Input sound file: Audio 08 12 2018.mp3
when I was a teenager, this was called the hundred yard dash, but now they call it the hundred meter dash or hundred meter race. My brother who was in track, he said to me words, David, you cannot imagine how hard it is for those people to run that fast. In fact, the world record for men was set back in 2009 and it stood for nine years. 9.58 seconds to go a hundred meters. The women’s record, one-second longer has stood since 1988 over 20 years. This is hard. And I want to suggest to you that when things are hard you know what feels really good, the finish line. Because then you get to stop. It’s a good thing that it’s hard and you do your best, but it’s a good thing to reach the finish line and it’s good to win.
Everyone who reaches the finish line wins. You might be in tenth place out of ten, but you still won compared to those who not raced at all. It is a good thing to reach the finish line.
Some races are longer than a hundred yards. Some races are a half mile or multiple miles. There’s a marathon. There’s a race the farmers run every year called harvest. Takes about ten months to go from start to finish. But it’s good to get to the finish line, isn’t it? I want to apologize to those of you who think that red is the wrong color but it just happens to be the picture that I found. The best picture I found, by the way, was a combine that they use in Germany, that’s actually made by Jaguar and I thought that could be a little confusing so I stuck with the two colors you know, green or red. But crops just don’t happen. You don’t reach the finish line by sliding downhill. Crops just don’t happen. It takes effort and planning and work as you go from start to finish. But when you reach the finish line, it makes it all worthwhile. We need to go from start to finish. If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.
I don’t know if you’ve heard of Navy Seals, they are the toughest soldiers in the world although people who are Green Berets or Rangers might argue with them. But in 2014, Admiral William H. McCraven, the Commander of the Seal Training Force gave a speech to the University of Texas commencement and he offered them ten suggestions, ten lessons he learned from the basic Seal training that he said would hopefully be of value to you as you move forward in life. I want to read this word for word because I want you to hear what he says.
Every morning in basic Seal training, my instructors who at that time were all Vietnam veterans would show up in my barracks room and the first thing they would inspect was your bed. If you did it right, the corners would be square, the covers would be pulled tight and the pillows centered just under the headboard and the extra blanket folded neatly at the foot of the rack. That’s Navy talk for bed. It was a simple task, he said. Mundane at best. But every morning we were required to make our bed to perfection. It seemed a little ridiculous at the time, particularly in light of the fact that we were aspiring to be real warriors, tough, battle-hardened, Seals. But the wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over. If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right. And if by chance, he says, you have a miserable day you will come home to a bed that is made. That you made. And a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better. If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.
This little speech is now a book as he’s expanded on the lessons from Navy Seal training, which often require getting into mud up to your neck. But nonetheless, every Seal’s day starts with making the bed. That’s the first finish line. And it teaches us a lesson. Now, if you’re not someone who makes your bed every morning, I don’t want to make you feel bad because it may be something else that you do that is the first thing. But it’s good for the first thing to reach its finish line because it sets you to be able to do the next thing and the next thing.
So what should be the first thing? So here’s what Jesus says in Matthew 7:13, the word entered, that’s a command. “Enter by the narrow gate,” and here comes a warning, “for the gate is wide and the way easy that leads to destruction. And those who enter by it are many.” That wide and easy way sits there like a temptation for all of us. And Jesus suggests that we be aware of it and wary of it the better choice is to enter by the narrow gate. Next verse he says, “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to light, and those who find it are few.” Now, why is it that those who find it are few? I would like to suggest to you because the narrow gate is usually uphill. Uphill is not really hard unless you’re a Navy Seal and you have to run uphill. If you have all the time in the world, it’s not that hard, but we have this very human tendency to where when we are offered a choice, to look for the easy solution. And all too often, it’s the easy way out. Every time Jesus speaks to us, he offers us a choice. And often it’s a choice between something that’s a little harder but it’s better and something that’s easier but is not so good. Why do people so rarely choose the narrow gate? Because the easy way out pulls on us like gravity. I have a La-Z-Boy recliner chair over at my house. It pulls on me like gravity. But that gate is narrow, the way is hard that leads to light, and those who find it are few. Why? Because Jesus offers us a choice and we all too often think that cheaper is a wiser choice than better, that easier is a wiser choice than harder, but that’s not always true.
Let’s review some of these choices. Matthew 4:17, just 3 chapters earlier, the whole gospel begins with this phrase, “From that time, Jesus began to preach, saying ‘Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.'” It’s not that who you are is bad as much as who God wants you to be is better. And so here’s the first choice. Don’t be sunk in who you are. Don’t accept as inevitable whatever it is that you’re struggling with. Allow Jesus to invite you to repent so that things will be better. And He’ll continually suggest to you a better choice. That’s why in Luke 6:46, Jesus says, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I tell you?” Well, if we’re not going what Jesus tells us, what are we doing? Probably something easier, probably something that’s a distraction. But here’s the first choice. Jesus will set before us an opportunity to grow and become a better person. A little bit later in chapter 4, you find these words. As Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, he sees two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew, his brother. They’re standing in the lake, the sea of Galilee. They’re throwing a net out into the water by hand. They’re drawing it in. Any fish that are inside the net, that’s what they’ve caught. Here comes the choice. Jesus said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of people. I will teach you how to fish for people. Every verse in the New Testament that Jesus says is about learning how to fish for people. And that’s why at the end of Matthew, you see these words, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” When you follow Jesus, you’re a part of him reaching out to all people, but how do we do that? We throw a net of love and prayer around people, and we draw them in.
Going off from there, you see these two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, John, his brother. In the boat was Zebedee, their father, and these two are not throwing nets out. They are mending the nets. Now it’s interesting, that Greek word that’s translated “mending” is the same word that Paul uses when he says that the job of pastors, that the job of leaders in the church, is to equip the saints for the work of ministry, ministry that builds up the body of Christ, and you know that word “equip”? It means to mend. Pastors and leaders in the church are a part of helping people mend their lives, a part of helping people to mend where things are broken, to become more whole people. And how do we do that? Take a look at the next part of the Great Commission. Yes, we’re going to go and make disciples of all nations. We’re going to draw a net around people and draw them in. What’s the next thing we’re going to do? We’re going to teach them how to observe, to do all that Jesus has commanded. And I’ll be frank with you, brothers and sisters. That’s how you mend people.
Every problem that a human being has, when you look down into the causes of it, there is something that Jesus has to say that will give you direction up and out of that particular kind of darkness, whatever it is. We mend people by helping them become aware of what Jesus said, by helping them learn from what Jesus said, by helping them do what Jesus said. So Jesus says, “There’s a narrow gate. There’s a wide and easy way. You have a choice. Choose wisely.”
The very next verse, from talking about the nets and mending the nets, it goes on to say that Jesus went about all Galilee teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people. And so because He helped people change their lives, the word of what He could do spread. Verse 24, “His fame spread throughout all of Syria, and people brought Him all the sick, those afflicted with various disease and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and when they were brought to Jesus, He healed them.” People wanted to come to Jesus because they had proof that Jesus could change their lives. Brothers and sisters, you and I are the proof that Jesus can change our lives. And when people out there begin to see that Jesus can change their lives, guess what they’re going to do? They’re going to bring all those problems right here into the to church, going to get a little messy. I’m just so glad that you people are here, and you have no problems at all, well, maybe a couple. But if we begin to let people see that Christ has changed our lives, people will be drawn because they’ll need in their lives what it becomes easy to see Christ has done in our lives when we’re willing to choose the more difficult road and turn away from the easy way to be a Christian because, you see, these words are for followers of Jesus. Find the narrow gate. Take the harder road. It’s worth it.
So what is it that Christ asks us to do? Well, if you want to know, all you have to do is go back and open that Bible. Whenever you get to something that Jesus tells you to do, you just color that in in red. You take a yellow highlighter, and you just go right over it. And as you begin to notice the things that Jesus asks you to do, those things will begin to work in you and begin to change you. They will show you another choice that you have, a little harder choice, but a better choice. That’s the way the commands of Jesus work. They work on us.
Now, please understand me. Jesus paid it all. He died on the cross for all of our sins, and the forgiveness of your sins is a free gift from God. Salvation is free. You don’t have to do anything except receive this gift of grace from God. You can’t earn it. You can’t cause it. But you can open your heart and receive the gift of salvation. But when Jesus walked down the beach and talked to Peter and Andrew, he didn’t say to them, “Be saved.” He said to them, “Follow me.” It costs something to follow Jesus. Following Jesus is something that you do. And when you read through the New Testament, it becomes very obvious. Jesus is in one place, and the next day, He’s in another place. And if you want to be where He is, you need to get to your feet and walk down the road, or He will leave you further and further behind.
What does it mean to follow Jesus? You have to get up and go where He is. As I’ve said to Hayley, “Thank you for getting up this morning after you washed behind your ears and coming here.” What was it like for them in the days of the New Testament? The word would go around, “Jesus is here, 20 miles away. Jesus is headed our way.” Then the next day, it would be, “Jesus is over in this little village. He’s 10 miles away.” The next day, it’d be, “Jesus is over here. He’s 5 miles away.” And then finally, Jesus would be right there. And the next day, He’d be over here. You could wait for Him to come to you but if you wanted the blessing, if somebody you knew was sick, you might be willing to take down the 5 miles, the 10 miles, the 20 miles whatever it took because you wanted to experience how he could mend your life or the life of someone you loved. It costs something to follow Jesus. It doesn’t cost you anything to be a Christian, to be saved, but if you want to be a follower of Jesus, it will cost you something because it asks you to take a harder look. Perhaps one that’s hard simply because it’s uphill. But also perhaps it’s just harder because you don’t get to sit in that La-Z-Boy in your living room and watch Jesus on TV. You have to get up and actually do something. This is why they tell them to make their bed. They start the day doing something.
For instance, it costs something to follow Jesus. There’s a whole lot of people who don’t get past this. This is a student during exam week in college, I don’t think he’s going to pass, which leads to the saying, hard decisions lead to an easy life. But all too often the temptation of those easy decisions, they lead to a hard life.
That’s why making your bed works. If you can make yourself do something first thing in the morning that you don’t like, that’s not fun, you’ll be better able to do something later in the day that will be very useful and valuable and rewarding because you’re teaching yourself to do what needs to be done even when it’s not easy.
So, Admiral McCraven would like you to make your bed. I’ll be frank with you, I don’t care if you make your bed or not. But I will suggest this to you. If the first thing you do or one of the first things you do in the morning is to make your prayer time happen because you know we make prayers. It’s something we do. It’ll change your whole day. For you to find, and we’ve talked about this for over a year now, for you to find your place, your chair, your place that you pray and you know if you have gravity drawn lead to that La-Z-Boy, might as well pray there and let gravity help you out. If you’re tempted by coffee first thing in the morning, might as well make coffee but once you’re sitting down with your coffee, make your prayers.
Make your bed, sure. Make the coffee, sure. But once you’re sitting down, make your prayers because that will start your day right. And while you make your prayers, remember everything changes because we let the commands of Jesus slide into our lives. Take time to read your Bible but I’d encourage you read the words of Jesus with the highest priority.
We have these new Testaments here. I bought a case of a hundred but if you don’t have a Bible right next to your La-Z-Boy recliner or whatever it is you don’t have a Bible in your purse, you don’t have a Bible in your glove compartment, you can have one with you. Had somebody come up to me and say, you know I took one of these to read it and Pastor the print is just too soft. While I would like you to know that I’m very near-sighted and I too have to hold it right here, but I have no problem reading it when it’s right there. But [as?] the closer the commands of Jesus get to your eyes, the better. It’ll take time to let the words of Jesus influence you as you begin your day. Listen to the Holy Spirit.
Part of my prayer time is to stop and listen. A man by the name of Ralph Nabor actually calls your prayer time, the listening room. Because it’s a place that you go to listen to God because I want to listen to a Holy Spirit guide me as I make up my to-do list. See I have every day a do list and I also have a who list because of people I need to pray for and see. And there’s things I need to do and I let that be a part of the morning. You may not do that. Maybe as you go through the day, you listen to the Spirit because all of a sudden you will get the sense it’s important to do that. You will get the sense someone will come to mind that’s part of your who list. The Holy Spirit will say there’s something important here and you take a minute to pray for that person, to pray for that [past?] so that you understand what God wants because to summarize everything that God wants, we’re to love God with all our hearts, soul, mind and strength and once we’ve done that, God says, now go, love your neighbor. And we’re a part of those nets of love and caring prayer that draw people in.
But it costs something to follow Jesus. But if what it costs is for you to take five minutes, first thing in the morning, maybe just the upper room, maybe just as you’re standing there in the shower, Lord help me today, I’m really going to need it but for you to begin your day by asking God to walk with you. That’s like making your bed. Everything good can flow from that.
I’ll now [instigate?], salvation is free. God so loved the world that he gave his only son but whosoever believeth in Him, shall have eternal life. But beyond that, if we intend to follow Jesus, it’s not a wide and easy way. It narrows down to be just this wide because the gate that we go through as we follow Jesus, is to form a relationship with Jesus himself. And that’s why, just like Navy Seals make their bed, I do not want to find the drill instructor to come to your house to get you to pray. Although I bet it would work. Just as Navy Seals make their bed, if we’re going to follow Jesus, we’re going to begin our day with the narrow gate that is the priority of our relationship with him. And if we have a priority in our relationship with him, we’re going to take time to begin our day, or sometime near the beginning of the day, to say hello and to walk through that gate and go on beyond it as we walk alongside, of Jesus Christ. Let’s pray.
Lord Jesus, you invite us to follow you, you invite us to walk with you, you invite us to trust and obey. It’s not just a matter of faith for us to feel a certain way or for us to think a certain way, but Lord you ask us to do. Help us, Lord, to rise up from the easy way and to take the steps that go [inaudible] and we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Let’s stand up and sing.
The photo …
This post is based on the sermon “___” from the sermon series “___”
*date*, at Kinmundy United Methodist Church.
Slides and audio for this message can be downloaded from http://www.disciplewalk.com/K_Sermons_June_2018.html
All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.