have as much time as we think. Already, millions of seconds have slipped past. Are you just letting time fly or are you investing the minutes God has given you for eternity? Are you urgently living the mission?
As it said in the Pink Floyd song,
Slide:_____________ “And you are young and life is long And there is time to kill today And then one day you find Ten years have got behind you No one told you when to run You missed the starting gun.”
Let’s not miss the starting gun. Hear it going off right now. Choose to live the mission and do it today. If you have made that choice, evaluate how urgently you are living…how focused you really are on the mission….because as we will see you do have a unique role to play.
- A Unique Role: Fulfill your calling
If you watch 24, you know that Jack Bauer, the main CTU agent, is not the only character. There are all kinds of people involved, all with different jobs—but all significant in fulfilling the mission. If one of them doesn’t do their job, they all lose. The church is the same. God has a role for you to play. Whether you realize it or not, you have a calling to live out, an assignment.
That is a different idea than the prevailing idea in our culture of potential. In our culture, we tell each other and we tell children to fulfill our potential. That potential is a terrible thing to waste. We want to maximize our potential. Be all that you can be. You can be anything you want to be if you just try hard enough. All that sounds great, sounds inspiring even, but it is not true, not biblical, not even remotely possible.
You and I cannot fulfill our potential. Just because we can to something doesn’t mean that we should. We have the potential to do far more than we can even think about actually doing. God doesn’t expect us to fulfill our potential.
A couple of weeks ago, I was out with my two boys playing golf at Twin Creeks Golf Club in Allen. On hole #6, Collin, my 13 year old, hit a hole-in-one. The goober; I’ve never hit one, but he did. We knew it was a good shot, but we couldn’t see the hole from the tee box. We thought he was close to the pen, and when we walked up there we couldn’t find the ball—and then found it in the hole.
Now, I’m not telling you that my son hit a hole-in-one to brag. I’m not bragging. I’m just letting you know that my son is better than yours. Just fact. We can’t all be great. Obviously kidding (a little), but that’s great a hole-in-one. So, he might very well have potential to be a great golfer…it is at least possible that he is the next Tiger Woods. Maybe my job as a dad then is to make sure that he reaches his full potential in golf…yet he also plays football and hockey…and those are just the sports he is involved in…what about his speaking ability, his academics? You see where I am going? Collin like every other human being has potential to do a million things, but he can’t do a million things. He can’t fulfill his potential.
We have to make choices. What the Bible talks about is not fulfilling our potential, but about calling…that you and I are designed by God with an assignment in mind, a calling to fulfill. Paul often introduced himself in his letters as being “called by God as an apostle.” That was his calling. In Acts 22, Paul is discussing how he came to know Christ. In his case, God made his calling really clear, because Jesus called out to him from heaven and said,
Slide:_____________ Acts 22:10
“Get up…and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do” (Acts 22:10). So, Paul goes to Damascus, and there sure enough God reveals to him his assignment. We read about it in Acts 26, “I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” Acts 26:16b-18. Jesus told another person told to help Paul get started in his missionary work,
Slide:_____________ Acts 9:15,16
“This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name” (Acts 9:15-16).
Paul was appointed as a missionary, and he lived that calling out, planting churches all over the known world. He had the potential to do a million things, but he was called to be a missionary and church planter, and he jumped into his calling with both feet…so much so that at the end of his life, he was able to say that he had fully fulfilled the calling God had given him.
As he was fulfilling his own calling, he urgently pleaded with other believers to be focused in fulfilling theirs. He tells his young friend Timothy,
Slide:_____________ 1 Timothy 4:13-15
Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 1 Tim 4:13-15. Timothy’s role was to pastor a church, and to teach and preach God’s Word. That was his calling.
Living the mission is not about fulfilling our potential, but focusing our potential around our calling—that unique role that God has for us to play in his kingdom, in his church. My job as Collin’s dad is not to help him fulfill his potential, but help him to find his calling, his assignment from God, into which he can funnel all the potential God has given him.
How do you find your calling? When you even hear the word, it can sound really mysterious and syrupy spiritual, “the calling” (do music here). Let’s do that one more time for the fun of it: “the calling.” The truth is, God shows that to us over time as we are faithful with what he puts in front of us. Don’t think your calling is out there somewhere in the distance. Your calling for right now, for today, is right in front of you. If you are a worker, God has called you to represent him in that workplace. If you are a spouse, God has called you to love and serve and honor your spouse. If you are a mom or a dad, you have an assignment to love your child and raise him or her to hopefully choose to love God themselves.
And you are here in this church, and God has a role for you to play. That is especially critical over these months when we are replanting our church in this community, relocating our church to Legacy to reach people for Christ. It is one of those times in the life of a church that is critical that we all play our part, be faithful in living out our unique role. In a coming week, I’ll talk much more about how you find that part of your calling, about your ministry for him…how you decide how God wants you to help build his church.
Today however is a much more fundamental day, highlighting a foundational choice. God puts his mission out there and invites us to live a missional life, to live for his kingdom. Yet, we have a choice. We can just let life slip by, or we can live with a purpose and accomplish what God has assigned for us to accomplish—to live a life that matters for eternity.
The truth is, God has given you an urgent mission, limited time, and a unique role to play. What are you going to do? What choice are you going to make?
Last year, I had breakfast with somebody that was more than a good breakfast. In fact, the food was mediocre; yet the breakfast was life-changing. I had breakfast with a pastor named Ed Dobson, who founded a very large, vibrant church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Ed is a great teacher, writer, and godly man for whom I have huge respect. He wanted to talk to me about succession, because he was needing to pass the baton of leadership in that church to someone else…he wanted me to talk about the lessons we learned here at Fellowship as the baton passed from Gene Getz to me.
Then he told me the reason for that. Some months earlier, he was diagnosed with Lou Gherig’s disease, a disease that attacks the nerves in muscles and you lose the ability to use your muscles and they atrophy and quit working. He was told that he had one to three years to live, and that soon he would lose his ability to speak. That is not a good thing for a pastor to hear. Eventually, after most of his muscles quit working, his heart, a muscle, would also quit.
I asked him how he dealt with hearing the news at first, and he was honest. He said, “I was anxious and depressed for some time, and I still go back to those dark places from time to time. But at some point, I remembered the commitment I made to Jesus years ago.” He quoted the passage I shared at the beginning from Matthew 6,
Slide:_____________ Matthew 6:31-33
a;lksjdflasjfldskjf, and said, “My job is not to worry about my life, but to give myself to his kingdom, to fulfill all that God has called me to fulfill. So, every day I choose to see as a gift from God to be lived to the full. Every day I choose to make Christ’s kingdom, his mission, his work, my priority.” He then looked at me and said, “Jeff, you know it is no different for you, We are all terminal. None of us will live forever. I may have 1 year or 3 or 5. You may have 1 or 20 or 40 to go, but you too are terminal.”
That caught my attention, and he is right. And the same goes for you. We are all terminal. We all have only a few years left. What are you going to do with them? Make the choice today to live fully for God and his mission. If you are a tire kicker, why not jump in the car? If you are in the car, what direction are you driving? Do you need to put the petal down? At the beginning of this series, make the fundamental choice that is an every day choice.
As you leave today, you will receive a little card with these three points on them to remind you about that commitment. I want you to put that somewhere you will see it every day, and every day through this series commit yourself again to his mission. Come here on these weekends with an open heart as we explore what it means to live that commitment out.