I love sports stories and next to the Phillies World Series Championship of 2008 (my own bias!), maybe the next greatest story (many would say "the greatest") is the victory of the US Hockey team over the Russians in 1980. No one expected them to win. The Russians were more like a professional hockey team and seemingly unbeatable. The story of the US hockey team was the subject of a movie called "Miracle on Ice." It focuses on Herb Brooks, the coach for the US Hockey Team. There is one scene in the movie where the US team loses in one of the preliminaries. At the end of the match, Brooks tells the team they are going to stay on the ice and stay for "conditioning." "Conditioning" simply means brutal trips up and down the ice until everyone is totally exhausted. He drives them so hard that his coaches ask him to stop. He asks the players for their name. They say something like "Smith, University of Minnesota", "Baxter, University of Vermont". Brooks will not stop until they have learned a certain lesson. He asks the question again, "What is your name?" and a guy by the name of Mike Eruzione says, "Mike Eruzione, Team USA!". At that point, Brooks says, "OK, you are done." The point is not until you realize the name on the front of the jersey (USA) is more important the name on the back of the jersey (your own name) can you play on this team. It made them unstoppable and they went on to win perhaps the most surprising victory in sports history.
As we saw last week in the message, God has called us to something much bigger than ourselves. We learned that Jesus ascended where he is working out his plan to fill the universe with Himself (see Ephesians 4:10 and Ephesians 1:9, 10). Paul says, "There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call--one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all." He says God has given grace and gifts to each person to be a part of that grand vision. Of course everyone asks, "How do you find that?" And you might say, "My life is so mundane, so drab, so uneventful." Paul says that the job of a pastor is to "equip God's people for the work of ministry"..."until we all attain to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood." If there is anything we pastors talk about and wrestle with all the time it is on how to equip you to be these kind of people. At times it seems very difficult and elusive. You work long hours in your jobs. You are scattered all over the city so it can be difficult to find the significant time that is needed to equip you to be God's people You need to be equipped for the work place to be Christ's representative there---to work with integrity, excellence and for His glory. You need to be equipped so you know how to have a quiet time, share your testimony, present the gospel, memorize scripture, lead a Bible study. Pray for us and make yourself available for that kind of training. Do you know that on your back so to speak you bear the name of Jesus? Do you know that His cause is greater than any human cause? Are you experimenting with the gifts God has given you, sometimes failing, but little by little finding out what He has called you to? Are you doing something or are you doing nothing? Are you seeking to be equipped through your own prayer and study and also with others? Come and talk to us and we will try to explore this with you. Please respond to this e-mail with your thoughts or come and talk to us.
This past week I had the privilege of playing a small role in the equipping of ten young church planters with Redeemer City to City. They came from all over Asia. They were being equipped to go out in the next eighteen months to plant churches in large cities of Asia. As I visited with Jay Kyle, my friend and mentor, he talked about the amazing things that are happening right now in parts of Asia that I cannot describe in detail. He mentioned a movement for training pastors that is growing rapidly and has the possibility of changing this part of the world. Along with growing this church so that it is increasingly outward focused, and equipping you to be His people, I have the awesome privilege of contributing my meager gifts to this cause. When I met for Jay for dinner on Tuesday evening, he said, "Someday we may sit in our rocking chairs and reflect on what God has done in this part of the world and know that in some way we were able to contribute to it." It is a unique moment in history. That energizes me everyday of my life. Whenever I can, I try to expose people to this larger vision and ask them to participate in it. One businessman told me how much it had helped him in his life to begin to be part of it. What is God laying on your heart? Where have you seen some fruitfulness? Where have you simply been paralyzed by fear of failure and thus loss of face so you have done nothing? Isn't it time that you got out of the stands and onto the ice to play the game where the name on the front of your jersey (Jesus) is more important than the name on the back (your individual or family name)? Without one shred of triumphalism, and with utter humility (because we serve a crucified Savior) we can be confident that we will win because in Him (Jesus) "all he fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him, He is reconciling to himself all things whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of the cross." (Colossians 1:19, 20)