Philippians 3:8-9, 12-14 … The New Living Translation
8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I may have Christ
9 and become one with him. I no longer count on my own goodness or my ability to obey God's law, but I trust Christ to save me. For God's way of making us right with himself depends on faith …
12 I don't mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection! But I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be.
13 … I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,
14 I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.
Let me summarize Paul’s thoughts for us today …
God is at work in our lives and nothing we can do on our own can compare with what He’s up to. He longs to have our whole hearts and for us to allow His Holy Spirit be alive and active in our lives. And the goals God has for us that are for our own good and for His glory. God is into partnership.
We shouldn’t get discouraged about how far we have to go to meet God’s goals for us – but we should be encouraged by how far we’ve come. Otherwise we won’t end the race … we won’t end up hanging onto God, when He’s done so much to hang onto us.
In his book "Point Man" Steve Farrar tells the story of Hernando Cortez. Hernando Cortez was a man with a plan. He wanted certain results, so he did some very specific things. Wanting to sail the Mexico and take it’s treasures as his own, Hernando approached the Spanish governor and asked him for 11 ships and 700 men.
Well it didn’t take long for the governor to get as excited as Cortez … and with greed in his eyes he said “yes.” But Hernando Cortez hadn’t told the governor his whole plan. In the spring of 1519, following almost a year at sea, those 11 ships landed in Vera Cruz, Mexico.
And after the ships were unloaded, Cortez let everybody in on the rest of his plan. He burned the ships. All 11 of them. That’s what you call “a commitment move.” He wasn’t going back. He had come to Mexico and he was going to stay in Mexico.
Sure, maybe Hernando was also nuts … as author Brennan Manning is so fond of saying, “maybe his cheese had just slid off his cracker” … but when Hernando burned those ships he made what in rock climbing is called “a commitment move.” When he burned his ships there was no turning back. When he burned his ships, he had no other option but to go forward.
And it wasn’t like Cortez had ever been to Mexico before. In fact, he didn’t know what to expect. He didn’t have much more than a clue about what he’d encounter once he left the beaches and began hiking into the interior of Mexico. He didn’t know a thing about the people he assumed he’d be fighting.
But he did know this: Once the ships were burned, there were no escape routes for him and his men. And no matter how hard things got, he knew that none of his crew would be able to sneak back to the ships and head home to Spain.
And so, in that one act of burning his ships, Hernando Cortez not only eliminated all of his options, but he also created a powerful motivation to succeed. Friends, if we’re going to begin and continue on the journey of spiritual maturity … this plan that Paul talked about so clearly in Philippians 3 … then we need a plan. If we want to forge on in our quest toward Christ-likeness, then as Oswald Chambers has said so well, “there are certain things we must begin doing and there are certain things we must cease doing."
Or, to put this truth in the language of Steve Farrar, “If we want to arrive at specific spiritual goals, with our integrity in tact, with our lives having made a difference both for the Kingdom and in this world in which we hang our hats … then we’ve got to be willing to burn some ships. We’ve got to be willing to make some commitment moves.” You see, burning our ships makes our commitment to God tangible.
Commitment is saying that “no matter what’s around the corner, we’re going to stick it out with God.” Commitment is saying to God and others that “we’ll make good on the vows and covenants we’ve taken before God.” Commitment is our personal guarantee that we’ll do what we’ve promised …
A few years ago, when Peter Graves (Mr. Phelps on the old TV show "Mission Impossible") was asked how he and his wife had stayed married for so long within the Hollywood culture of divorce, he gave a simple, two-word reply, “We promised.” He promised. Wow! Talk about a lost art! He made a promise, a commitment and he was willing to do whatever it took to see that he kept that promise.
And so, working from the belief that many of us gathered here this morning have already begun journeying with Christ, I want us to look at being honest with God and with ourselves about how we’re doing in our commitment to stay on the course of moving toward spiritual maturity … and I want to begin this discussion by talking about FATE and about DESTINY and then over the course of my next three postings I want to share about three ships, that depending on whether we’re seeing life and faith as FATE or DESTINY we’ll be able, or not able to burn. FATE OR DESTINY?
- BURNING THE SHIP OF SELF-RELIANCE
- BURNING THE SHIP OF EASY, FEEL-GOOD RELIGION
- BURNING THE SHIP OF SPIRITUAL PRETENSE
Something that unavoidably happens to
a person; their fortune or lot.
Something that is planned for a person, but
which must be pursued in order to be
captured and realized.
But guess what? There’s another road to Christian maturity that you and I can choose to travel. And it’s a road called DESTINY. It’s a harder road to be sure … but you know, higher roads usually are harder. It’s a road of discipleship. It’s a road of one-on-one interaction with God.
It’s a road where we have to wrestle with our faith, and with our doubts. But it’s the road we’ve got to choose if we’re going to grow up before we grow old. It’s a reality of the world that most kids, after being born grow up. I mean if you take care of their basic needs, they grow taller, get stronger … they grow up. But how many of you know that there’s a huge difference between a kid who just grows up and one who is raised up? Let me share with you some of the key differences between FATE and DESTINY.
FATE DESTINY LIVING LIFE AS A NOVEL
DESTINY IS LIVING LIFE AS A JOURNAL
FATE IS PASSIVE
DESTINY IS ACTIVE
FATE LIVES LIFE LOOKING BACK
DESTINY LIVES LIFE LOOKING FORWARD
FATE FEELS SEPARATED FROM GOD
DESTINY FEELS PARTNERED WITH GOD
Which best describes your attitude toward your spiritual journey? FATE or DESTINY? Are you self-reliant or God-reliant?
In the movie “City Slickers,” three modern-day guys look for the meaning of life by hiring on as hands on an old-fashioned cattle drive. To show us how desperate and fate-driven this trio of Hoappalong-Cassidy-wanna-bes are, the movie begins by showing us their job problems, their family crises and their relationship meltdowns.
One of the main characters, played by Billy Crystal, hates his job at a radio station where he sells advertising. This is especially unfortunate because his fourth-grade son has invited him to share in his school classroom on “Career Day.”
Billy Crystal reluctantly tells him that he’ll do it and the morning finally comes – and he has a well-rehearsed speech – which is basically a string of lies about how exiting his job is. But when the construction-worker dad speaker just before him gets a near standing-ovation by promoting the thrill of watching job-site accidents, Crystal gets intimidated, and to his son’s horror, gives that classroom full of 9 year olds a talk, not about his career, but about his view of life … which begins, ends and struggles to find it’s meaning in FATE.
‘cause this is the time in your life
when you still have your choices.
It goes by so fast. When you’re a
teenager you think you can do anything
– and you do. Your twenties are a blur.
Your thirties you raise your family,
you make a little money. And you think
to yourself, ‘What happened to my 20’s?’
Forties, you grow a little potbelly, you grow another
chin. The music starts to get too loud. One of your old
girlfriends from high school becomes a grandmother.
Fifties, you have a minor surgery. You call it a “procedure,”
but it’s a surgery. Sixties, you’ll have a major surgery.
The music is still loud, but it doesn’t matter ‘cause you
can’t hear it anyway. Seventies, you and the wife retire to
Ft. Lauderdale – start eating dinner at 2 o’clock in the afternoon.
You have lunch around 10:00 – breakfast the night before.
You spend most of your time wandering around malls looking
for the ultimate soft yoghurt and muttering, ‘How come the kids
don’t call? How come the kids don’t call?’ The eighties, you’ll
have a major stroke. You end up babbling to some nurse who your
wife can’t stand, but you call ‘mamma’. Any questions?”
Except that in the spiritual realm, the ramifications are far more deadly – because when we resign ourselves to FATE in the spiritual realm, it’s just a hop, a skip and a jump to hypocrisy, blasphemy, and living a life of spiritual phoniness.
But oh, the benefits of living life and faith with a heart toward DESTINY. It makes all the difference in the world. Living life as a journal, active, looking forward, being partnered with God.
In my next posting I'll share about these three ships Jesus calls us to burn if we’re going to stay on the course of moving toward spiritual maturity … remembering that if we’re living our lives and our faith as FATE, it will be nearly impossible to ever see the need to burn these ships … or have the courage to do so … but as we choose to live our lives and our faith with a sense of DESTINY, we’ll be able to let Christ bring us to the place where burning these ships seems like something we can and must do.