Evangelism and The NFL-sanctioned Super Bowl Breakfast
Today we discover the convergence of athletics and evangelism and the powerful tool of The NFL Super Bowl Breakfast. In this Resolute Leadership Podcast, Vince Miller is joined by Terry Bortz, Director of Special Projects in Ohio with Athletes in Action, and her longtime leadership of this fantastic event. Today hear the approach of this event and how it can build a bridge for the purpose of sharing our faith with others.
Today we uncover the amazing and moving history of the NFL Sanctioned Super Bowl Breakfast. In this Resolute Leadership Podcast, Vince Miller is joined by Terry Bortz, Director of Special Projects in Ohio with Athletes in Action, and her longtime leadership of this fantastic event. Today hear as Terry shares some powerful stories of the small beginnings and big impact.
The Organization Behind the NFL-sanctioned Super Bowl Breakfast
Today we take a look behind the veil of the NFL Sanctioned Super Bowl Breakfast at the organization that has been driving this evangelistic event for the last 31 years. In this Resolute Leadership Podcast, Vince Miller is joined by Terry Bortz, Director of Special Projects in Ohio with Athletes in Action, and her longtime leadership of this fantastic event. Today hear as Terry and Vince share uncover the power of athletes living in action in college and professional sports.
SUMMARY: On our path of discovering what it takes to become a spiritual champion we cannot ignore the challenges we will face. Therefore, in anticipations of issues, problems, and challenges we should understand how to navigate them. In this lesson, Vince Miller discusses four things we can learn from challenges.
On our path of discovering what it takes to become a spiritual champion, we cannot ignore the challenges we will face. Every athlete faces challenges during their sporting career. Perhaps one of the most common challenges faced by athletes is, believe it or not, depression. In a study of 465 athletes, researchers at Drexel University discovered that 1 in 4 shows some signs of depression. There were a lot of variables in this study, but I don’t think any college athlete would contest depression as one of the many challenges that collegian athletes face.
Like an athlete, we as spiritual champions will face challenges. Because gentlemen, I believe we are either going into, in or coming out of challenges. All the great spiritual men who have gone before us faced challenges in their life. Men like Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Daniel, and the Disciples as well, all faced challenges. Therefore, we cannot expect to have a challenge-free life. Therefore, in anticipations of issues, problems, and challenges we should understand how to navigate them. And we know most of these men would never choose the challenges that they faced, but they did face them, it was how they faced them that defined them as spiritual champions.
I believe there are only two responses to challenges:
1. Either we move away from God.
2. Or we move closer to God.
These are the only two choices.
I was meeting with a good friend this morning, and he shared about a challenging season in his marriage. He has been married for several years and is now discovering some places or disagreement in his marriage and he is navigating them with some difficulty. They are not big issues but since they are new to him, he is facing them with some frustration and apparent anger. What was interesting, is that he needed someone with perspective to help him see through the issues. I came to discover quickly that while he was frustrated and angry with his wife, the issue was much deeper. We came to discover that the issue was the fact that he is not feeling respected. The issue that catalyzed the argument (domestic chores, his mother-in-law, or the family financial issues) was not the core issue. The core issue was how the issue was handled and how this communicated failure and a lack of respect to him that he was personally hurt by. Yet, of course, it was only after deep digging that he came to discover this. And once we talked this out he realized that his selfish response to her may not have been helpful but only complicating the matter. I think we each, when faced with a challenge have a hard time seeing past our own selfishness that would give way to discovering the more critical battle might be coming to terms with understanding what we want and need in any given situation. Thus, our choice, either move away from God toward our selfishness or move closer to God which requires deep work within our heart.
So today I want to think about challenges in the life of the spiritual champion. To do this I am going to be looking to four verses today that make four points about challenges in the life of the spiritual champion.
FIRST, challenges reveal our character. Essentially they expose us. The real the essence of who we are. We cannot face a challenge that will not reveal our character strengths and weakness. That is because challenges expose our blind spots but they also reveal our gifts and talents. If we are open, they also give us an opportunity for us to become transparent and authentic.
This was true for every great patriarch who went before us. Joseph is one prime example. Faced with incredible challenges for decades this man of God lived under the shadow of his brothers’ jealousy, the oppression of slavery under foreign reign, and wrongly accused in prison under false pretense. Joseph during these challenges gives us no allusion that he ever falters in his faith in God. And then one day his opportunity comes, he lives out his gift of interpreting dreams before the Pharaoh and God redeem him from prison and slavery.
What is incredible about Joseph, is not the moment he is redeemed, that is all God, but rather all the years of faithfulness to God. He was in slavery for about 13 years. For me, this reveals he is a faithful, persistent, and committed man of God. While he could have given up on God, he did not, and his character is revealed. And at age 30 he becomes second only to the most powerful man in the world.
Let jump to another man in the Old Testament. The shepherd boy David who faced one of the most well-known challenges in the Bible.
1 Samuel 17:45 says, “Then David said to the Philistine, ‘You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.’”
For those of us who know this moment we know that this was a defining moment in Israel but it was also declarative of the character of David in sharp contrast to King Saul and every other man in the kingdom. The beauty of David’s character at this moment was profound, and we too often in challenges face our finest hour and finest moments one that defines us for who we are.
SECOND, challenges give us an opportunity for faith. Faith is only birthed when it is given opportunity. Christian faith is the mental acceptance of God combined with action centered in the object of God. So, faith only lives when there is an opportunity for it to exist.
For example, without Abraham’s “test” (the sacrifice of his son Isaac) there is no opportunity for faith. Therefore, we can say that without challenges, or a test, we would not have acts of faith. It was the opportunity that revealed Abraham’s mental process and behavioral response. So, this means that we should understand the challenges that God gives us an opportunity for faith. Without them, we can’t have faith.
Paul infers this as he writes to the Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians 10:13 he says, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation, he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
Therefore, we can conclude that not only are challenges opportunities, but specifically opportunities with limits, that provide a way out, and for increased endurance. This leads to our next point.
THIRD, challenges help us to increase our endurance. They always build something in us. Hebrew 12 is clear about this. Challenges for the athlete help them to push to the next level. They help them to increase speed, build agility, fortify mental toughness, and expand awareness so that the next time they face the same challenge they can meet it differently. This principle is also true in for the spiritual champion. We each should be leveraging spiritual challenges as an opportunity to gain wisdom we did not have before so that the next time we face a temptation we battle with greater endurance. And each day we do this with increasing stamina. Challenges are like testosterone enhancers for the spiritual champion. Okay, maybe strike that comment.
But James takes a unique and almost startling viewpoint when it comes to challenges. James 1:2-4 says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
I think James has a valid point here. While this is not how we usually face challenges, the spiritual champion looks fo challenges in the face with joy. He welcomes them.
FOURTH, and finally, challenges give us stories of God’s faithfulness. There is not one person I know whose life does not have a story of God’s faithfulness through the challenges. In fact, all our spiritual stories have some moment of challenge that was redeemed in some way by God. Peter in says it this way in 1 Peter 5:10, “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
Men, God is always writing his faithfulness on our heart through our challenges. I would say this is good news, yet we don’t always like the process. But it is through a challenge that the story unfolds! And the men I know who have endured incredible situations in life through the power of God are men with great stories to tell. Because they have suffered, yet overcome, and God strengthens and restores them!
Challenges are a tool in the hand of God for our own personal growth. So, this week let’s smile in the face of the challenges and look at them with new insight. Welcome them as opportunities to reveal your character, opportunities for faith, increased endurance, and God’s faithfulness.
SUMMARY: Endurance, now this is something we all want more of, yet comes at a great personal cost. When I hear the word “endurance” I imagine a long distance runner striving, with teeth gritting, and struggling through exhaustion to reach the finish. This image captures well the physical endurance of a runner. But how do we build endurance in the spiritual life? In this Resolute Podcast, Vince Miller shares five principles to building spiritual endurance.
Endurance. Now, this is something we all wish we had more of, which we love to see exhibited in the life of others, yet comes at a great personal cost. When I hear the word “endurance” I imagine a long distance runner striving, with teeth gritting, and struggling through exhaustion to reach the finish. This image captures well the physical endurance of a runner and gives us a transferable image of the spiritual champion. One who applies similar principles but with a spiritual emphasis.
Today we are going to be looking at a classic text for the spiritual champion, from Hebrews 12:1-11. Follow along as I read.
“1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” 7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
So what are the secrets to building spiritual endurance? How can we build endurance in our spiritual life? Well, Paul gives us the method in 5 clear principles:
FIRST – Recall the Endurance of Others. The first step to building spiritual endurance is to look to Jesus. Often when I am facing a spiritual difficulty the only situation I see is my own. My myopic view of the situation is often the first item to address. I often fail to remember that others have suffered just like me. In fact, there is no problem that I have faced that is unique only to me. Gentlemen, we are surrounded by a “great cloud of witnesses.” These are people who have gone before us, who might be laughing at how “hard” we find our hardships. What Paul recalls here is the haymaker, he recalls the suffering of Jesus, who by the way endured more than we will ever know. Paul invites us to look back and consider and reflect. To make this practical, I know it can be very beneficial to have people who have endured the same things we have endured as a spiritual mentor. They, if grounded in God’s Word, can be a mentor-coach through the difficulty you are facing. For example, I have a friend named Rich who suffered a horrible job loss about a year ago. If I was going to talk to someone about a job loss it would be him. Today he loves to coach men through job transitions as his personal ministry and today he is VP of Global Training for a large organization still with a passion to help men through this spiritual challenge. This kind of mentor-coach of this kind can be great for personal and spiritual perspective.
SECOND – Weigh the Facts of the Situation. I love how in this Paul get us to look at the facts. He states them simply in a question, “Have you suffered to the point of shedding blood?” I think this is another way to ask, “Come on man, how bad is it really?” I think we all tend to embellish the issues, problems, and difficulties we face, and make more of them than we should. However, please do not hear me say that sin is not a big deal, nor hear me say that it does not often have huge ramifications. But, perhaps we need to see things in light of real suffering. For example, I know I see my children embellish their difficulty all the time. Why? Because often it is their first time to struggle with difficulty, loss, failure, and discouragement. When it is a first time the battle always seems harder. And sometimes they need reasonable parents in their life, who are understanding and yet still challenge them to stay with it. I think as adult men we can find a lot of this in an accountability partner who will both love and challenge and appropriately balance and deliver them as needed for our benefit. For often we need someone else to show us the facts and help us to see them through the fog of our current situation.
THIRD – Maintain a Positive Outlook. Another way to build endurance is to maintain a positive outlook on the situation. We must the see the opportunity in every situation. Gentlemen, life is not devoid of problems, in fact, problems are important for progress. Every business that exists today was built to solve a problem. And in solving the problem they generate a value proposition for users and consumers. We should welcome and love problems because they offer an opportunity to learn, grow, and develop in new ways. But often we view the challenge or discipline only through a negative lens. Perhaps there is a positive bent on the situation? Now I am not suggesting that we should rely only on the power of positive thinking, but the perspective that is spiritually aligned with the possibility of God. We must understand that God has sight of the issue and is creating an opportunity for you to rise above the challenges through the discipline. And if nothing else, discipline is an opportunity for increased endurance when you are facing difficulty and maybe new lessons learned as you look back on it. To build endurance view the situation from God’s perspective.
FOURTH – Submit to Identity Formation. Discipline and endurance built during discipline forms and shapes our identity. We should really look to the men who have traversed incredible feats of endurance for examples of this. Men like Viktor Frankl who lived and endured the persecution of the Holocaust and men like Ernest Shackleton who explored the Arctic region of Antarctica. Their endurance defined them as men. Please hear this. Without endurance, we would never know them. They would simply be like any other men, but because of their willingness to endure we are blessed to read their stories in books like “Man’s Search of Meaning” and “Endurance: The Earnest Shackleton Story.” Guys, discipline is the means by which we are given our identity and sonship. To avoid this would be to avoid our identity altogether. We should welcome, not avoid this identity formation because it will transform us. I know many men who endure sexual sin, marital struggles, job difficulties, and family issues whose story is profound and who I lean on in times of great need. Never dismiss the power of a changed identity through discipline and endurance and spend more time welcoming it rather than fighting the process.
FIFTH – Focus on the Result. As you build your endurance focus on the result. Focus on the result. Just like a runner running a marathon, the finish line may not be in sight for a long time. Now I have never run a marathon, but I would assume that these runners do not have sight of the finish line for at least 26 miles. That is most of the race! But runners that run to keep in mind that even though they don’t see it, it is out there. We too have to remember, it is out there and we need to push hard toward the end of the race. Men our spiritual end game as Christian’s is holiness, and while we cannot achieve this on sheerly our own ability, we can stay in the race with the knowledge that we run a race that He has already won. The spiritual discipline and pain we have to endure here is guaranteed for the man of God. The pain of discipline, the struggle to endure, is the simple part of our human experience and it is how God builds in us spiritual endurance. There is not a man I know who has not traversed through major difficulty or sin in his life who has not come out on the other side with more enthusiasm, perspective, and increased endurance. Endurance has a cost and it requires that we prefer the goal over the pain.
So there you have it 5 secrets to building endurance in your life from the book of Hebrews:
Recall the Endurance of Others.
Weigh the Facts of the Situation.
Maintain a Positive Outlook.
Submit to Identity Formation.
Focus on the Result.
Gentlemen, I would love to have you use the member’s guide today, that goes with this podcast, to rank yourself in these five areas. Every one of our podcasts comes with a study guide for use in a men’s group. In fact, many of our men listen to this podcast in a men’s group and use the Resolute Study Guide as their tool for discussion. All these resources are found our website for members at beresolute.org. If you want to find out more about membership or want to become a member simply send me an email at [email protected] or go to our website to learn more about membership. Men, I know you need tools for your spiritual growth and we would love to provide them and be honored to have you utilize them with the men you lead.
SUMMARY: Becoming a spiritual champion requires discipline and a long life of it. This is because we are participating in a lifetime event, not simply a single season. But most of us understand this, yet the real question lies in what does discipline look like in the life of the man who follows Christ? In this Resolute Podcast, Vince Miller addresses four factors that are critical to building spiritual discipline in the champion’s life.
Becoming a spiritual champion requires discipline and a long life of it. This is because we are participating in a lifetime event, not simply a single season or one-time event. But most of us understand this yet the real question lies in what does discipline look like in the life of the man who follows Christ?
So let’s define the word discipline for a moment. Simply put discipline, as a verb, is synonymous with the concept of training. Training that suppresses natural desires for something we desire more. In the Bible when discipline is used as a noun, is referencing spiritual activity that leads to controlled outcomes or increased obedience. Examples of this would be prayer, fasting, worship, service, reading, and other activities used for the purpose of spiritual growth. And the focus is always on knowing Jesus Christ and becoming more like Him. This activity should never be understood legalistically and reduced to simple behavior modification when it is really about the heart.
To gain a full understanding of discipline it is good to look at the outcomes of discipline. So let’s use a maturing athlete as an example. If you could watch a single athlete and his growth in performance over a few years between his last year in high school to his first year of professional sports you would probably see a noticeable difference. Yet the time between this maturation is often only a few years. And what happened during this time that had an impact on the athlete’s performance? Well, some of the factors are increased in age, ability, and knowledge combined with skill, genetics, and passion but there is only one constant; discipline. The willingness to suppress certain desires for something we desire more, which is probably playing at a professional level. There are a few athletes that understand this even more than others. For example the young Olympic gymnast. They must forgo schooling, memories, relationships, and downtime for something they desire more – the Olympic opportunity to compete for a gold medal on the world’s stage. So discipline involves doing things we sometimes do not always desirable, for something we desire more.
Today we are going to be looking at 1 Timothy 4:6-10, for a better understanding of a discipline. It is important to keep in mind that Paul writes this to Timothy who is in his mid-30’s even though Paul refers to him as a “youth.” And the purpose of this communication to Timothy is to give him some instruction as the leader of the church. Paul knows Timothy’s discipline of himself, and others are critical to the church. And so here are his words found in 1 Timothy 4:6-10.
“If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.”
So here are four observations about spiritual discipline from this text.
First, notice that the spiritual champion’s discipline is centered in the word. Verse 6 reads, “being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed.” The “words” Paul is referencing here is God’s Word and His good doctrine is the truth found in the Bible. Gentlemen our discipline is centered in the Bible as our primary source of truth. It is the plumb line of truth and the truth by which all other ideas and philosophies will submit. Since all truth is God’s truth, we must always be about immersing ourselves in it and subjecting the world’s ideas and even our own to it. This is one of the reasons that I prefer to study the Bible using the inductive method. The inductive method keeps me in submission to the will of God through His words which I must not deviate from in my thinking, doing, and being. A disciple of Jesus Christ needs to understand that they will spend their whole life studying this single book and must be subject to in it in all they think, do, and be. But the question then becomes, do we really submerse ourselves in God’s truth? Too often we rarely spend more than a few seconds in God’s Word each week. It seems to me that even the church is spending less and less time in the Word. I have attended many churches that hardly read the Bible during a weekend service. I would welcome you to count how much real time is spent in your church reading from the Bible this week. If they are not spending much time, then it might be time to find another church because my concern for you would be, what are they teaching? But before we become too critical of the church, let’s remember we are ultimately responsible for our faith. Therefore, we should be men who spend time in God’s Word all the time. We should be in the Word on our own. While it is beneficial to hear from a single preacher during a weekend service, this is no substitute for studying God’s Word on our own. We cannot live on spoon feeding on a platform one time a week. We should all become experts in handling scripture. And to do this we must be saturated in it. We should be disciplined in and disciplined by it – notice my use of words there. We should be disciplined in and disciplined by it.
Second notice that the spiritual champion’s discipline is cautious of faddish ideas. I think we often chase new philosophies because the old foundational ideas appear to not be working for us, have become routine, or the results are just too delayed. I have found that the issue is often not a need for a new idea, but welcoming variety within the foundational disciplines. Perhaps the most helpful idea in recent times for training athletes has been the focus of cross-training for athletes. Rather than using the same routine training methods, cross-training offers not only variety but also variations in training for the whole athlete. While they learn the same fundamental truths with different exercises, they have increased their focus by modifying their discipline rather than simply teaching some fadish idea. I find this to be true in my spiritual discipline. While I have enjoyed a life of prayer and reading, I also need some variety in the way I read and how I pray so that I can stay fresh. Often I know many people who are changing their spiritual discipline through listening to a variety of preachers, reading a variety of devotional books, and trying a variety of spiritual practices. While some may be equipped to understand the differences, many are not and do embrace “silly myths” as Paul calls them above. So while we need variety in the basic, we also have to be careful because at times we can be seduced by theological ideas we thought were true, but were not biblically based. I have witnessed this in a variety of churches even from the platform at a weekend service. Too often we import ideas from talk show personalities and political figures that are not based on truth. For example, early in my relationship with Christ, I was taught by the church that earning my salvation through discipline was an acceptable view and I embraced it but was often exhausted by this theology. Until one day I discovered that God’s gift of righteousness was extended to me by Christ, not something that I could earn, and this small and theologically correct idea catapulted my motivation and discipline to a whole new next level.
Third notice that spiritual champion’s discipline is comprehensive training. Spiritual discipline is not one dimensional it is multidimensional. Spiritual discipline is the most comprehensive training. Here you will note that Paul states that bodily discipline holds some value but none for the life to come. It is training in godliness that has compounding value, because it has value here and for life thereafter. Those of us who are getting older know the meaning of this statement, because we understand that our bodies are deteriorating machines. So while our youth will fade, training in godliness will always have benefit. We also know that discipline which is focused on character development and the internal spiritual development of a man is transferable into any arena of life, even as we age.
Fourth notice that the spiritual champion’s discipline is focused on hope. Discipline is not an end in itself but a means to the end. We must keep in mind the end is to know Jesus Christ and the power of his rising as Paul so eloquently stated. While discipline is never fun at the moment, we must keep our eyes on the end game. Like an athlete focused on the finish line, the final moments of the event, or the championship trophy we must keep our eyes fixed to our hope. And we must never take them off.
So gentlemen here are your points from today:
Spiritual champion’s discipline is centered in the word.
Spiritual champion’s discipline is cautious of faddish ideas.
Spiritual champion’s discipline is comprehensive training.
Spiritual champion’s discipline is focused on hope.
So my challenge for you today is to be disciplined in the Word and by the Word. And to do this you need to be reading the Bible. There are lots of ways to do this, but you can simply dust off that book, crack open the binding, and start reading. Our you can just follow along in our App, we have a daily reading built right in. If you want to develop a good pattern I would suggest a few chapters each day for a week from the Gospel of John. John is simple to read, since it is a narrative, and it contains the story of Jesus which is very beneficial for a man wanting to develop a pattern. From there I would turn to Acts and read the story of the early church, and after that just send me a note and I will read a book with you!
So men if you want to be a great disciple you are going to have to faithfully invest the time to get there.
SUMMARY: Rest is always a welcomed topic. This could be the one thing we probably need the most that are the hardest to find. In this Resolute Podcast, Vince Miller addresses the topic of rest and gives us a little time to move from worker to worshiper.
In 1990 the Chicago Bears were well known as a football team and had a legendary lineup in the National Football League. David Tate, a 180 pound, defensive secondary tells the story of the locker room wars that they had back in the day. There is always a few locker room antics with guys, and the Bear’s were no stranger to these adolescent games. In their locker room, they had a number of hazing events, that would not be allowed in today’s locker room, but many on the team would say that nothing was worse than “Splashing.” Splashing was an event where the defensive line would grab a player and throw him on the ground and four linemen would pile on a single player on the team. Imagine for a moment what it would feel like, especially when you hear who the four linemen were. They were William “Refrigerator” Perry 320lbs., Richard Dent 270lbs., Dan Hampton 275lbs., and Steve Mitchell 270lbs., all stacked on top of you. This is a little over 1100 lbs. of a human sandwich. Sounds funny to the guys on top and sounds like, well not so much fun, to the guy on the bottom.
But I know on some days we all feel like the guy at the bottom. We probably all have way too many things piled on in our life. Way too much to do, crushed by the expectations of others, and the pressure we put on ourselves to succeed. I know many men who feel like this. Somedays we all feel like we are at the breaking point, and at the bottom of the pile of life..
So rest is always a welcomed topic. Rest could be the one thing we probably need the most, that is the hardest to find for many of us. Even myself with three busy kids, all teenagers, I rarely come home and find time to relax, but simply more to do. Like numerous people have said long before me, some days I feel more like a human doing than a human being.
So I have found I have to fight for rest and carve it out. And men we need this. Mostly because we live in a culture that celebrates chronic overwork and pushing ourselves to the extreme. And why do we do this? Well, I think we do this to either please others or to stroke our own egos. And all this steals from the time we need to spiritually rest and replenish. Which is a critical component of becoming a spiritual champion?
Like an athlete who performs on the athletic field, we cannot spiritually perform to our highest potential without time for rest. This is called recuperation, and no athlete can train and perform incessantly without a break. Our bodies are machines that require rest so that the muscles of the body have time to repair and heal. Recuperation is actually one of many steps to increase our performance. Athletes need to train hard, perform hard, AND rest hard. All three are critical to the body’s processes, and to remove one would result in lowered not increased performance. Without downtime, muscles will be overworked and as a result, cannot perform at optimum levels. This is not only true of athletes but the spiritual champion. Men, we have to stop neglecting ourselves of spiritual rest.
Today we are looking at Luke 10:38-41. If you would like to follow along this would be great. Luke 10 beginning in verse 38.
38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” 41″Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Mary appears three different times in the Gospels. What is interesting is that every time she appears we always see her at the feet of Jesus. She sat at His feet and listening to Jesus here in Luke. Then in the Gospel of John she sat His feet and shared her distress about her brother Lazarus who had just died, and finally, we see her again at the feet of Jesus anointing Him at Bethany in the last days of Jesus earthly life.
What captures my attention isn’t this text are the contrasts. Mary and Martha are contrasted as to challenge us to must make a choice. This is a real life and real time choice. We can either be a worker like Martha or a worshiper like Mary. And the choice is ours. Work or Worship. Worship or Work.
But, let’s not over accentuate this point. While these two behaviors appear to not possibly coexist, Jesus in no way infers this. Jesus is clear that Mary has chosen what is better at this moment. I don’t think Jesus would ever suggest that work is not important since He himself came to be about His Father work. And we also are commanded to use our gifts, work to earn a living, and not like in laziness and sloth. There are plenty of verses throughout the Bible that support this. But, I believe what Jesus is emphasizing is working to the exclusion of worship. How many of us are guilty of this? Ouch.
Sometimes I think our increasing busyness impedes our ability to worship and therefore leads to us ignoring Christ. Martha’s real problem was not that she had too much work to do, nor that she cared, nor that she wanted to be a good host, but that she allowed her hosting, caring, and preparing to pull her away from the important activity in that particular moment.
This would be like me texting on my phone at dinner when I have time with my family. Or dealing with business calls when I should be giving attention to my wife. While Ignoring my children and wife is permissible due to urgent and maybe even important activities, it may not be the most important thing at the moment.
So now let’s apply this to our relationship with Christ with a few questions. Are you letting other important work crowds out your worship with Christ? Have you neglected time to rest in Jesus? Is there so much work to be done that your mind cannot rest and focus? Has it been so long you cannot remember when you have prayed last? Are you so plugged in that you don’t know how to unplug? If you answered yes to any or all of these questions please hear this. You can reconcile this right now. Just focus for a minute or two and let’s spend some time in confession and rest in God.
SUMMARY: All the great spiritual champions I know make great choices. Why? Because they understand the law of first choice, which is a law that we often forget. In this Resolute Podcast, Vince Miller discuss how the choices we make live by a law of consequences and that they have both immediate and ongoing consequences.
All the great spiritual champions I know make great choices. Why? Because they understand what I call the law of first choice, which is a law that we often forget. The law of first choice is, understanding that when you make a single choice you also must make all the subsequent choices that go with that first choice. Sometime we learn the lesson of this law the hard way.
Today we are focusing our discussion on Romans 6:23. This is a well know text of the Bible. The verse reads,
“For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23.
I want to focus on a couple of words here which are critical to observe in this text. First, the word “wage.” A wage is something you earn; it is a consequence of the choice we make to work. At our place of business, we consequently earn a wage, and this wage is due based on our work behaviors. And while a wage is one of our many motivations for working, per this verse, the wage we have earned is shocking. The second word to notice is the word “death.” Death is the wage. And it may not be the wage we want, but we have consequently earned it per this text. So, let’s put these two words and ideas together. We have made our first choice and this choice; sin. With our choice to sin we earn all the subsequent choices, in this case death. And this is not just physical death, we have consequently earned two types of death; one physical and one spiritual. The consequential salary of sin is indeed great.
In the Bible, someone who is labeled a fool is spiritually misaligned and therefore makes choices without thought to the consequences. Often we describe someone as a fool by the foolish choices he makes. But the title fool is more descriptive about the spirit of the man – exhibited through his choices. This title does not describe his educational ability or wealth because a man can have these attributes and still be a fool. As can a man who is uneducated and poor can be very unfoolish. Fools simply do not connect immediate actions to long-term spiritual consequences.
As humans, we make a series of choices that lead to resultant choices. It is how we choose that defines us as either wise or foolish.
Maybe a couple of illustrations here would help. If you stop a driver who is seriously inebriated and ask him if he would like to kill another person or himself, he will probably answer with a slurred “no.” However, the choice to drink and drive is choice that has a high statistical probability of killing someone. While the drunk driver will declare that he does not want to kill someone, his choice to drink and drive is choice that has high probability of leading to this consequence. Therefore, we would say the driver was foolish to do so, especially since he has culpable knowledge of this fact. While the driver may explain that they were just having fun, or wanted to head home for the evening, the choice to drink and then drive is a choice that has a high probability of life threatening consequence. Therefore, choices that ignore potential consequence is a choice to be foolish. So, men don’t make foolish choices.
We could also apply the law of first choice to our purchasing habits. The choice to have something now that we cannot afford, leads to the choice to use a form of credit which is a foolish choice since this leads to the subsequent choice of becoming slave to a lender.
We can also apply this law of first choice to sexual choices, friendship choices, careers choices, and entertainment choices. Short sightedness can often lead to a foolish choice.
My point is that every choice we make has a consequence. Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:31 said, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” This is a statement of wisdom that teaches us regardless of what we do, we should think about the consequence of the law of first choice and ensure that we are thinking ahead to the spiritual consequence. Jesus also encourages us to consider the choices and thus consequences in Luke 14:28, he says, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” Jesus’ point is to plan and think about the consequence of our decisions.
But let’s look also at the positive side of the law of first choice. Our wise choices lead to positive consequences, especially those in line with God’s truth. We often experience the truth of this in the decision we make to follow Christ. When we come to Christ, we have often “come to our senses” as Jesus says in the story of the Prodigal Son, and connected our choices to the immediate consequences and eternal ramifications. This pivotal moment is where were we project the results of our decisions forward. And often when we connect the two we have a moment of enlightenment in our life.
So here a little story for you that describes the impact of the law of first choice.
When I was a kid, I was living with my grandparents, and we had a couple of neighbors named Hi and Lola Hendricks. I know don’t laugh. They lived about 4 houses down the street from my grandparent’s home and were good friends of the family for many years. One day my grandmother noted at the dinner table that she had not heard from them in over a week, and recommended that grandpa and I go down to check on them after dinner. So, after dinner we went to their house to check out the situation. We went to the front door and knocked and while waiting we heard someone tooling around in the house. But no one came to the door. Obviously, something was awry, and my grandfather speculated he heard Lola talking in the home. So my grandfather instructed me to head home and get their garage door opener, and we would check out the scene. I ran home and quickly made my way back. We entered through the garage but we could not enter the house since the staircase into the home was locked from the inside. But again, we both heard someone walking around the home. Finally, we came out to the front of the house and looked up toward the bedroom window and noticed the window was covered in hundreds of flies. And immediately we knew we had to call the police.
As they arrived, they attempted to enter the home. And after a few minutes of deriving the same conclusion as us they kicked in the door. When they did my grandfather and I were standing on the sidewalk outside of the home. As soon as the front door was kicked in, we watched as the officer at the door fell to the ground and passed out from the stench coming from inside the home. I remember standing on the street and dry heaving from the intensity of the odor. It was overwhelming. Two fire-fighters on the scene entered the home breathing apparatuses, found Lola had locked herself in her room, and after much convincing discovered Hi Hendricks dead in bed and had been there over a week and discovered that Lola Hendricks had been sleeping with him for over a week. She was politely removed and placed in mental care for the duration of her life, which was about another year.
Over the next year my grandfather cared for their property. Since we lived in California, he left all the windows open on their home just to air out the stench. For the first three months, driving past their home was horrific, the smell was almost intolerable with the window down. But over the course of a year the odor slowly faded. But my memory of the event did not.
Every time I think about the ongoing consequence and stench of sin, I think of this moment. Death and sin have both an immediate physical consequence and ongoing spiritual consequence. It is the consequences that we must live with when it comes to the law of first choice.
So today gentlemen, I would challenge you to think through the consequences, or the stench/odor/smell, of all your choices. Your choices might have far reaching consequences that sometimes cannot be undone. So, with the choices you will make at work, in your home, and in your private life, consider them carefully today, because it all begins with a single choice. And spiritual champions know how to make great choices.
SUMMARY: There is nothing better than a product that is consistent. In the same way, Christian men are called to be spiritually consistent. In this Resolute Podcast, Vince Miller shares how we as men can become spiritually consistent as Jesus challenges the spiritual leaders of the first century.
There is nothing worse than a product that is inconsistent. And over the last few weeks, I have learned the meaning of this.
So, I have purchased a few products recently and I love it when a product is consistent, but when it lacks consistency this can be very irritating. Here are three recent inconsistent products I have purchased. First, I picked up some sandwich bags and every one of the baggies had the same zipper on each side. I was trying to close one of them, and after the third try I became a little irritated because I was in a rush and it wouldn’t close. Why? Well instead of having a yellow zip side and blue zipper side all I got was two blue zippers sides. And I felt betrayed by my knock off brand baggies that saved me .75 cents. Then next, I picked up some garbage bags for our indoor trash cans, and no kidding I opened the garbage bags and they were not sealed at the bottom of the bag. I opened one and it had two tops with no bottom. Not helpful at all. Then I opened the next one, same thing. And then the next one, and again the same thing. Lastly, the following day I opened the egg carton, and I usually check the eggs before buying, and yes no kidding the bottom on every egg in the fridge was cracked. Not sure if I did it or not, but they were all destroyed. Inconsistency, is frustrating, is it not! When you buy a product, you want it to perform consistently, that is why you buy it! You expect to buy a product that is consistent with the label.
Then yesterday my wife and I stopped into Bath and Body Works, yeah I know don’t make fun of men. We went in to pick up some seasonal hand soap for our bathrooms. And their products were very consistent. I noticed almost immediately that they had taken all the same products and scents that they sell in the off-season like vanilla, mint, apple, and cinnamon and had rebranded them to look like seasonal products. I thought to myself as we left the store – “genius move.” They simply took all the best-selling products they have always sold, and added a couple of new scents to them like pumpkin pie and peppermint stick and hashtag boom they have “new products.” Now this we like, right? Because Bath and Body Works knows that nothing sells better than consistent products! So they chose to sell consistency!
In the same way, we are called to be spiritually consistent. On our way to becoming a spiritual champion we need consistency in all that we think and do. Whether on the field or off. In our public and private life. In our business and in our home. When we are at church or out with friends. Consistency is the name of the game. And the consistency that Jesus calls first century followers to digs deeps and hits hard. Let me read from…
25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. 27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
So, Jesus is a having a coaching moment here. He takes two prominent religious occupations and he turns their practices and shortcomings into practical illustrations. The first occupation, which was Scribe, we people in ancient Israel renowned for fulfilling job duties we might associate with lawyers, government ministers, or judges. One of their primary roles was to copy text, like the Torah, and other important documents. They used a meticulous hand copying process, since prior to the invention of the printing press everything needed to be transcribed and copied by hand. The second occupation referenced was the Pharisee. These professionals were part political party, social movement, and a school of thought in Israel during the time of Second Temple. So, Jesus takes these two occupations and gives them another occupational title and description, he calls them Hypocrites. A hypocrite was a technical term for a stage actor and was not considered a proper role for a public figure or a religious person. For example, in Athens during the 4th century BC, the great orator Demosthenes ridiculed his rival Aeschines, who had been a successful actor before taking up politics. He branded him as a hypocrite whose skill at impersonating characters on stage made him an “untrustworthy politician.” This is where we get the negative of our negative view which comes from the word hypocrite. Jesus was clearly leveraging this history and interpretation calling these professionals inconsistent in their behavior. Or it might be more accurate to say that they were meticulously consistent on one level and completely inconsistent on another.
But without getting too distracted by all the nuances of history, Jesus is addressing the inconsistencies he sees in their character. He is pointing out the insincere appearance of virtue. He wants to drive their character toward motivational consistency. Jesus does this by focusing on ritual purity and cleansing. As they heard this illustration, they would have recalled the ritual cleansing process and this was an important practice given their occupations. Jesus takes this process and drives the principles deeper, by suggesting that their ritual cleansing is not consistent – or that they clean the outside but neglect the inside. Now no God-fearing Jew would ever wash only the outside of a cup and not the inside, so the hyperbole cannot be missed. Therefore, Jesus focuses on the principle of this. His ultimate point is not about ritual cleansing but the ridiculous nature of this process inconsistency which he projects into the process of moral cleansing and purity. In other words, if the principle holds true in ritual purity, why not transfer the principle to moral or spiritual purity.
What is especially powerful about the application of this point is that Jesus wants you and men to be challenged by the application of this consistency. Jesus is inviting us to address our spiritual inconsistencies when we know consistency is what represents our spiritual credibility. I believe the challenge here is to drive our consistencies to the heart level not simply keep them at the behavior level. A simple way to understand this is not only do I have to act consistent, I must be consistent.
This is what I love about In and Out Burger. Every single time their burgers are perfectly consistent. The same toasted bun, the same great meat, the same crunchy onion, tomatoes, lettuce, tartar sauce, and fries. Everything wrapped in the same paper, in the same box. And this is what keeps me coming back consistently. And every store is the same!
But remember Jesus is not talking about hamburgers, sandwich baggies, garbage bags, or scented soap, he is talking about you and me. Christian men and his challenge for us is to become a spiritual champion by being consistent. By integrating the inside of life with the outside of our life. Because when we do this we model for the world who Jesus is. We live the example. And you know where this begins, it all begins in the consistent practice of remaining faithful to simple disciplines that transfer into deep change.
So just to be clear men, Jesus is calling for internal consistency. He is calling for the transformation of our internal character. And again, this is not acting at a deeper level, but true heart transformation that leads to the subsequent behavior change. He is calling for consistency of motivation, thought, and action.
SUMMARY: On our path of discovering what it takes to become a spiritual champion we cannot ignore the call to sacrifice. In this Resolute Podcast, Vince Miller shares the history and necessary components of living in sacrifice on our road to becoming spiritual champions.
On our path of discovering what it takes to become a spiritual champion, we cannot ignore the call to sacrifice. Sacrifice is a key component.
Throughout the Bible, sacrifice was an important aspect of the relationship between God and humanity. And within the Old Testament, we discover several different types of sacrifices which were accomplished through the killing of an animal. These sacrifices served the purpose of accomplishing several things including gratitude for God’s goodness, acknowledgment of sin, and the establishment of a covenant. While the sheer volume of OT sacrifices may all be hard for us to keep straight, we don’t have to fret about this because in Jesus Christ the New Covenant is made complete in his sacrifice – one whose sacrifice is representative of all these purposes. In Jesus Christ, we discover the sacrificial system was simply a foreshadowing of the ultimate sacrifice in His life.
But this does not absolve our duty to sacrifice. Sacrifice is the spiritual champions way of life. It is how we choose to live. It is a choice we make.
For example, toward the end of King David’s life, we see he has made a tragic choice. He has taken a census which was not commanded by the Lord, which was an act of selfishness on his part. In chapter 24 of 2nd Samuel, we discover that David is guilt struck by this act and is punished by God with a plague in the land wherein 70,000 inhabitants across Israel died in three days. Out of this tragedy, David offers a sacrifice of penance to the Lord, and here David’s sacrificial act. 2 Samuel 24: 18 reads,
“18 On that day Gad went to David and said to him, “Go up and build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.” 19 So David went up, as the Lord had commanded through Gad. 20 When Araunah looked and saw the king and his officials coming toward him, he went out and bowed down before the king with his face to the ground. 21 Araunah said, “Why has my lord the king come to his servant?” “To buy your threshing floor,” David answered, “so I can build an altar to the Lord, that the plague on the people may be stopped.” 22 Araunah said to David, “Let my lord the king take whatever he wishes and offer it up. Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and here are threshing sledges and ox yokes for the wood. 23 Your Majesty, Araunah gives all this to the king.” Araunah also said to him, “May the Lord your God accept you.” 24 But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them. 25 David built an altar to the Lord there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then the Lord answered his prayer in behalf of the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.”
I love this story because in David we learn that all that sacrifice requires something from us personally. Sacrifice is often captured in activities demonstrated through the exchange of money, time, or energy that are focused toward God but always initiated out of genuine motive. Sacrifice while demonstrated through these actions is always foreshadowing something of greater consequence. It exchanges something of value for something we desire more. And David here will not let Araunah sacrifice on his behalf. Why? Because David knows his sin and sacrifice should cost him personally and this cost is of little consequence to him but needs to make. Araunah’s land is a small price to pay for his sin cost his people so much. I hate the choice that David made to conduct a census, but I appreciate the heart of David here, it demonstrates penance toward God and others. He could have taken advantage of Araunah’s generosity, but he chose not to, and why? Because sacrifice demands a personal cost.
So as we follow the history from the OT to the NT we see the sacrificial system evolve, or how it would manifest itself in the great story of God. After the exile in 586 BC, Jews were forced to adjust from religious sacrifices focused on the temple to ones that centered life solely upon the Torah in the synagogue. And after the temple’s rebuilding in 353 BC, tensions existed between the centralized Temple practices in Jerusalem and other separatist Jewish groups. The temple practices, controlled by the upper-class group known as the Sadducees, ended with the Second Temple’s destruction in 66 AD, as the surviving sects of Jewish groups and Christianity, were again forced to reinterpret sacrifice without a temple. So, in history, we discover that sacrifice has evolved in how it was practiced.
Today Christ followers look at sacrifice as a way of life as taught by the Apostle Paul in Romans 12:1-2.
“I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
We are the sacrifice. The sacrifice is no longer external customs and practices but it is internal desires and motivations. Following Jesus model, it is ourselves that we sacrifice. We become a living sacrifice which is continually being offered. This infers that from the time we wake till the time we lay our head on the pillow, we make sacrifices on the behalf of God’s goodness, our sin, as a covenant between us and God.
So let’s get practical. What does this mean? Well, this means we must pay the price. Mark 8:34-38 is clear about what this should look like.
“And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’”
Here are three practical observations. Notice the following phrases.
1) Deny himself. This means we deny ourselves of our identity. Often people think of this as denying ourselves of the things we want. And this is challenging especially in an age when we can get everything and anything we want now. For American men, this is very challenging because we are always indulging ourselves, and denial is not frequently practiced. We binge watch our favorite shows, we impulse buy the next big technology, we build debt to have something we need now, and all this to satisfy our personal and immediate needs. But remember the type of denial Jesus is inferring is not the denial of things, but the, even more, the denial of self. It is the denial of who we are! Our very identity. And gentlemen this denial is counter-cultural, but it must be learned by the spiritual champion.
2) Take up his cross. The image here is of an actual cross for these people, not a figurative one. And while the cross to us may only be an image in history, this image was a picture of martyrdom. It was an image of full commitment. An either/or type of commitment. Either you were in or you were out. There was no partial commitment. And note this was not a small irritation or even a major burden, this was a willingness to suffer for Jesus at every turn. This is such a radical concept that I think most contemporary men struggle to find a real example of how this looks today. I even struggle to think of one example in our time that would represent a commitment of this type. Jesus’s death is the only one that satisfies.
3) Follow after me. This means we come after God’s truth and elevate his truth radically above our own. God’s truth in his word, purposes, motivations, and behaviors must be adhered to discover the true meaning of this. We can no longer be mastered by our own ideas, purposes, motivations, and behaviors we must submit to God’s. We now kneel to him as Lord and we follow him alone. Spiritual champions follow their leader and submit to his ways regardless.
Perhaps the easiest way to make this even more practical is to evaluate yourself and ask yourself the questions.
1) Are you willing to deny yourself of your personal identity?
2) Are you willing to fully commit to Jesus Christ even to death?
3) Are you willing to follow Christ’s truth over your own truth?
If you hesitate in your answers of one or all of these, perhaps the next best question is, “What sacrificial activity would increase your commitment in these areas?” This is the great application question. And perhaps that is where we should leave our time today.
SUMMARY: Tom Landry, former coach of the Dallas Cowboys said, “The job of a football coach is to make men do what they don’t want to do, in order to achieve what they’ve always wanted to be.” This only happens with discipline. We may not want it, but it is the one thing we need to become the men we want to be. In this Resolute Podcast, Vince Miller takes the challenge from Paul in 1 Corinthians one step further with the quality of discipline.
SUMMARY: Vince Lombardi once said, “Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so it losing.” This is a powerful statement of truth. And in Paul’s book to the Corinthian church, he communicates a similar concept but with spiritual emphasis, teaching us how to be champions as we run the spiritual race. In this Resolute Podcast, Vince Miller shares one of two qualities in becoming a spiritual champion as a man of God. Today’s quality is desire.