During the nationally televised NBA and NFL games there is a halftime report. Casual fans of the game typically change the channel during the halftime report. But those who are die-hard fans will watch the half-time report to hear the analysts and commentators review highlights, and what worked and didn’t work in the first half. They also share what each team needs to do in the second half if they want to win the game. There is a similar conversation being had in each team’s locker room during halftime. Halftime gives players a chance to catch their breath and teams an opportunity to make adjustments to their game plan sob that they can win the game.
We have reached the halfway mark of 2019. It has been six months since we were ringing in the New Year. Many of us had great dreams and plans for 2019. We made resolutions, committed to greater spiritual devotion and started exercising (again for the fifteenth time). So where are you now? Halfway through the year are you as committed as you were at the start of the year? Now is a good time to evaluate and make adjustments for the second half of the year (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Even if your first half was a lackluster performance, you can now catch your breath, do the analysis, and make the necessary changes to your life strategy to still win this year. Take some time to evaluate your connection to God, the church, and the world for the first half of 2019. Here are some questions to get you started. Feel free to add your own.
Connecting to God: What am I doing to have one on one time with God each day? How will I engage in the spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting, scripture reading, and meditation between now and the end of the year? Is worshipping with the church on Sunday a non-negotiable habit? Am I focused on God in worship? How we better connect to God as a household? What is my plan to better connect to God in the second half of the year?
Connecting to the Church: How much time am I spending with Christians outside of the church building (excluding family members)? Are there any strained relationships with any brothers or sisters in Christ that I need to address? What is my plan to address the relationship (when, where, how)? Am I involved in at least one ministry of the church? Am I attending MACC monthly +connection groups? What is my plan to better connect to the church in the second half of the year?
Connecting to the World: What have I done this year to equip myself to share the gospel? What opportunities were presented for me to engage in a conversation about Christ and salvation, and did I take advantage of that opportunity? How many non-Christians have I invited to worship, Bible class or a church event? Who are the lost people that I know that I am going to pray for by name that God will touch their heart to obey the gospel? What is my plan to better connect the lost to Christ and His church in the second half of the year?
The Victory of Losing
Christianity is full of paradoxes. The last shall be first. If you want to be great, be a servant. When you humble yourself, God will exalt you. When we are weak that is when we are strong. There is another deep and profound paradox mentioned in Philippians 3 that will transform the way that we live our lives: If you want to experience the victory of winning in your life, you must be willing to lose (Philippians 3:3-11).
That goes against our upbringing and training. Those of us who grew up playing sports were taught that you play to win. We were taught that no one remembers second place. Much of life as we see it comes down to winning or losing. The Word of God challenges our competitive nature by teaching us that ultimately we win by losing. You cannot have victory until you are willing to suffer loss.
We win when we are willing to lose our status (v. 3-7). Here, Paul discusses his willingness to lose his status for the Savior. If anyone could brag about who he was and what he had done, it was Paul. He had an impressive resume. First of all Paul was born into privilege. He also accomplished much by his own merit. He was a Pharisee. He studied the Law and knew the scriptures better than most. He was a strict adherent to the Law. Paul finds himself in the position of an accountant having to reassess his balance sheet. Those things that he thought were gains (the pedigree, the titles, the legalistic law keeping), were actually to be counted as losses.
There is a need to assess and examine our lives so that we can be confident in what is important! There are things that we think add value to our lives that really should be counted as losses. God is not impressed by our net worth or our social network. He is not all that concerned about where you went to school. Job titles and certifications don’t give you a competitive advantage in eyes of God. We have to be willing to count them as loss for the sake of Christ.
Often, the unwillingness of lose keeps us from a deeper level of discipleship. Many of us aren’t willing to lose standing and status. We aren’t willing to let go of power and prestige. We are trying to hold on to what we were and wonder why we are struggling to be who God has called us to be. You cannot stay where you are and expect to get to where God wants you to be. We win when we are willing to lose. We lose ourselves so that we can know Christ and the power of His resurrection.
Those things that we once counted as gain, we should count as loss so that we may have Christ manifest in our lives. To know Christ is to experience Him beyond the intellectual grasp. It is to be intimately aware of His nature and character. To know Him is to acknowledge Him as Lord. What you have to give up loses its value to you when you focus on the riches found in knowing Christ Jesus. What’s keeping you from knowing the exceedingly surpassing overwhelming greatness of Christ?
Have you ever gone to someone that you thought could help you only to discover that they are ill equipped and unprepared to help? Or perhaps you have tried to help others and feel like you did more damage than good. How can one called on to help end up being unhelpful? The apostles were challenged to answer this question after an epic failure. In Mark 9:14-29, the apostles prove to be unhelpful help. What was it that led to their inability to help someone who needed the help?
There are at least three reasons why the apostles failed in the task for which they were empowered to perform. Those reasons provide us with some insight as to why we are at times unhelpful in our help.
The apostles deceived by their strength. The disciples were powerless because their trust was in the wrong place. It appears that they forgot that it was their faith that gave them their power. Often when we think of faithlessness, we think of not believing that something can be done. But that is not the only demonstration of faithlessness. We are also faithless when we think we can do something without the power of God. There are times when we have success in our lives and we think that we have the Midas touch. We think that we are the driving force behind our success. However, the activating force behind our success is the Spirit of the Lord.
Secondly, they were distracted from their charge. When Jesus comes down from the mountain, the Bible lets us know that the disciples were arguing with the scribes, which meant they were no longer trying to help the man who brought his son. Arguing was not part of their commission. So often, we are distracted from our charge. While there is a place for apologetics and the defense of the gospel, most of the arguing that we do has nothing to do with the gospel. Meanwhile, people are still dying without Christ. Our charge is to go and make disciples and share the gospel with the lost. Our charge is to do good every time we have an opportunity, especially to those who are of the household of faith. Our charge is to encourage one another. Our charge is to love the Lord with all that we are, love our neighbor as ourselves and love one another as Christ has loved us. Don’t let the devil distract you from your charge.
Finally, they were disconnected from God in prayer. Once they are behind closed doors, the disciples ask Jesus why they couldn’t cast out the demon. Jesus lets them know that the demon was an advanced demon. So because the demon was on another level, prayer was necessary. Our work as Christians must be bathed in prayer. While our ministry is to be done in the name or by the authority of Jesus, that’s not enough. There are some things in our lives and in the lives of others that can only be accomplished through prayer. The lines of communication need to be open between heaven and earth for something to happen. If we want to be helpful help, we must abide in the power of God, avoid the distractions of the world and pray for God’s empowerment in all that we do for his glory.
Minister Ross' creativity, wisdom, and insight have inspired community, church and corporate audiences throughout the United States.