week we talked about the sovereignty of God, how God is
at work in you. We all affirmed that by saying, "God
is at work in me." That is a very, very important place
from which to start. When we look at happiness from the
inside out, we realize that it all begins with God. God
is at work in us and that represents the sovereignty of
God. It is God's hand moving, shaping, and having an impact
in what we do. The Bible text I am looking at today comes
at life from a totally different perspective. Instead of
coming out and saying God is at work in you, we hear these
"Forgetting what is behind and straining towards
what is ahead, I press toward the goal to win the prize."
we see the free will of man coming into play in our own
happiness. That happiness comes from within; we have a part
in it. It begins with God, with the knowledge that God is
at work within us but it continues with an understanding
that we have a role to play as well. "Forgetting what
know it's easy for us to rest on our laurels. The laurels
is a prize that was given in the Olympics. Two thousand
years ago, the runner who ran the race, the person who accomplished
the goals, he received the laurels on his head, the crown,
and a crown of success.
we hear these words "Don't rest on your laurels,"
what does it mean? It means don't rest on your past success.
The same thing is true with our failures, "forgetting
what is behind" and we can so easily look at our success
or our failures and rest on the past, instead of moving
forward to be the people that God has called us to be. "Forgetting
what is behind and straining towards what is ahead. I press
on toward the goal to win the prize to which God has called
think we have to realize that God has called every single
one of us. He has called us for a specific purpose and reason.
He has entrusted us with gifts. The beautiful thing about
gifts is, gifts are things that we have not earned, and
they have been given to us. For instance my wife has the
gift of color memory. Have you ever heard of such a thing?
Color memory. She has this ability to remember colors, the
exact shade that is just beyond my comprehension. I cannot
for the life of me figure out how she can remember those
colors. She tells me that I am color blind. I don't think
I'm color blind.
of the most important things for us to do as God's people
is to start to recognize the gifts that God has given to
us. That is why I started this message by saying, "God
is at work in you." We have to recognize the fact that
God is at work in us. That is the sovereignty of God. But
at the same time we are called now to press on, striving
towards what is ahead. Press on and strive towards the goal
that God has revealed for me in my life.
have been called by God, for a purpose and for a reason.
God, in His sovereignty, has gifted us with the ability
to fulfill the calling He has given to each and every one
of us. That is the one hand. On the other hand, God has
given us the free will to choose, to choose whether or not
we want to strive towards that goal, to press on and to
be the people that He has called us to be. That is the choice
we make. He will never force us to that position. He will
never actually make us do that, it is called free will.
Sovereignty on one hand, free will on the other. With that
comes this huge gray area of where does God's sovereignty
in our life come into play, and where does our free will
come into play in light of God's sovereignty? In this window
is a huge area, a gray area, which I don't know where our
free will ends and God's sovereignty begins. If somebody
tells you that they know God's sovereignty ends right here
and our free will begins right there, I can assure you,
they don't have the right answer. For one thing, I think
it is a moving target. I think God will, when He decides
to, just come in and do things that we never anticipated.
For instance, Paul, who was a devout Jew in his devotion,
persecuted Christians. While he was gathering and persecuting
Christians, God Himself came and struck him with blindness
and spoke to him verbally saying, "Saul, Saul why are
you persecuting Me?" God snatched him from that life
and brought him to the life we know today.
does that. There are times He will come and intervene. Sometimes
God says, "I stand at the door and knock" and
there's no doorknob on the door. "I stand at the door
and knock; if you open the door I'll come in and I will
sup with you." He waits for us to open the door and
invite Him into our lives and into our souls. He doesn't
push and we can't comprehend why God decides to do one thing
with one person and something else with another person.
We'll never know that answer but the answer we do know is
how we are to live, with this understanding and this concept
of the sovereignty of God and the free will of man. There
is but one way to live where we know that all the bases
are covered so that we don't get stuck in this gray doldrums
of life. We live like this:
We pray like everything depends on God, that nothing is
going to happen unless we pray, unless God steps in and
God makes it happen, that's how we pray. We pray like it
all depends on God.
Then we work like it all depends on us, like God is not
going to intervene and He's not going to be there and you
just work like it all depends on you.
you pray like it all depends on God and you work like it
all depends on you, you will succeed and you will become
the person that God has called you to be. You will not fail,
you will win the prize.
is really fun winning prizes. Have you ever won a prize?
It is fun! I have won a prize and it was a tremendous experience.
At first blush people would think, "What a lucky guy
he is!" In fact I get teased every time I do win something;
people will say, "Well you know he's got somebody else
on his side!" The fact is luck is a four-letter word.
It's spelled, w-o-r-k.
me tell you about the one prize I won. I'm only doing this
because I know it's for your edification. I was marlin fishing
with some friends of mine, and we like to go and participate
in these marlin tournaments. They always have a prize. It
is not uncommon for us to do quite well and the reason is
because marlin fishing is not luck, it's mainly skill. I
had put together a team of people who knew exactly what
to do. When we would see a marlin tail in the water, we
had 3 baits in the water almost instantly. We knew exactly
how they were going to work, and it was all because of a
lot of hard work. We would get up at 4 o'clock in the morning
to catch mackerel to be able to throw out to the marlin.
one time we won the big tournament, the gold cup, which
was the largest tournament on the west coast; we had been
fishing for 3 days, and had not caught a thing. It was ten
minutes before lines out, meaning the tournament is over.
If you're not hooked up before lines are out, you're done.
You reel your lines in and you go to the awards banquet
and watch everybody else get the prizes. At 6:00 p.m. lines
have to be out. At 5:50, with ten minutes to go, I see a
marlin come out of the water. I said, "There's the
fish we want!" Everybody goes to their stations, we
cast out bait on this fish and we hook up, 5 minutes before
lines out. Everybody else is on their radios, just shooting
the breeze and I'm trying to report that I'm hooked up.
I can't even report that I'm hooked up and in five minutes
the tournament is going to be over.
it just so happens we land that fish and we bring it into
the dock. The biggest fish is first prize; the second biggest
fish is second prize, etc. We bring our fish in and the
team who has the biggest fish come and take a look at our
fish on our swim sip, and you see their face turn white.
We go to weigh our fish and guess what, they couldn't weigh
it. They had to put it back on the sand and dig a bigger
hole in the sand so they could get it off the ground. With
that I didn't have to know how much it weighed, I knew we'd
a great feeling to get that prize, not for the money but
for the trophy. The sense of accomplishment, and the fulfillment
of all the hard work and the dedication and the commitment
in putting a team together and making all the preparations
is a great feeling. It wasn't luck; it was w-o-r-k.
is our message from Paul today. God is at work in you. God
has given you a calling. God has gifted you with wonderful
skills. What are you going to do with those skills? What
are you going to do with God's gift to you? Remember the
scripture says, "Striving towards what is ahead, I
press on to the goal, to win the prize, to which God has
Heavenly Father, give us the strength to keep on keeping
on. Give us the ability not to rest on our laurels, but
to realize that with You we can truly succeed. We thank
You Lord for what You are doing in our lives, Amen.