Years ago, we did a series called, ‘The Diamond Life.’ It was a series that used the baseball diamond to help us understand how to live out life God’s way. Home base represented our relationship with God. First base represented character. Second base represented relationships. Third base represented the results or successes of our life. We said, when you do life God’s way, God develops you to be able to handle life.
We asked the question, when the pitcher throws the ball, you swing and get a hit, where do you run? You run to first base. And so it is with God. That means we allow God to develop your character as you walk through challenges. Only in little league, when the kids are 5 or 6, is it cute when the child gets a hit and runs to third base. As an adult, running to third base is embarrassing. Why? Because you have failed to develop the more important things in life. Things like relationship with God, character, relationships. And if you do have any success, you won’t have the foundation to sustain it.
Why do I bring this up? Let’s read what the Bible says about success.
Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed. NLT Proverbs 16:3
What part of that verse do we want to focus on? The part that says ‘…and your plans will succeed…’ right? That’s third base. That’s what we want, God’s blessings of success. What part of the verse do we read over quickly? The part that says ‘…Commit your actions to the Lord…. right? What does the word ‘…actions…’ mean? That would be your plans, how you live, the decisions you make. More specifically, that would be your relationship with God, allowing God to develop your character, and learn how to love others in relationship.
Listen to how we have defined success.
“Success according to Scripture, is becoming the person God calls you to become, and doing what God calls you to do-in His way, and according to His timetable.” – Pete Scazzero
Do you see what is being said? Success is surrender. Success is committing your actions to God. That would be developing your relationship with God, allowing God to develop your character, and developing your ability to love others in relationship. That means you do the right things everyday. Don’t run after success as the world defines it. Don’t walk through life pushing your chest out acting like you are more successful than you really are. If you do, you will look silly and you won’t be able to sustain it.
If you are in elementary school, middle school, high school, and/or work or college, one of the hardest lessons to learn is, how God develops your life. In these years, you are discovering so many things. Friends, homework, sports, music, theater, dating, driving, work, etc. As you walk through these years, God is developing you. He is allowing you to walk through challenges to develop you. And it’s not always fun. But through it all, we need to be doing the right things everyday.
Allow me to bring up a story that you have already heard.
The turtle and the rabbit. Do you know this story? The rabbit made so much fun of the turtle. The turtle couldn’t take it anymore and challenged him to a race. The rabbit couldn’t believe it and agreed. The obvious winner, everyone knew, should be the rabbit because he is so fast. The race begins with the rabbit blasting ahead. Half-way through the race, the rabbit was so far ahead, the race was such a joke, he decided to take a nap. Not the turtle. The turtle just kept walking. Soon, the turtle passed the rabbit and finished the race. And he won. The rabbit woke up and realized what he had done.
What’s the point? In life, the people who do the best, are the ones who do the right things every day. It may seem slow. It may not seem flashy. It may not seem exciting. But like the turtle, they win at life. And, the ones who have obvious talent, if they goof off every day, waste their talent, ignore doing the right things every day, their story ends poorly.
Again, Proverbs tells us this.
Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed. NLT Proverbs 16:3
Do the right things everyday.
Do you remember what Sam said last week? It was a really powerful message. The point of all of this is love. To be a mature disciple of Jesus means, you love others well. Remember what Sam said about the religious leaders of Jesus’ day? They were great at knowing all the right information. They had the titles and leadership spots. They promoted themselves as the spiritual elite. They were great at following all the rules. But Jesus shows up and confronts them. Why? Their religion failed to transform them as people who love.
The message Sam gave last week, sets us up to better understand today’s talk. If love is the point, the question you must ask yourself is, am I good at loving others? And if I am not good at loving others, why?
4 You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. NIV Exodus 20:1-6
For those of us who are older, did you see verse 5? ‘…the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me…’ Wow, right?
Here is what we know about all of us who are older. We came from families. Some healthy, some not so healthy. Some of us leave our families with lots of emotional junk and some of us leave our families with a little emotional junk.
Here is the big point. Our past impacts who we are today.
For us to find freedom in our lives, we will need to deal with that stuff. We need to stop, look back and realize, a lot of who we are today has been impacted by our family when we were kids.
For example. What did your family teach you about how to deal with conflict? Did you learn to avoid conflict? Maybe you learned how to be passive aggressive. Maybe you learned that in conflict, you fought to win, so today you drop huge violent words on each other. Did you learn to deal with conflict in a healthy way? Maybe it was normal to sit down calmly and have healthy conversations.
Our past impacts who we are today. Chances are you deal with conflict today the way your family did growing up.
What did your family teach you about what it means to be a disciple of Christ? Did you learn that there are two worlds, your personal world and the church world and the two are separate? Did you learn that who you are at home, at work, at family events is different than who you are in church? Did you learn how to pursue God on purpose? Did you learn how to read the Bible and apply the Bible to how you live each day?
Our past impacts who we are today. Chances are you follow Christ today the way your family did growing up.
What did your family teach you about relationships? Did you learn that people are dangerous so don’t trust anyone? Did you learn that people may hurt you but at the same time, love is worth the risk? Did you learn to always think about yourself and what you want? Did you learn how to take the focus off of yourself to serve others?
Our past impacts who we are today. Chances are you deal with relationships today the way your family did growing up.
Do you see what we are saying? In life, things like conflict, following after Jesus, and relationships, the way we live can be patterns we have learned growing up. Many times, we as adults charge through life and underestimate the imprint our families have left on us. Like a hand in wet cement, there was an imprint. Then as we grew older, that concrete hardened. As an adult, it is deeply a part of who we are.
Others see it even if we deny it.
The reason we underestimate the impact our family had on us is because we were just kids. Kids don’t have an adult understanding of what is healthy or unhealthy. If kids grow up in an unhealthy situation, they don’t stop and think, ‘What’s wrong with the unhealthy adults around me?’ No, kids think, ‘What’s wrong with me.’ And they grow up with insecurities feeling like they were the problem.
Now, stop and think about that. Could this be you? Could it be the reason you walk with so many insecurities or feelings of inadequacy today?
Again, like an imprint in wet cement, as time goes by, it hardens. To be a disciple of Christ and to walk into freedom, it will be important for you to look back. And don’t make the mistake of underestimating the power and influence your family had. And that includes all the good stuff, too.
Adults, you may wonder, does this matter? Can’t I ignore this and love my kids, and everything will work out? No. Remember verse 5?
I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.
We need to be aggressive in honoring our parents and family while at the same time putting an end to sin.
Do you know the story of King David? David loved God and God blessed him. One day, David sinned with Bathsheba. And to make matters worse, to cover up his sin, he placed Bathsheba’s husband in the front lines of a battle. David has Uriah, her husband, killed. God’s judgement for this sin came through the prophet Nathan.
7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. 8 I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. 9 Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’ NIV 2 Samuel 12:7-10
Do you remember Exodus 20:5? I punish the sins of the parents into the third and fourth generation. David sinned and verse 10, …the sword will never depart from your house… This is what happened. David’s son Amnon died by the sword [2 Samuel 13:29]. David’s son Absalom rebelled against David and was later killed by the sword [2 Samuel 18:14]. David’s son Adonijah died by the sword [1 Kings 2:25]. Then David’s grandson, King Rehoboam, watched as God allowed the country to be split into two nations. All of this was from David’s sin.
Parents, adults, please hear me, this is important.
To close out, I want to ask you questions to process this.
If love is the point, the question you must ask yourself is, am I good at loving others? And if I am not good at loving others, why? Have you ever thought, maybe the reason you struggle to love is because that was something you learned growing up?
Are there patterns of behavior in your family that are noticeable? And does everyone joke about it?
What did your family teach you about how to follow after God?
What did your family teach you about how to deal with money, sex, and life in general?
Are there recurring issues in your extended family like alcohol, divorce, bankruptcy, etc.?
What’s going on in you, your heart, your spiritual condition?
Are you dealing with your spiritual condition or are you ignoring it?
Do you weigh and measure yourself and conclude, others should be like you?
Do you walk with insecurity and feelings of inadequacy and are you trying to hide it?
As an adult, have you checked out of life and blamed your parents or family?
Have you ever thought, maybe your lack of passion for Jesus was something you learned?
Have you ever thought, maybe you being easily offended was something you learned?
Have you ever thought, maybe your demands that everything must go your way to be happy was something you learned?
Please, please hear me. Part of being a disciple of Jesus means I will break off sin and unhealthy patterns of living.