Monday, April 7, 2008

Refusing to “HANG UP MY CLEATS”

One of the most poignant moments in the history of baseball was the final farewell of Lou Gehrig in Yankee Stadium. Suffering from an incurable disease, the great and revered first baseman stood at the plate and tearfully said farewell to the fans who had cheered him on for many years. Gehrig was so emotional after the incredible display of affection for him on the afternoon of July 4, 1939, that he started walking off the field without saying a word. Master of Ceremonies Sid Mercer sensed that Gehrig might not be able to address the crowd of more than 55,000, so he said, "I shall not ask Lou Gehrig to make a speech. I do not believe that I should." As the stadium crew started to remove the gifts and his former teammates began to leave the field, Gehrig also moved toward the home dugout. But then, he stopped and walked slowly toward the collection of microphones. He asked the crowd for silence.

Let me read you the text of his speech: "Fans, for the past two weeks, you've been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth. I've been in ballparks for 17 years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans. Look at these grand men. Which one of you wouldn't consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with him for even one day? Sure I'm lucky. Who wouldn't consider it an honor to have known Jacob Rupert, also the builder of baseball's greatest empire, Ed Barrow. To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins, and to have spent nine more with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy. Sure I'm lucky. When the New York Giants, a team you'd give your right arm to beat and vice-versa, sends you a gift, that's something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers in those blues and white coats, remember you with trophies, that's something. When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you and squabbles with her own daughter, that's something. When you have a father and mother who work all their lives so you can have an education and build your body, it's a blessing. When you have a wife who's been a tower of strength and showed more courage than I ever dreamed existed, that's the finest I know. So I close in saying that I may have had a tough break, but I've got an awful lot to live for."

Lou Gehrig basically said, "I am hanging up my spikes in baseball, but not in LIFE." He said that he still had too much to live for. Hanging up my spikes is a metaphor in baseball for retiring or quitting something. Others have used this phrase to let people know that they are stepping down from a position, etc. As I was reading about Lou Gehrig today, the Holy Spirit reminded me of a speech that Paul made at the end of his life. Let me share it with you today:

2 Timothy 4:6-8 For I am already about to be sacrificed [my life is about to be poured out as a drink offering]; the time of my [spirit's] release [from the body] is at hand and I will soon go free. (7) I have fought the good (worthy, honorable, and noble) fight, I have finished the race, I have kept (firmly held) the faith. (8) [As to what remains] henceforth there is laid up for me the [victor's] crown of righteousness [for being right with God and doing right], which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me and recompense me on that [great] day--and not to me only, but also to all those who have loved and yearned for and welcomed His appearing (His return).

This 52-word speech (in Paul's language) has to rank as one of the great valedictory addresses of all times. I would place it at the top of all such great statements, including Lincoln's Gettysburg address. In these few words, Paul captures the essence of his whole life.

He begins with two vivid metaphors expressing his view of his forthcoming martyrdom. First, he sees himself as "a drink offering" about to be poured out. The word he uses is a technical term used of a cup of wine in a Roman sacrifice poured out to the gods. There's reason to believe that every Roman meal ended with this symbolic act. Though he was about to be executed, he chose to regard this as an offering to God. This was the natural conclusion of his belief that the whole of life is to be regarded as "a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service" (Romans 12:1).

The second metaphor of his death is "the time of my departure." This is another of those Greek words capable of various meanings. Two are most often cited. The word is used of the loosening of the ropes when taking a tent down. It is also used of the release of the lines when a ship leaves the dock. Paul sees himself as a soldier, gathering his tent for the next stop, and as a sailor launching out on a new journey.

As Paul's life is rapidly coming to a close, he points out that he had kept the faith. What does that mean? In the Greek it means that he, attended to carefully, guarded, protected, to hold fast to.

Paul wants everyone to know that even though he is hanging up his cleats as far as realizing his days of living were numbered, he would never hang up his cleats on his faith. He assured everyone that he was: Attending to his faith carefully, guarding his faith, protecting his faith and holding fast to his faith!

In other words, it NEVER CROSSED HIS MIND TO QUIT on God. He kept the faith because of His TRUST IN GOD. Angelia Carpenter spoke in our services yesterday morning about trusting God and she said, "Trust means that you will have some unanswered questions in life." How true is that? However, when you TRUST God, you leave those unanswered questions in His hands and you keep the faith. YOU REFUSE to hang up your CLEATS! Notice one of my favorite passages of Scripture:

Abraham refused to "hang up his cleats" on God's promises (Romans 4:17-22)

Romans 4:17-22 We call Abraham "father" not because he got God's attention by living like a saint, but because God made something out of Abraham when he was a nobody. Isn't that what we've always read in Scripture, God saying to Abraham, "I set you up as father of many peoples"? Abraham was first named "father" and then became a father because he dared to trust God to do what only God could do: raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing. (18) When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn't do but on what God said he would do. And so he was made father of a multitude of peoples. God himself said to him, "You're going to have a big family, Abraham!" (19) Abraham didn't focus on his own impotence and say, "It's hopeless. This hundred-year-old body could never father a child."
Nor did he survey Sarah's decades of infertility and give up. (20) He didn't tiptoe around God's promise asking cautiously skeptical questions. He plunged into the promise and came up strong, ready for God, (21) sure that God would make good on what he had said. (22) That's why it is said, "Abraham was declared fit before God by trusting God to set him right."

Wow! What a passage of Scripture. Abraham put his faith in God, regardless what his eyes saw, or his feelings felt. He took God at His Word. He refused to hang up his cleats regardless what the situation looked like. From a human standpoint his situation was hopeless! But he put his hope and trust in God!

I love Isaiah 26:3 Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on
thee: because he trusteth in thee.

They key to peace is for our minds to be fixed, or stayed on Jesus…however the key to our minds being fixed on Jesus is whether or not we TRUST IN HIM! You can't stay fixated on Him if you don't trust Him. Notice this passage of Scripture about Simon Peter:

Matthew 14:25-31 During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. (26) When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear. (27) But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." (28) "Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water." (29) "Come," he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. (30) But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!" (31) Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"

Simon Peter was fine as long as his mind and eye was fixed on Jesus, however, the battle begins when the enemy tries to get your attention on the STUFF going on around you. I am certain the enemy began to whisper to him, "You can't walk on water, it is impossible. In fact, look at and feel the wind how bad it is blowing…" and Peter began to wonder if he could really TRUST Jesus in the storm. As he looked at the wind (v. 30) he became AFRAID and began to sink. He was ready to hang up his cleats because of the struggle of the wind. He began to think, I won't make it, help me Jesus, I am about to drown. He went from participating in a miracle to thinking he was about to die. What happened? He allowed MISTRUST to come into his mind. Will Jesus save me? Will He come to me? Is it really up to me? What if He doesn't reach out to me? What if He doesn't hear my plea for help? Worse than that, what if He hears me, but does nothing about it? All of these types of thoughts tempted Peter to hang up his cleats in the storm.

What about you today? Are you about ready to hang up your cleats? We are going to look at this subject all this week on this blog. We will look at different people in the Bible who were tempted to HANG UP THEIR CLEATS in defeat. I challenge you today to do what Paul did:

2 Timothy 1:12 (KJV) For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.

2 Timothy 1:12 (AMP)And this is why I am suffering as I do. Still I am not ashamed, for I know (perceive, have knowledge of, and am acquainted with) Him Whom I have believed (adhered to and trusted in and relied on), and I am [positively] persuaded that He is able to guard and keep that which has been entrusted to me and which I have committed [to Him] until that day.

Paul said, I KNOW whom I have believed in; whom I have adhered to, trusted in and relied on, and am PERSUADED that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.

Because of that confidence believe and faith, Paul, at the end of his life was able to say I have kept the faith. He refused to hang up his cleats on God and His promises. How about you today? Commit your trial, storm, battle, giant, relationship, finances, health problems, lost loved ones, to God and become persuaded that He IS ABLE to take care of it…serve notice on the devil today, I WILL NOT HANG UP MY CLEATS. I am in this thing for the long haul! Like Paul, I plan to KEEP THE FAITH.

My prayer for you today is that you have a FAITH-filled day. Blessings!

Pastor Rusty

Today's "Through the Bible in a year" reading: Monday-April 7, 2008: 2 Chronicles 36:2-23

This weeks' memory verse to "Hide in my heart": 2 Timothy 1:12

2 Timothy 1:12 (KJV) For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.