"God On Film"
As a result of having a three year old living in my home, I have by default watched the original Cars movie by Pixar dozens of times. I even know parts of it from memory.
That's why I've been excited ever since I first heard that they were making a Cars 2. For one thing, I knew how much Nate and Noah would enjoy watching more adventures of Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater. And secondly, I knew I'd have another option besides watching the first movie for the umpteenth time.
All of that led up to this past Monday while we in New Brunswick. Shera's parents were there, too, and they offered to watch Noah for us while we took Nate to watch Cars 2 at the theaters in Saint John.
Everything started great; there was even a short film before the main movie started that involved Buzz and Woody from Toy Story. If you know Nate, then you know that he loves Toy Story even more than Cars. So he as riveted from the very beginning.
On the downside, the movie went a little long and Nate got a little tired. Not a good mix. So about a half an hour or so before the movie was over, Nate started to tell us that he wanted to go home. By that time I was into the movie myself, plus we had paid money to get in. So we did what any parent would do; we ignored him and stayed until the end of the movie.
If you're familiar with Cars, then you know that the main character--Lightning McQueen--is a NASCAR-type of racecar. Granted, in the first movie he starts off as an arrogant, egotistical, self-centered rookie. But by the end of the movie, all of that changes. He learns to value others, builds some strong relationships, and even shows a willingness to make some self-sacrifices in order to help others.
Of course, being a racecar, one of the main features in both movies is speed. How fast can Lightning go? Is he faster than everyone else? Can he win the big race?
And that's fine when it comes to a movie. And it's fine when it comes to sports. The most exciting thing at the last summer Olympic Games that took place in Beijing was the 100m race where Usain Bolt shattered the previous record. (I supposed you could have expected me to make references to Lightning and Bolt in the same message.)
The last Winter Games that took place in Vancouver... what was the most exciting thing there? Well, obviously the hockey, which is often referred to as the fastest game on ice. But then there was the bobsleigh and the skeleton and the luge and downhill skiing all these speed-races where the winner is determined by just a fraction of a second.
We like speed. We like the thrill of it. We like the challenge of it. But when the word "speed" begins to describe the nature of our lives, there's something wrong. Because life is not a 100m race. It takes more than just a minute or two to reach the finish line. It's not over when you reach the bottom of the hill... or when you're over the hill, for that matter.
No, life is more of a marathon. You've got to pace yourself. Sure, you might have some bursts of speed from time to time. But you also have to adopt a slower pace from time to time. In fact, in a marathon you spend more time going less than top speed than you do at top speed. It's all about pacing yourself.
So this morning, inspired by the speed of Lightning McQueen, I want to talk about the speed of our lives. Because while it's good for us to give our all... and while it's good for us to go all out from time to time... if that becomes our norm, then we're heading for disaster.
I think that's true generally; I think that's true emotionally; I think that's true physically; I think that's true psychologically; and I think that's true spiritually. If you're going all out all the time, you're heading for disaster.
So this morning, let me give you four reminders. I call them reminders because that's what they are. You already know these things. You just sometimes forget them. So I'm going to remind you about them this morning.
The first thing is this... when you're racing through life and you're dealing with all the demands and expectations that people place on you, make sure you...
1. Take the time to refuel.
You know why we hate to refuel? Because we have to stop. When you're cruisin' down the highway and you know where you're heading and you know when you want to get there and you want to shave off as much time as possible, the last thing you want to do is stop. You don't want to pull over to refuel. Unless, of course, that extra-large coffee you had a couple hours earlier has worked its way through. Then you're happy to stop. But most times, you don't want to stop. You'd rather keep going.
But you know what? It's probably a good thing that you're forced to stop once in a while to refuel. Because you need those breaks. I don't know about you, but I'd hate the thought of coming head to head with some guy who's been driving for eight hours without a break.
We need those breaks. We need them when we're driving our car, and we need them in life, too.
Jesus understood that better than anyone. Even He took time to refuel. His public ministry during His time on this planet lasted all of three years. But even so, He recognized the need to stop every once in a while--in fact, regularly--to refuel. Take a look... If you read through March chapter one, you discover that Jesus spent an entire day teaching people and healing people and casting out demons... He had a very busy day. Look at what happened next...
Mark 1:35-37 (NLT)
Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. Later Simon and the others went out to find him. When they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.”
Do you seriously think that Jesus didn't know people were looking for Him? Of course He knew. He knew people would want Him to teach them, to heal them, to perform signs and wonders, to proclaim the Kingdom of God... all good things.
But what did Jesus do instead? Despite all of these demands and expectations that could have easily consumed all of his time, what did Jesus do? He took time to refuel. He took time to get alone and to set aside all the concerns of life and to pray to His Heavenly Father.
And this wasn't something He only did once in a while; it's something He did regularly. It was part of His routine.
Luke 5:16 (NLT)
...Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.
In your notes, underline the word "often." It wasn't just something He squeezed into His schedule every once in a while; it was part of who He was and integral to what He did.
How about you? When was the last time you stopped to refuel? When was the last time you set aside all the busyness of life in order to be refreshed by the presence of the Holy Spirit? When was the last time you set aside all the distractions and allowed God to speak to your soul? I think the Psalmist had it right...
Psalm 39:6-7 (NLT)
We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. … And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you.
You know, it's so easy for us to become preoccupied with what we're doing and to start to think that what we're doing is absolutely essential if the world is going to keep turning. We're afraid to say "no" to someone, and so we end up filling every moment of every day with stuff to do, things to say, people to see.
And when you look at each thing individually, they may all be worthy of your time. They may be noble pursuits. But together... if they keep you from stopping to refuel and spending that time alone with God in prayer, reading His Word, and just allowing Him to minister to you, then something's wrong. "all our busy rushing ends in nothing." Our only true hope... the place where we should place our primary focus... is on our relationship with God.
2. Pull in for maintenance and repairs.
If you're a fan of the first "Cars" movie, then you know that right at the beginning--and yes, I'm about to give away part of the plot. (Hey, it's a five year old movie. If you haven't seen it by now, don't blame me.) But right at the beginning of the movie, Lightning McQueen is racing for the Piston Cup, he's way ahead of the competition--in fact, he's about to lap them--when all of a sudden he blows a tire. And then he blows another tire. And so he has to finish the last quarter of a lap riding on his rims. And instead of winning decisively, he barely ekes out a tie and a qualifies for a rematch.
What happened? Well, for the last several laps, Lightning refused to let his pit crew change his tires. He'd pull in and tell them to fill the tank, but wouldn't let them touch the tires. And as a result, his tires blew when he needed them most.
And you know, I think there's a lesson there for us. Sometimes we need servicing, too. And yes, that can mean seeing a doctor from time to time, but that's not really what I'm getting at this morning. What I'm getting at is that we need to maintain ourselves spiritually, we need to allow the transforming work of the Holy Spirit to take off the old self and put on the new.
Ephesians 4:21-24 (NLT)
Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.
You'll notice that there's a cooperative work being done here. Because it's really the Hold Spirit who works in you to change you, making you more like Jesus.
Titus 3:5 (NLT)
He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.
And it's this same Holy Spirit to continues to work in your life after salvation... after your "new birth"... who continues His work in your life to make you more like Jesus, scrapping away whatever doesn't belong and replacing it with what does belong. So it's His work, but you play a part in it. You cooperate with what He's doing. You allow Him to do His work. And you put the time and effort into living a Christ-like life.
1 Timothy 4:16 (NLT)
Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you.
When it comes to cars, I know how to drive one. In fact, I enjoy driving. I love a good road trip. But if something goes wrong, I'm useless. (Some of you may have already suspected that to be true, but I'm talking specifically in relation to cars.) I am not mechanically inclined at all. I'm simply not qualified to do the work.
So what do I do? Well, I take my vehicle in to a garage to be serviced once in a while just to keep them in good working order. If a strange light comes on the dashboard, or I hear some clunking coming from the engine, or if it's just not feeling right when I drive it, then I take it to the mechanic... the one who knows what he's doing and knows how to fix it.
Paul told Timothy to keep a close watch on the way he lived and on his teachings. In other words, watch the gauges. If something looks wrong, then get into the shop. If I'm discouraged in my faith, if I notice some sinful habits creeping into my life, if there are areas of my life where I'm not honoring God and where I know something has to change--the go to prayer. Go to the Holy Spirit, and allow Him to do His work in your life.
In fact, before we go to the rest, let me take a moment to pray with you over these first couple points. If your fuel tank is empty and you've been neglecting pulling over to allow God to refresh you and refill you, or if you're sensing that something just needs to happen in your life--you're tired of going the way you've been going, you're tired of sinful practices and habits, and you know that the Holy Spirit has more for you, that He wants to encourage you, and that He wants to work in your life this morning--then I want you to pray along silently.
God, you know how busy life gets. You know how distracted we can become over all the demands and expectations placed on us, and really, by our own foolishness and our own refusal to stop long enough to connect with You, and to allow you to work in our lives. I want to pray right now for anyone here who just feels drained spiritually... whose tank is empty and they're running on fumes. I pray, God, that You would refresh and fill them this morning. Allow them to experience the joy of your salvation and the power that comes with the presence of the Holy Spirit.
I pray as well, Lord, for those who might be sensing that they need some repairs. For any of us who are battling and struggling with sinful impulses... for those of us who give into those impulses and dishonor You in the process... we ask first of all for your forgiveness. We don't get it right, and You know that. So we ask you to forgive us, and work in our lives... transform us into the people You want us to be. Help us shed the old self that is broken-down and worn-out and corrupted, and replace it with the new self that You created to be like You--righteous and holy.
Okay, as I mentioned, the first movie was all about how Lightning McQueen was an arrogant self-centered racecar who learned through the course of the movie to value others. At first, he thought all his success was entirely due to him and his abilities, and he completely ignored and disrespected his pit crew.
By the end, though, he's made all of these friends who he's learned to value and he knows that teamwork is what's most important and what's going to lead to success, and so a lot of his new friends show up at the race to serve as his pit crew. And as opposed to the first part of the movie, this time Lightning knows to appreciate his crew and value their input and realizes that any victory is a team effort. So here's the lesson from that...
3. Honor those who support you.
You know how sometimes you come across a verse that you've read many times before but it suddenly strikes you in a new way? This next verse is one that leaped out at me this week...
1 Corinthians 1:10 (NLT)
I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.
Here's Paul, and He's appealing to the believers in the city of Corinth and he's appealing to believers today to live in unity. And it's not just a good idea; he says, "Look, I'm saying this as an apostle, as a spokesperson for Jesus, I'm using His authority. Live in unity. Be of one mind, united in thought and purpose."
Now, if you keep reading in 1 Corinthians you discover how Paul goes on to talk about the great diversity of believers... how we all have different skills and abilities, how we all have different passions and interest... our personalities are different... Paul was writing to Jews and Greeks and Gentiles, to men and women and children, to old and young, to rich and poor, to educated and uneducated... there's a great diversity among believers. Over overarching all of that diversity there's great unity because of our single-minded focus on Jesus Christ... living for Jesus, worshipping Him, serving Him, knowing Him.
Now, are you always going to like every other believer? Maybe not. You might have your conflicts. Hey, even in a healthy family there are plenty of conflicts that can arise. And those differences do not have to threaten family unity.
No, in any family you're free to have different perspectives and different opinions and different ideas. And sometimes there might be clashes, which are okay as long as you're willing to work them through.
But there's still got to be a unity that permeates everything. You still stand up for each other and defend each other, you don't bad-mouth each other, you support each other and encourage each other, you pray for each other, you're generous with each other, you build each other up, you help each other... you're a family. You honor each other. And that's the way it should be among believers.
Romans 12:10 (NLT)
Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.
Hebrews 10:24-25 (NLT)
Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.
4. Pace yourself so you can endure to the end.
This goes back to what we were talking about at the beginning: the speed of our lives. Sometimes we just all out all the time, and that's not healthy. That's not good. That's not the way God designed us to live.
In fact, often when you hear about Christian leaders who have fallen away and are caught up in a scandal, what is often behind that is a hectic lifestyle with no downtime, no time for family, no time for themselves, and no time for God.
In a marathon, you pace yourself. You keep some energy in reserve. After you use a burst of speed, you pull back for a while to recover.
You know the story of the marathon, don’t you? Where it originated? As the story goes—and people debate how accurate this is—but as the story goes, in 490 BC the Greeks were at war with the Persians, and defeated them at the Battle of Marathon. As soon as the victory was secured, a Greek messenger was sent the 40 km or 25 miles between Marathon and Athens to announce the victory.
[POWERPOINT MAP – ATHENS AND MARATHON]
This messenger—Pheidippides—ran as hard as he could the whole way, burst into the assembly, announced, “We have won!” and then died. Okay, it was an important message. But I’m sure it could have waited an extra 15 or 30 minutes for him to take a break along the way.
Other versions have the messenger being sent running from Athens to Sparta [POWERPOINT] to ask for help during the battle, and the back to Athens, for a total of 480 km or 300 miles.
You know, years ago I heard people making comments like, "If I'm going to burn out, I'm going to burn out for Jesus." And my thought is, "Isn't it better to not burn out at all?" In mean, isn't it better to pace yourself and live for Jesus, and live for Him for a lifetime instead of just a short season?
Pace yourself so you can endure to the end. Paul wrote to the Corinthians...
1 Corinthians 9:24 (NLT)
Don't you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!
Do you know where Corinth is located? Let me show you...
[POWERPOINT MAP OF CORINTH]
It's in Greece. Paul was writing to Greeks... the people who created the Olympic Games. And what's the most celebrated Olympic event historically? The marathon. If you're running to win the race, you don't wear yourself out to reach the first marker first. You run to reach the finish line first.
For you and me, that means that we monitor ourselves, and we limit how much busyness we take part in so that we can make the more important things our priorities... our friendships, our families, and our relationship with God.
Psalm 127:2 (NLT)
It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.
Life is busy. But with God’s help and by applying the principles found in His Word, you and I can survive. In fact, we can do more than survive’ we can thrive.
Copyright © 2011 Greg Hanson