"Choosing to Cheat" part 1 (based on the book by Andy Stanley):
My Greatest Lesson of 2006
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
December 31, 2006


Main Passage: Deuteronomy 4:9-10 (NLT)

Well, here we are, the last day of 2006. And if you're like me, you love all the year end stuff—you check out the magazines recapping the top news stories of the year... The TV specials that look back on all the events and stories of the year... and you love those lists in particular. At the beginning of our worship celebration, I gave you the Top Ten Uses for Leftover Fruitcake. Well, at this time of year, I love top ten lists... The top ten sports moments of the year, the top ten moments to remember, the top ten celebrity weddings... Whatever.

And since this is the last day of the year, I thought I'd give you a list of the top things I've learned this year. Except that you probably don't care about most of the things I've learned. I mean, you don't really care that I learned that Ron MacLean was born in Germany, do you? Or that today is the 50th anniversary of Bob Barker being on national television.

Plus, sometimes I can be a little slow and probably couldn't come up with a list of ten things anyway. And so I'm only going to tell you about the top thing I learned this year, okay?

Now, to help me explain this this morning, I've asked Derek to lend a hand. In fact, I need him to lend two hands. I haven't told him how he's going to help; I've just asked him to trust me. So Derek, if you could come over here, this is what I need you to do... I need you to hold this sack of potatoes. Okay, now this is important. So you just hold them here like this... And I'll get back to you in a minute. Okay?

Jim just read for us a passage that tells us not to forget the lessons that God teaches us, and to pass them on to others. And I think God taught me something important this year. So I’m going to pass it on to you this morning.

The greatest thing I learned in 2006... it's something that I learned at the Leadership Summit I attended back in August, and I've been thinking about it ever since. And I think it's so important that I've spent the past several months trying to sort it out for my own life. Now, admittedly, this lesson that I'm going to tell you about addresses a part of me that needs a lot of work. And maybe that's why I think it's the greatest lesson I've learned... It's so practical for me personally. Some of you already have a pretty good handle on this. For others, this could revolutionize the way you spend your time, your energies, your talents... It could be the very thing that you need to hear this morning.

Oh yeah, Derek... Well, just hold on another minute... I'll come over and help you hold those shortly.

But before I get to that... and before I tell you what my greatest lesson of 2006 was... I need to set it up first.

Each one of us has several different aspects to our lives. Sometimes they function independently, sometimes they overlap, but there are several distinct aspects to our lives. And two of them rise head and shoulders above the rest…


The Two Major Aspects of Life:

1. Work

For most people, work takes up about one third of their waking hours. Some people love their work, some people hate their work. Some people are well paid, some volunteer or receive minimal pay. Some people work just to make money, others work to progress in their career. In fact, for a lot of people, their work is their identity. If you ask someone who they are, they might tell you "I'm a banker", or "I'm an accountant", or "I'm a teacher," or "I'm a pastor." Work is a major part of our lives.

Speaking of work... I haven't forgotten you, Derek. I'll be right there. But I've got to finish this first.

Work takes us about one third of your waking hours, and I would say a good percentage of the other two thirds is taken up by…


2. Pursuing/Maintaining a Family

Most of us have a lot of family responsibilities. Depending on where you’re at in life, there’s dating, there's our relationship with our spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend, there are the repairs that need to be done around the house, there’s the attention we need to give to our parents or our brothers or sisters or our extended family, there’s the time we need to give to our kids.

This past week, Shera and I were in Fredericton visiting with my family, and we stayed with my brother and his family. He has two young boys who play on the same hockey team. Joshua is just about to turn seven, Matthew is five. And on Wednesday afternoon, Shera and I, my brother and his wife, my mother and some other friends who were visiting all headed to York Arena to watch the boys play.

I actually used to play in that arena myself, and I remembered how cold it was. Poor Shera had no idea. But there we were, up in the stands freezing our butts off watching this exciting hockey game.

Actually, Joshua has gotten pretty good. He scored a goal and hit the post three or four times. Matthew’s a little younger and most of the time doesn’t have a clue where the puck is. But that’s okay, he doesn’t care anyway. In fact, there was one time when I guess he just got tired, so he dropped to his knees and them plopped right down on the ice to rest. And he stayed there until the coach came over to tell him to get up. It was pretty funny. But he’s basically at the same place Joshua was at last year.

Now, why did we go to see them play? Was it because it was it was going to be such a high skill level? No. In fact, at the exact same time they were playing, Canada was playing the U.S. in the World Junior Hockey Championships. If I wanted to see an exciting game, I would have stayed at the house to watch TSN.

But it was more important for me to go and see the boys play. I remember how thrilled Josh was last year when we all went to watch him play, so we just had to do it this year, too.

Okay Derek… Let me hold… oh, wait… I should also mention that you do have other things in your life besides your work and family. You have your hobbies, your friends, your community involvement, your sports participation… lots of things. But work and family overshadow all of those things and usually play a role in them somehow.

Or you might think about your faith as being another aspect of your life. But really, your faith should infiltrate every area of your life. Your Faith should have an impact on your work and your family and everything else. So in that sense, your faith is not a separate aspect of your life.

And so this morning, we’re talking primarily about work and family.

How are you doing over there, Derek? Can you keep going? 'Cause I’m just about there.

Here’s my greatest lesson of 2006… when it comes to the different aspects of my life… particularly in terms of work and family…

My greatest lesson of 2006 – I choose where I cheat.

You get that? I choose where I cheat. Now that’s an interesting word. The word “cheat” usually has some kind of negative connotation to it. You cheat at school, you cheat on your spouse, you cheat on your taxes, you cheat in a game… and of that is pretty negative.

But what is cheating, anyway? When you cheat, what are you doing? You’re giving up one thing in the hope of gaining something better. That’s what you’re doing. So you give up your integrity to get a better mark. Or you give up your faithfulness for a few moments of pleasure. Or you give up your honesty for a few extra dollars. In those ways, cheating is a bad thing.

But it doesn’t have to be. For example, in hockey, if you’re a goalie and an opponent has the puck over to one side of the net, and there’s another opponent on the other side of the net, you might be worried that there’s going to be a pass and you won’t be ready for it. So you cheat a little bit toward the player without the puck so you can be there to stop a one-timer. You give up a little bit of the angle to the player with the puck so you can guard against the other player. That kind of cheating can be a good thing.

So this morning, we’re talking about cheating in a positive sense, giving up one thing in favour of something better. Okay?

And the truth is, we all cheat. We’ve all sacrificed in some ways in order to gain in others ways. Andy Stanley talked about this at the Leadership Summit, and he has written a book called “Choosing to Cheat.” And in that book, he says…

“The issue is never, ‘Am I cheating?’ The issue is always, ‘Where am I cheating?’ Or, ‘Where am I choosing to cheat?’”
~ Andy Stanley, Choosing to Cheat p. 19

Because we all cheat. The only question is, “Where?”

Okay, I’m just about ready, Derek. Just… stay there and hold the potatoes a bit longer.

So I’ve got these different aspects of my life. All of them are important. All of them make demands on me. All of them could fill my calendar all by themselves. So what wins and what loses?

For me personally, where I struggle is working too much. I love what I do, and there’s always more to do, and so that’s what I do. And having a home office doesn’t help. So it’s difficult for me to separate work from family.

And the problem’s compounded because I don’t have a punch-the-clock type of job. There’s always another call to make, another letter to write, another email to send, another book to read, another meeting to attend, another event to plan, another sermon to prepare, another person to visit, another song to learn, another seminar to go to… plus a myriad of other tasks. There’s always more.

And I suspect I’m not alone here. In my experience, this is where most people tend to get out of balance. They cheat their families in favour of work. Andy Stanley explains this tendency this way…

“Because of our proclivity to veer in the direction of things that stroke our egos, we tend to cheat at home. We give an inordinate amount of our time, energy, and passion to our work.”
~ Andy Stanley, Choosing to Cheat, p. 33

That’s a choice we make. And it is a choice.

So what’s happening at home in the meantime? When you’re cheating family in favour of work, what’s happening on the home-front? Someone else is left holding the bag.

Which reminds me… Derek. How are your arms doing? Are they about to fall off? If I go on much longer, what’s going to happen? You’re going to drop that bag. And what’s more, you’re probably going to get a little angry or bitter that I left you holding it for so long.

Now, when I first gave Derek this bag, I asked him to trust me. I told him this was important, and he believed me. I doubt he really wanted to spend the morning holding a bag of potatoes, but he agreed to do it because I asked him to do it, and he agreed because I told him it was important.

And he was fine with holding it for a while. Especially when he thought it’d only be for a minute or two.

But what happened? I kept telling him that I’d be there to help hold it shortly, but I had some other things I needed to do first. These other things were more important. And he was happy to comply… at first. But the longer he held it… the more it took out of him… the harder it was to hold on… and eventually, he would have had to drop it.

How often do you and I leave someone holding the bag far too long? How often do we do that to our spouse? They know that what we’re doing at work is important, and so they agree to carry the load at home. They believe in us, they trust us, they want to please us, and they want to support us any way they can. And so they’re happy to do it.

But they can only do it for so long before they get weary and they get resentful, and they just can’t do it any longer. And when you get to that point, your relationship is headed for disaster. In fact, it’s been heading there for a while.

Now, I know you might feel indispensable at work. But you also know that you can always find time when an emergency arises. You’ll drop everything when someone you love is rushed to the hospital. You’ll take a leave of absence to tend to an ailing parent. If you discover your spouse has an alcohol problem, or your teenager has a drug addiction… you’ll make whatever sacrifices are necessary to support them and get them help. Right? But why should it take an emergency?

What does the Bible have to say about all of this, anyway? Well, what really struck me at the Leadership Summit was when Andy Stanley reminded me that Jesus says He will build His Church; I’m to love my wife.

Matthew 16:18 (NLT)
… upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell[b] will not conquer it.

Colossians 3:19 (NLT)
Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly.

But I’d gotten that out of whack. I’ve been cheating the wrong way. And so I’ve spent the past few months trying to get that back in balance.

Let me show you a few other verses…

Colossians 3:23 (NLT)
Work hard and cheerfully at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.

So yes, work is important. We should work hard. In fact, consider this… God gave Adam work to do, even before the Fall. Even before sin entered Creation, there was work.

We tend to think of work as a necessary evil… as a result of sin. But work is not a result of the Fall… work was part of God’s plan from the very beginning. So yes, work is important and we should work hard.

God values a good work ethic. He expects us to put in a full day’s work for a full day’s pay. But He also teaches us in His Word that work is not the be all and end all. It’s not where we’re going to find satisfaction. In the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes it says…

Ecclesiastes 2:20 (NLT)
So I turned in despair from hard work. It was not the answer to my search for satisfaction in this life.

So being career-minded is good; being career-centered is not. It’s not where we’re going to find satisfaction. Our work should not be our identify.

So how about family? What does the Bible say about that?

1 Corinthians 7:5 (NIV)
Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

Now, this verse is actually talking about sex. But I don’t think it would be a misuse of the verse to apply it to the entire relationship. Because we can deprive each other in so many ways. Yes, we can deprive our spouse sexually. We can also deprive each other of our time, our attention, our affections, our love… and God says, “It’s not good to deprive each other in any of these ways…” especially over a long period of time.

Ephesians 5:25, 33 (NLT)
For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her…
So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

But maybe you say, “Of course I love my family. They know that. They understand the demands on my schedule.” Well, can I suggest that what they “know” is not nearly as important as what they “feel”?

“The problem is, you love your family in your heart, but you don’t love them in your schedule. And they can’t see your heart.”
~ Andy Stanley, Choosing to Cheat, p. 48

And neglect does not communicate love or respect. He goes on to say…

“Cheating at home is translated as rejection.”
~ Andy Stanley, Choosing to Cheat, p. 52


So what does all this mean? How do you choose to cheat? What is the right balance? Well, we’re going to talk a bit more about this next week. We’ll talk about the “how” then. But today, we’re talking about the “what”. And the “what” is that we choose where we cheat.

So answer this question: “Who feels cheated?” in other words, who’s left holding the bag? Who are you neglecting?

Now, I know that life’s complicated. We all have stuff we have to do. There are a lot of demands on your time just like there are on mine. I’m not saying this will be easy. And I’m not saying I have all the answers. Because I don’t.

But let me ask you this… those of you who are married, did you have your wedding day planned out before you even got engaged? Did you have the date set, the church booked, hall decorated? Did you have your invitations printed and your vacation time booked? Did you have everything planned out and arranged beforehand, or did you have to go through a process of figuring it out after you got engaged?

I suspect you had a lot to do after the question was popped. I know we did. We didn’t know when we were going to get married or what our wedding party would wear or who would be invited or how we’d pay for it all. We had to work all of that out over time.

So I’m asking you, “Who feels cheated? Are there changes that need to be made?” You may not know how it will all work out, and that’s fine. You can figure it out as you go.

Do you recognize a need to change? Can you see that your life can be so much more balanced, so much happier, filled with less tension, with no one feeling neglected or cheated? Can you imagine when your spouse is fully supportive of you because you are fully supportive of them, your kids know that you value them? Can you see the day when you don’t feel guilty because you’re neglecting your family or your God or you’re work… Can you see that day?

I hope so, because that’s what we’re going to talk about next week. Let’s pray…




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