So last week, Ken opened up our big fall series, called I am Second, and I think just one week in you can probably see why this series has us so excited.  It’s because it is all about life change, which when it comes to this whole “Christian-faith-thing,” this is really what it is all about.  Now as you listen to these people tell their stories of life change you will recognize a lot of them.  They are famous rock stars, movie stars, and athletes and because of that, I think it can be easy to forget something so special about this, they are real people, just like you and I with real life challenges just like you and I, and because of Jesus their lives have been redeemed.  It doesn’t mean their lives are perfect now or that they will never make another mistake but it does mean that they are walking through life with Jesus…which is awesome stuff!  Today I am really excited to get into the story of one of my favorite athletes, his name is Josh Hamilton who is an extremely gifted baseball player, but that isn’t what makes him so special to me, it’s the way God has redeemed his life after he fell hard to drugs, and alcohol.  Addiction consumed him, and God redeemed him and I can’t wait to get into that with you today.  But before we do, I want you to think back to last week for a minute and how Ken opened up the series.

Last week Ken was up here with a big rope…do you guys remember that?  The rope represented all of eternity, and it had a knot in it that represented today.  He was trying to help us understand something very important.  Eternity is a very long time.  Today is not such a long time.  I know such a complex subject right?  Well here’s the thing, the challenge isn’t understanding that eternity is a longer time than today, I think we all can pick up on that one.  The challenge is getting to a place where our focus leaves today and stays on eternity and eternal things…like God.  I think that is extremely hard to do, and I think this is where and why so many of us struggle in life, especially when it comes to our spiritual lives.  It is really hard to focus on eternity when there is so much going on right now, and frankly the things of today not only pull our focus and attention off of God, but they can actually be a lot of fun in the moment too.  Am I right?  I mean would anyone really struggle with temptation and sin if it wasn’t fun for a moment?  Probably not.  The issue is that those moment are just that…they are moments, and they come and go…while eternity…yeah, it’s forever.  Over the last couple of weeks of the Sermon on the Mount series that we just finished up, I kept bringing up the idea of staying focused on God (and eternal things) even though God doesn’t seem to push for our focus the way the rest of life does at times.  Whether it’s just how much else we have going on, in the busyness of life or how tempting and fun things could be if we just lived in the moment, the world (our enemy) has done a pretty incredible job of pulling our eyes off of eternal things and keeping them on today.  This makes me think of Jesus’ words in Matthew 7…

Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”  NIV

Have you ever thought about Jesus’ words there?  I sure have.  Doesn’t it seem like if God loved us it would be the other way around?  Shouldn’t it be narrow is the gate that leads to destruction and few find it, but broad is the gate that leads to life and many find it?  This is interesting isn’t it?  As simple as it is to ask Jesus into our lives and enter into eternity, few find it…and do you know why?  It’s because we can’t get our focus off of today, we are having so much “fun” right now we can’t move our thinking to bigger things like you know, all of eternity of ahead of us.  If it isn’t just about fun today and feeding the fleshly desires of today something else can happen, and frankly I think this is really where a lot of us human beings can land.  We end up trying to put things of today into the gigantic whole in our souls that God designed into us for Him to be in.  Whoa, that was a deeper statement right?  Good grief I haven’t even told a funny story yet, or warmed you guys up to where we are heading and I’m taking you right to where we want to go, so I hope you can track with me today because I want you to understand something as we get rolling today.  We all have a God wired, God designed void or desire in us that is supposed to be filled by Him, but what most of us end up doing is putting other things in there, and it doesn’t work out so well.  Now, those other things are often easier, at times they are more fun, and more tempting, and I think they also cry out to us for our attention much louder in the moment than God does.  It’s when we fill our lives with those other things as we head through the wide gate that life can go sideways in a hurry, which is what we are going to look at today.  Now here’s what is funny about those things of today that we try to cram into the God shaped whole in our lives…they look good in the moment don’t they?  I mean how many times do you hear a superstar athlete talk about how hard his life is and think…let me have a couple of million dollars, and deal with his issues?  You see a millionaire fall to something like drugs and think…I would never do that.  Give me his money and I will figure it out.  Money, fame, popularity, material possessions…the things of today, they look so good in the moment don’t they?  You see, I think that is the issue, and I think that is why the gate is so wide that leads to destruction.  If this stuff wasn’t tempting and fun no one would be choosing that wide gate type of life style.  Listen to me, each and every one of us has a God shaped whole in our souls that craves being filled.  Money won’t fill it.  Sex won’t fill it.  Drugs won’t fill it.  Fame won’t fill it…it has to be God.  So I want you seeing that regardless of the testimony or the name of the person telling their story we all have this in common.

As I was writing this talk and thinking about the idea of why so few can focus on eternity, and how challenging it is to actually turn our backs on the world and go through the narrow gate I found myself thinking of Solomon.  If you don’t know who Solomon was, he was David’s son and the wisest and wealthiest King that ever lived.  This guy had everything a man could ever want or desire.  As he became king there was this pivotal moment where God asked him what he wanted, he literally asked God for wisdom.  God was so impressed that he asked for wisdom to lead his people well and not fame or money that he not only gave Him wisdom but made him the most successful King that ever was…we are talking wealth, fame, and everything a man could ever want.  I’m sure he had the nicest cars and the biggest tv screen you could imagine.  But what was interesting is this wise man of God’s focus really leaves eternity and turns towards all the nice shiny things that he has and there is a moment where he realizes how empty that all is…check this out, this is Solomon talking here…

Ecclesiastes 2:9 Oh, how I prospered! I left all my predecessors in Jerusalem far behind, left them behind in the dust. What’s more, I kept a clear head through it all. 10 Everything I wanted I took — I never said no to myself. I gave in to every impulse, held back nothing. I sucked the marrow of pleasure out of every task — my reward to myself for a hard day’s work! MSG

So Solomon is living the dream right?  He has everything.  He is the wealthiest, enjoying the most out of today than anyone ever could.  He gave in to every desire and every impulse, holding nothing back…and everyone around him would think, wow this guy is amazing right?  We would!  If today was a competition this guy wins…he has everything doesn’t he?  Well check out what he says next…

Ecclesiastes 2:11 But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless. It was like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.  NLT

Isn’t this amazing?  Solomon has everything that anyone could ever dream of, wealth, fame, power, women, all of it…and he comes to a place where he realized that it is all empty.  WOW!  A few verses later Solomon says this…

Ecclesiastes 2:17 I hate life. As far as I can see, what happens on earth is a bad business. It’s smoke — and spitting into the wind. 18 And I hated everything I’d accomplished and accumulated on this earth. I can’t take it with me — no, I have to leave it to whoever comes after me.  MSG

I guess this was the burden of being so wise, he can’t even enjoy the wide gate type living because he is recognizing that in the end, none of the things and pleasures of right now are eternal!  Nothing in life can fill the void that we all have, there isn’t enough wealth, there isn’t enough pleasure, there aren’t enough substances, or possessions to fill the void in our lives that only God can fill…can you see the pull of the wide gate and how much more enticing it seems to be compared to the narrow one?

With all of that said I want you personalizing this today and as we watch the story of Josh Hamilton I want you to realize something, we all have a desire or yearning inside each and every one of us.  We all have a God shaped whole in our souls that I believe God wired in us so that we would be drawn towards Him…the issue is that “today” is very tempting.  There are two gates, a wide one and a narrow one, and many try to fill that God shaped whole with anything and everything but God and that path while it is popular leads to destruction.

Watch the video – Josh Hamilton I am Second.

So as we listen to Josh Hamilton could you hear it in what he was saying?  This guy had everything right?  So how does a guy with “everything” fall so hard?  It’s because he was filling the God shaped void in his life with the things of today.  He as walking through the wide gate, and everyone looking at him would have thought he was on top of the world.  Now if you notice, it didn’t start with big sinful and destructive looking things like drugs and alcohol.  It started with baseball being central to his life.  I don’t want you to miss that, it doesn’t seem very scary or dangerous, but it is.  Sports were everything to him, he talked of the adrenaline rush, the feeling of playing the game…and I think for anyone who ever saw him play, it was easy to see he was born to play the game!  He was really good at it.  I really don’t think anyone would have seen a lot of danger in someone taking what they are talented at and diving into it fully like this…but there is real danger in this…and it comes back to what is central in our lives.  It must be God.  It can’t be the things of today.  We just finished a series on Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount where the last imagery was a warning with Jesus talking about having the right foundations remember that?

Matthew 7:24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”  NIV

Well for Josh Hamilton his foundation was baseball, and when that foundation was taken away, the house fell with a great crash.  I think this is a real cautionary tale for so many of us, we must identify what is central in our lives.  If it isn’t God, we aren’t building our lives on the rock, and when things happen the house can come crashing down just like Josh’s did.  Now while we are on this idea of the foundation needing to be God, I want you thinking about this, what is central to you is your foundation…and if it isn’t God that is what we actually call an idol in your life.  The problem with idols is they aren’t God…they are nothing.  So I want you thinking right now about your life because I think this is a huge moment for us, to look at a man who fell so hard, and use it now as a moment to think through this for our own lives for a minute.

What idols are in your life?  What are you building your life on?  Are you a parent?  What are you teaching your children is most important in their life right now?  These are important questions especially in the world we live in today.  We see our kids having talent for something and whether it is sports, or music, or education and what do we do?  We can easily center hard on that.  I will pick on sports here since I have children in them, and we are looking at Josh Hamilton who is an athlete today.

Did you grow up playing sports?  Did you end up playing one sport all year long?  No we had this weird thing back in the olden days called seasons.  So you had baseball season, and basketball season, and soccer or football season…it wasn’t 24/7 one sport!  Did you grow up thinking there would ever be a sporting event played on a Sunday morning?  That never happened back in the day!  Did you grow up where a sport was so expensive that some wouldn’t be able to afford it?  What is your child learning about what matters?  Are you setting your child up with the right foundation or the wrong one?  Even if they actually earn the scholarship that you are dreaming of, if the foundation is the sport or skill they are good at, what happens when that goes away?  This is very important…your child can play the sport and be great at it.  My children play sports too, the key is making sure they never center on the sport over God.  God can’t be taken away, the thing they do can, and at some point will be taken away…then what?  Do you see it?  The foundation matters and I want you thinking about this…whether it’s intentional or not you need to look at the foundation of your life, and your families.  If you aren’t sure what matters most to you, I will give you the test to figure it out.  Simply look at where your time, your energy, and your money goes, that is what matters to you.

Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. NIV

Listen I know you aren’t sitting in here today thinking to yourself I intentionally want to do the opposite of what God wants for my life.  You aren’t sitting in here intentionally worshiping idols, and I also know I may have made you a little uncomfortable hitting on such a big one today like the world of our children’s sports careers…but I love you too much not to press in here.  Remember what Jesus said…

Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”  NIV

That wide gate looks so good, but what does it lead to?  It leads to destruction.  So I really wanted you to see a couple of things today.  The first thing I wanted you to understand is that we have been wired by God with a desire, a deep yearning in our soul that can only be filled by Him.  We all have this in common.

Psalms 42:2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? NIV

We all have this hunger, this thirst for God.  I think where so many of us get in trouble is that the last thing we would ever want to do to fill that void is to center on God, when there is so much else out there to try, to experience, and to engage into.  The issue is that none of those things will satisfy you, none of them complete you, and all of those things are temporary…they are popular but they will go away.  I found this quote which I found so awesome as I was putting this talk together…

“There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.” Blaise Pascal

Isn’t that an amazing thought, and it’s really where my heart went as I wrote this talk.  The issue we all have is that we just refuse to or don’t realize that God must fill that thirst or void in our souls.  So we turn to other things — pleasure, fame, money, sex, or drugs and alcohol.  We are just hoping these things will lead us to filling the empty places in our lives.  And I can tell you from personal experience that they don’t.  Maybe for a moment or two we can feel better, or look better, or seem to gain something in this world today.  In those moments we can even think that we have found what we were looking for, but in the end the only thing that will ever give us what we need is God.

So as we start to land the plane here today I want to ask you something and I really want you taking a moment to reflect on this for yourself.

Do you feel like something is missing in your life?  Do you feel restless or like you just can’t seem to ever find peace or joy?

What do you run to as you try to fill that void in your life?  I really want you identifying with this.  I think listening to a superstar tell their story could easily be dismissed if we don’t see how much we all have in common.  We all are trying to fill that void with something, I think we can’t help ourselves…it’s wired into us.  We want it filled.  It might not be drugs and alcohol or sex or money but it’s something.  We all have a deep thirst or craving in our soul that is put there by God to be filled by God.  Where life gets going sideways is when we try to fill it with anything else, as Josh Hamilton did…as we saw there with Solomon’s life as well.  We all have that in common.  I say that because I think for many of us we hear this amazing testimonies of stories of great wealth, of great fame, of extreme drug abuse, or something like that and think, that isn’t my story at all…well I say it is.  Regardless of whether you are a movie star, some famous athlete or just feeling like a very ordinary person when compared to these testimonies that we are seeing throughout this series; we all need God in our lives.  We all have a deep need for our soul to be filled by something.  I also know this, you are filling it with something…we must resist filling it with the temporary, exciting, loud and fun things of right now, because eternity is a much longer time than today.  Remember Jesus explained to us what is at the end of that wide path, its destruction.  It might look good and even be fun right now, but it leads to death.

So you may be out there right now thinking…ouch.  As I look at my life, I’m not happy with the path I am on.  I want to be on the narrow path but I seem to be on the wide one.  I don’t want to keep filling my life with today, I want to center my life on God…but I just can’t see my way to Him.  Well that is why stories like Josh Hamilton’s are so special because they show us that you can’t fail enough, you can’t sin enough, you can’t run far enough away from God for Him to ever give up on you.  God redeems us all through Jesus and His amazing, victorious work on the cross.  One of my favorite quotes, and actually one that is on the bottom of my personal emails account is from Josh Hamilton…

“I’m proof that hope is never lost.” Josh Hamilton

That holds true for you too.  The Cross is bigger than all our sin, all our mistakes, all our failures, all our addictions, and all of our hurts.  Because of Jesus people like Josh Hamilton, people like you and I can walk through life knowing that hope is never lost.  You can’t sin enough to push God away, He is right there waiting for you, and today can start a new day, on a new path for you too, a path that doesn’t give out in the storms, a path that leads to eternity rather than a moment, and the coolest thing is, the door to that path is wide open and it can be yours right now.  I know everyone else is on the wide path, but we know where that one leads.

So many of us walk through life, pulling our way through in our own strength trying to fill that void in our heart and souls with everything and anything but God.  We all feel like something is missing and we always will until we ask Jesus into our lives and allow God to fill that desire in our souls, that only He can fill.  That is the key, and it’s yours by simply surrendering your life to Jesus right now.