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"But Noah found favor in
the eyes of the Lord.  These are the records of the generations of Noah.
Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God."
Over the past few weeks we've
talked about the negative effect of small sins over a long period of time-how
they are barnacles on our soul that weigh us down and keep us from flourishing.
We've talked about the importance of confessing our sins and then repenting
from them-in effect, turning from our sins. This week, I want to talk about
what you turn towards: Christ. It isn't enough to confess a sin or even
to repent from it. The Christian walk isn't so much about stop doing bad
things, as it is to start doing good things. Certainly, we must confess
and repent, but then we must fulfill Christ's command to be faithful.
If the accumulation of small
sins over a long period of time will do immeasurable damage, then is the
opposite true? What kind of impact on the world will small acts of obedience
do over a long period of time? One more question, which will do more good,
one large splash, or a constant trickle?
Some people sincerely believe
the answer is the big splash. People like John Raymond, the executive pastor
of the World Harvest Church in Slidell, Louisiana. This fall, he became
the first clergyman on reality television when he appeared on Survivor
Tahiti. Pastor Raymond wanted to use the experience to spread the gospel.
"Jesus preached the sermon on the mount, not the sermon in the valley.
The reason he preached it on the mount was because he got more exposure
on the mount. If I can get more exposure for the church and the kingdom
by getting on the highest rated show in history, then great, as long as
I kept my integrity in the game." Raymond brought things along that reflected
his faith-a Bible, and the Christian flag. (The flag turned out to be a
6 by 10 foot waterproof tarp that happened to be the color of the Christian
big splash was a belly flop. He was the first contestant voted off the
Island. Why did he get the dubious distinction of being the first contestant
to go? Well it wasn't because of his skills dealing with the outdoors.
Raymond says he grew up hunting and fishing in Louisiana, so his outdoors
skills were good. The film footage shows Raymond starting the fire, finding
water, catching most of the food, and even digging the latrine.
So why did he get the boot?
Raymond suggested it was because of his occupation. He said, "Someone also
suggested that many people are uncomfortable around ministers because they
feel they have to be too cautious or that they have a second conscience
floating around. So maybe they didn't want me around long." Reflecting
on his experience Raymond says, "I was just hoping they wouldn't vote me
off because I was a pastor."
Was his occupation the reason
he was voted off the Island at the first tribal council? The producers
said they figured Raymond was so capable in the hostile environment that
it made the others uncomfortable. (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)
Whether Pastor Raymond made
the others feel uncomfortable because of his occupation or his superior
outdoors skills, I don't know, maybe both contributed to his premature
exit. Regardless, he never really fit in with the group. And since the
show is more about surviving your "friends" than surviving the elements,
he got the ax. As it turned out, Pastor Raymond's desire to be the survivor
on the mount failed-simply because he didn't last. He wasn't on the show
long enough to make any kind of impact except a negative one.
He went for the big splash-maximum
exposure, and it backfired on him and the gospel. In my opinion, it isn't
the sermon that you preach on the mount that makes the greatest difference;
it is the life that you live in the valley. It is the slow drizzle, not
the big splash that changes the world.
When spiritual adrenaline
is pumping, it is easy to make grandiose plans and promises. Our tendency
is to write spiritual checks that our commitment can't cash. Then we get
discouraged and fall back into unhealthy patterns.
As most of you know, for
me there are only two seasons: Baseball Season and then the rest of the
year. I made a deal with Susan a few years ago, that if I could watch baseball
anytime that it is on, I wouldn't watch any other sport on TV. After tonight's
game, we'll be in the bleak "rest of the year," and I'll have to survive
without sports until spring. Even though I don't watch football anymore,
I do remember something our coach taught us when I played ball in High
School. You don't have to cover the entire length of the field every time
you get the ball to win a game. Averaging 3 or 4 yards a play is enough.
If you do it consistently, you'll eventually cross the goal line. In the
Spirit of that advice my coach gave us some twenty-five years ago, what
kind of impact will you have with your life if you walk faithfully before
God over a lifetime?
When I think about commitment,
I think about Noah. Noah, the scripture says, was a righteous man-a blameless
man, one that found favor in God's eyes-a man that walked with God. He
was committed to God and to the mission that God gave him. Faithfully he
labored building the Ark for 120 years. He did not minister under anyone's
spotlight. It was a slow, faithful work-a labor of love to his God. He
endured the ridicule of his neighbors-I'm sure they thought he was a total
whack case-and the hardship of hard labor that would not show him any benefit
for years to come. Yet he cut the timbers, crafted the planks, chiseled
the wood, bored the holes-he faithfully did all the small things, and in
the end, he built the ark that God would use to save his family and the
animals from the flood.
In faith, he began the project
that his commitment would finish. How's your commitment? Are you faithful
to practice your Christianity even when you aren't in the mood? Are you
disciplined to worship, to study, to give? Are you busy spreading your
faith? An extensive study released in May 2002 depicts religious life in
America as both hopeful and cautionary. The Lilly Endowment sponsored the
survey and involved interviews with 300,000 worshippers in 2,200 churches,
representing 8 denominations found that three-fourths of churchgoers report
they came the first time because someone invited them. Yet 54 percent of
those surveyed said they had not invited anyone to church in the past year.
More than inviting someone
to come to church, are you penetrating society with the gospel? I don't
mean trying to be the survivor on the mount, are you in the valley among
the people, living your faith in the nitty gritty of life?
In his book, Too Christian,
Too Pagan, Dick Staub says, "ůmost Christians are either too Christian
or too pagan and that if you truly follow Jesus you will seem both too
Christian for your pagan friends and too pagan for your Christian friends."
Think about his observation for a moment. If you are a true follower of
Jesus-a "world changer," you'll have to be in the world interacting and
ministering to non-believers-the publicans and the sinners to use Biblical
language. Your religious friends might not like that.
But then again, your friends
who are non-believers might not understand why there are some jokes you
won't laugh at or places you won't go or things you won't do. They might
not understand why things like worship or spending extended time with your
family are so important to you-they'll think you're taking the Christian
thing too far.
A person who does more than
invite the world to come into the church, but also invites the church to
come into the world will be misunderstood, and at times lonely. Staub continues,
"Your forays into the world will displease many Christians. Your spiritual
attentiveness will discomfort many pagans. The road less traveled requires
persistence and the endurance of suffering." Then he ends the thought by
saying, "I want to urge you to endure to the end."
When all is said and done,
all the spiritual fervor in the world will not make a lasting impact if
it fizzles out. Enduring to the end-staying committed to the cause is what
changes the world. Never underestimate what doing the right thing-no matter
how small it may seem at the time-will accomplish, given enough time.