I turned 60 last year and when you become 60 you just become a philosopher of life. I mean you just do, okay? And so what I thought I would do in beginning this message today is I would read something to you that would explain life to you because we all ask questions about life, don’t you? And here’s the great news. On this laminated card, everything you ever wanted to know about life is right here. When anything’s important, I laminate it. I think it sets it apart, it makes it holy. If I would have been Moses going up Mt. Sinai, I would have laminated the Ten Commandments. I certainly wouldn’t have put them on stone; those will break.
So if you want to know about life, here it is. On the first day, God created the dog. God said “sit all day by the door of your house and bark at anyone who comes by and I’ll give you a life span of 20 years.” The dog said, “That’s too long to be barking. Give me ten years and I’ll give you the other ten back” and God agreed. So on the second day, God created the monkey and God said “Entertain people, do monkey tricks, make them laugh. I’ll give you a 20 year life span.” The monkey said, “How boring. Monkey tricks for 20 years? I don’t think so. The dog gave you back ten, so that’s what I’ll do, too, okay?” And God agreed. On the third day, God created the cow. God said, “You must go out in the field with the farmer all day long, suffer under the sun, have calves, give milk to support the farmer. I’m going to give you a life span of 60 years.” The cow said “That’s kind of a tough life you want me to live for 60 years. Let me have 20 and I’ll give you back the other 40.” And God agreed. On the fourth day, God created man. God said, “Eat, sleep, play, marry, enjoy your life. I’ll give you 20 years.” Man said, “What? Only 20 years? I’ll tell you what, I’ll take my 20, add the 40 the cow gave you back, the ten the monkey gave you back, the ten the dog gave you back, that makes 80, okay?” “Okay,” God said. “You’ve got a deal.” So that is why the first 20 years of our lives we eat, sleep, play, and enjoy ourselves. For the next 40 years, we slave in the sun to support our family, for the next 10 years we do monkey tricks to entertain the grandchildren and for the last 10 years we sit on the front porch and bark at everybody that goes by. You have just had life explained to you.
Hebrews chapter 11 is the great faith chapter. The writer talks about men and women who were so faithful to God and had so much faith in God, that He basically encourages us, inspires us by saying pattern your life after them. As you turn to chapter 12, the first three verses all of a sudden you realize that these great men and women of faith are in the crowd. They’re in the stands and the Hebrew writer says that as you and I run our race, they are cheering for us. Men and women who have been very faithful, who have been very successful, are now cheering for you and for me to be successful in the race that we run. In fact, the writer says, keep your eyes on Jesus who is our model and our pattern for how He ran this race, and look in the crowd and see the people that are encouraging you as you run the race.
A few years ago, as I was in that passage of scripture, it all of a sudden hit me that the men and women that are in the stands, these great faith pioneers, these veterans, as they’re in the stands, as they’re cheering us on they’re saying something to us but if you go to any sporting event where there are thousands of people, you can’t pull out the individual voice of a person. And so I began to do character studies, bible studies of these great men and women of the bible and I began to ask myself if I could take their entire life and I could summarize it in one phrase or in one statement or one sentence, what would they say to me, what would they say to you. In fact the book “Running with the Giants” that Dr. Schuller talked about, I literally wrote that book out of the inspiration of that thought and I have in that book ten characters who come out of the stands to run one lap with you and they say one thing to you which will encourage you in your faith and in your running of this race successfully.
So this morning for our teaching and for our inspiration and for our encouragement, I would like to bring three of these people, these great men and women out of the stands and let them run one lap with you. And as they run one lap with you, here’s what they would say to you.
First of all, let’s bring Noah out of the stands. You see if Noah could join you on the track and run one lap with you as you go through life I know what Noah would say to you. I know what he says to me. He would look at you and me and he would say to us “one person can make a difference.” He would look at you and say I want you to be encouraged as you run this race because you can make a difference. And I know that Noah would say that, because that’s the summary of his life. Man had sinned and God had even began to repent that He had made man, until the maze of that wickedness, it says that He looked down and He found and He saw Noah and the bible says Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. And because of Noah, he spared the world. You know the story. Build an ark, put your family in it, put the animals in it, you know the story well. And as Noah is running this lap, he would say to you just like God allowed me to make a difference in my generation, you can make a difference in your generation. In fact, he would begin to say to us one person can make a difference for their family because certainly Noah did. One person can make a difference for their generation, as Noah did. He would say to you and me that one person can make a difference for mankind.
In fact, think about it for a moment. You and I are here today because of Noah. If Noah wouldn’t have been faithful, if Noah wouldn’t have made a difference we would not be here. In fact, when you do your evening prayers and you kind of get beside your bed and you say your prayers tonight, you may want to put a P.S. and say and God I want to thank You for Noah. If it wouldn’t have been for him, I wouldn’t be here. You see, people have said and I believe this to be true that if you want to define high moral, you define it with the words I make a difference. No matter where you are, on your job, in your family, in your community, if Noah could run one lap for you today and with you, he would say “you can make a difference.”
Let’s take for a moment and bring Rebecca. Let’s bring Rebecca out of the stands and if she could run one lap with you and she could run one lap with me, I know what she would say. She would say “serve others with a generous spirit.”Because when you look at the life of Rebecca, it was one of giving and serving with no strings attached. You know the story. Abraham, very wealthy man who wanted a bride for his son Isaac sent his most trusted servant back to his homeland to find a bride for Isaac. When my children were teenagers, I thought we ought to get back to that Old Testament custom of parents picking out the bride for their children.
And so the trusted servant, on the way back to the homeland was very nervous because this was the most important assignment he was on and he began to pray God You’re going to have to help me. Who would this bride be and on the way he prayed this prayer: God may the woman who is to be the bride of Isaac, when I come into the town may she offer me a drink of water, which that’s not a big prayer because that was just customary that they did that in that day. But then he said may she also offer water to my camels, also. Now when he asked God that the one who would be the bride of Isaac would offer water to the camels, this was huge because you have to understand he had ten camels and one camel will drink after a day’s journey 20 gallons of water. So he was basically saying may the bride of Isaac, may the one who is going to be that one who comes in the family, may she look at all of my camels and offer them water also. Two hundred gallons of water.
When Rebecca came up to him and offered him something to drink, he said to himself, so far so good. And then she looked at his camels and said may I draw water for your camels also? Now get the picture: two hundred gallons has to go to the well. Five gallon, I don’t know, five gallon bucket. That means 40 trips. From the well, over to the watering trough. Back to the well. To the watering trough. This is going to take, this is going to take her three hours. And as she’s going from the well to the watering trough, the bible says that the servant of Abraham just watched her. He didn’t say a word. Now to be honest with you, I would have encouraged her. I would have said oh Rebecca; you’re doing a good job. Oh, Rebecca, you can do this. I think Dr. Schuller would have just talked about her wonderful possibility thinking, don’t you? I just think he would have. Back and forth, but he never said a word to her.
And this is what’s beautiful about her serving with a generous spirit. She had no idea that by this act that she would be brought into a wealthy family. She had no idea that the servant had jewels for her and all wonderful things. She had no idea of any of these things. She was just serving a stranger with a generous spirit.
And that’s kind of wonderful, is it not? In our culture and our day, when people say I don’t do windows. Aren’t you glad Noah didn’t say I don’t do boats? Aren’t you glad Moses didn’t say I don’t do rivers? Aren’t you glad David didn’t say I don’t do giants? Aren’t you glad John the Baptist didn’t say I don’t do baptisms? And Mary, Mary, young Mary, when the angel came to her, aren’t you glad Mary didn’t say, excuse me? Excuse me, I don’t do virgin births. Aren’t you glad that Peter didn’t say I don’t do Gentiles? Aren’t you glad Paul didn’t say I don’t do letters? Aren’t you glad Jesus didn’t say I don’t do crosses? Rebecca, as she runs her lap with us, would say to us “serve others with a generous spirit.”
And if you would allow me to bring one more character out of the stands to run one lap with you and me, I would like to bring David out just for a moment, because if David could say one thing to you or me as he ran that one lap, I know what he would say because I’ve studied his life. He would say you could overcome the limitations that others place on you. Because as a very young man, he had people place limitations on him constantly. Remember when Samuel the prophet called Jesse the father of David and said, Jesse I’m going to come over to your house tomorrow. One of your boys is going to be the next King. Can you imagine how Jesse felt that one of his sons would be the next king of Israel? He hung up the phone and (Maxwell translation) and he got his wife together and said honey, Sam called, he’s coming over tomorrow, one of our boys is going to be the next king. This is amazing. They sat around the table. I know what they did as parents. I know what they did, they did the same thing you and I would do as parents. They sat down at the table and they got their legal pad out and they listed all their boys and they played the game for the next few hours, which son will it be? I think Jesse’s wife said it’ll be the oldest son. It’s got to be. You know in our culture, the oldest son gets about everything. And then I think they talked a little longer and said no, no I think its going to be that fourth son down. Well why do you think it’ll be the fourth son? Well think about it. Ever since he’s been born, he’s walked around the house like he is the king. Tells us what to do. It’s going to be here. Here’s what I know: The next day when Samuel came to the house, all the boys were in suits. They were lined up across the living room and Samuel went down and viewed each one of them and then with a look of puzzlement on his face, he said Jesse, are there not any other sons? None of these boys will be the king.
It was at that moment, it was at that moment that the father of David, Jesse, realized that of all of his sons, there was one boy he thought did not have king potential. And quickly, they went and got David and brought him out of the field. How would you have like to have been David that day, realizing that your parents understood and thought that all the other brothers had greater future than you did? That’s why David would say “don’t let others put limitations on you.” It didn’t stop there with just his father. You remember when they were doing battle against Goliath and Jesse sent David down to bring food supplies to his older brothers and to see how the war was going so down he came and they were disgusted that he came and said he shouldn’t be here. We got a big man on the other side and he’s intimidating us and here, go home to dad. You don’t belong here. You’re not a soldier. But David stayed around long enough to hear that whoever took on the big boy, whoever took on the big boy could marry the king’s daughter and he said now that is not a bad thing. Then he found out that if you took on the big boy, you could live tax free in the land. He said that is even greater. He said I’ll take on Goliath.
They brought David to the tent of King Saul and they said King we’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is we have somebody to take on the big boy. The bad news is it’s him. Saul, the King of Israel, was six foot five, weighed 245. David was five foot five, weighed 145. Saul saw him, he was so alarmed he said oh my goodness, this is not going to be any good. If you’re going to do this, at least put on my armor. Can you imagine little David in big Saul’s armor. He just staggered around. He couldn’t even find Goliath. Somebody asked me one time, he said, why do you think, why do you think that Saul wanted to give David his armor and I said the only reason I can think he would do it is because he wasn’t going to use it.
And even as David charged up the hill, Goliath was disgusted. You get the picture? His father didn’t believe he had king potential, his brothers didn’t think he had warrior potential, the king of the country thought this is not a good thing, and Goliath himself was disgusted. You see, if David could run one lap with you today, he would say “don’t let other people put limitations on you.” Or as God’s word says, “if God be for you, who can be against you?” Or the Maxwell translation that says if God be for us, everyone else might as well be.
Now I say this to you as you go through life and as you’re running this race right now, remember Noah. He would say to you as you’re running the race, “you can make a difference.” Remember Rebecca, she would say as you make a difference, “Serve others with a generous spirit.” David would say to you and me, “you can overcome the limitations that I have placed on you.”
And I close with this thought: Dr. Schuller, over 30 years ago when I picked up your book, you took the limitations off me. You said I could build a church that was even greater than yours, that the greatest churches in America and the world were yet to be built which is true. You’ve been a prophet because you have seen in the last 30 years amazing churches be built. So Dr. Schuller, for me, for this congregation, for millions of people who watch the Hour of Power, as you’ve run one lap with all of us, you have said to us if God be for you, who can be against you.
So my friend, as you leave today, and run the race of faith, be encouraged for the work that God has begun in you, He will complete it. So run with God, focusing on Jesus, and listen to the people in the crowd as they cheer you on in this wonderful race of faith. God bless you.