Sunday, April 11, 2010

The 7 Points of Valor: #5 - Loyalty

1 Corinthians 15:50-58 “Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, "DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. "O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”

I was reading a blog a couple weeks ago. The topic was holiness, and all the comments from people were how hard it was to not sin. They said they were lucky if they went 10 minutes without sinning. The kids were home, life was busy… but how ridiculous is that? They either had a great misunderstanding of sin, or they were embracing it with their whole heart. Their sense of loyalty to their Savior seemed somewhat missing. They moaned how hard it was, but gave no credence to any effort they put forward.

Team Hoyt is a video about loyalty. The father did whatever he could over the almost 5 decades of his sons life to give him a life, to allow Rick to experience as much as he could. Dick wasn’t just loyal in racing with his son, but from the beginning sought to provide everything possible that other kids of his age had. Loyalty is a mark of character that takes a lot of time, but it is also recognized quite easily when it exists.

We have talked about Honour, Courage, Chivalry and Purity. We have also just finished the Easter season and now fittingly talk about Loyalty. Were Jesus’ disciples loyal to their Rabbi? Did they live lives of Valour before their fellow men? I have been talking to my dad a bit about death lately. His cousin died last year and his sister this past January. When you talk of death your thoughts tend to run to, “What am I leaving behind? What is my legacy? Will I be known as a man who stood for something, for loyalty?”

True Loyalty precludes a clear understanding of the truth. We have all heard stories of soldier just following their superiors’ orders without a thought. Some people call that loyalty when in reality it is just blind obedience. True loyalty knows the truth. There are a lot of scams and people selling stuff out there. Most recently on Facebook is gift card for IKEA worth $1,000. When you read the fine print, you have to sign up for 13 other programs you pay for, and IKEA is not even involved in the promotion. This is the third time they have distanced themselves from a hard sell company that has done this. If something is too good to be true, it invariably is. In our materialistic society, it takes money to live, money to make things happen. People try so many ways to take advantage of others. Dig down deep. Seek the truth about things. Do your homework, especially about the things and people you get involved with.

What about your spirituality? How much have you investigated it? Take the time to read the whole chapter of 1 Corinthians 15 sometime this week. When you see the context you get what Paul is saying. People were saying the resurrection of Jesus wasn’t real - it didn’t happen. Paul responds, “…if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” We would have no hope. We would have wasted our time. So who goes to church but doesn’t really believe? Does it make any sense? You cannot really be loyal to Jesus if you don’t believe the history involved: the incarnation, the birth, the miracles, the crucifixion and the resurrection, and the ascension. You have to understand the truth that we are in a spiritual battle, that Satan and his minions try to disrupt our lives individually and communally. You have to believe that prayer is effective, that God hears and answers. You have to believe that holiness is possible, that God is powerful enough to do a work in us leading to Christ-likeness. Know what you believe in. It will see you through good times and dark times.
True Loyalty starts each day with a choice. Even when you know the truth you have to commit to it. Life doesn’t just happen. You want to be loyal? You have to live intentionally. Many in Saskatchewan love their CFL football team. They call us the Rider Nation. There’s this guy who is part of that. He has never seen a Roughrider game, on TV or in real life. He doesn’t know any of the players’ names because he never bothered to look it up. He knows enough to wear green, but even though he considers himself part of the fan base, he is not loyal in any real sense of the word. He thinks it will just happen, that he doesn’t  have to put any effort or work into it. Consider the 3rd generation business owner. His grandfather started the business and his dad consolidated it. His turn comes up and he assumes almost everything. He has no history of the struggles in the past, but because he has the same last name, he feels it is his right to do as he pleases. The third generation leader has one of the highest incidences of company failure, simply because that loyalty to the guiding principles of the company is assumed.

Each day, each morning you and I should wake up and pray, “God, I surrender this day to you. Help me to go through it with you at my side. Help my decisions and actions reflect the fact that I am your disciple. Help to me to deny myself, take up my cross, and follow you.” Again and again we see that any change that happens in a Christians’ life is based upon that concept of commitment, that point of dedication, that choice, that decision. Do you think you could pray that prayer, and then go chasing after the things that distract us from Jesus and not be affected by it? In that prayer you are giving God permission to speak to you when you are veering off course. You are giving the Spirit permission to speak into your soul conviction and correction. As you pray that prayer, you are looking at each new day as a blank slate upon which you can write your testimony, so that at the end of the day as you fall asleep you can say, “God, thank-you for using me. Thank-you for giving me the opportunities I had to day to share my faith. Thank-you for helping me to grow, and staying by my side.”

A habit that you have a hard time breaking doesn’t make you any less a true disciple than without it if you continually turn to God for help. You have a choice to listen to the voices that say you are not good enough, or you can listen to the voice of Jesus that says, “You don’t have to be good enough, because I am.” True loyalty means you are committed to being committed. You will do the hard work of making the right choices.

True loyalty is lived out in the long term. The CFL is a passing game for the most part, but consider the running game. Have you ever thought what it must be like to be an offensive linesman? Each play you crouch, and when the ball is moved you bump into the guy in front of you, pushing him one way or another. You have made maybe three steps in the play, and the ball was moved a couple or 3 yards. The next play you crouch, and when the ball is lifted you ram your body again into the guy in front of you. Again and again you do that. Sometimes you move down the field, sometimes you don’t. 60 minutes of playing time runs out and then it is over. You look ahead to the next game where you get to do it all over again: crouch, wait, bump; crouch, wait, bump. What makes a man do that? There is a loyalty to the long term goal. There is the hope of the playoffs, and a Grey Cup ring at the end. The men on the line have to do their part if the team is going to get there. He has to be loyal play by play. The one play he decides to go easy and not bump, is the play the quarterback gets sacked. He understands that the other team is made up of guys just as determined as he is, except they want to get to the quarterback, the ball. Sometimes an injury sidelines you for a spell. Sometimes you take a spell on the bench for a rest, but loyalty demands that you are in it for the long haul.

We talked about the parable of the Sower in our men’s study a couple weeks ago. Remember the story where some seed fell on the path and in the rocks, and it died out quickly. Then there was the seed that grew up but got choked out by thorns. None of those seeds produced any fruit. It was only the seed in the soil that stayed for the long term that produced a hundred fold.  One of the hardest things is to get up after you have made a mistake, and continue on. We want to wallow in our self-pity. We struggle with self-esteem. God comes in and wants to heal and teach, but shame and guilt can often push Him away.

Understand this: Loyalty is not perfection; it is getting up each time you are knocked down and starting again. Loyalty is the hard work of the 7 points of valour. LOYALTY is a man of faithfulness, devotion, and allegiance. Life is not a series of quick fixes. It is largely the task of 3 steps forward, two steps back. It is the rushing game on the gridiron. We need to plug in for the long term, but be open to the vision, not just the method. Loyalty for the Christian is not to the institution, but to Jesus and His people, the body. Sometimes we confuse our loyalty. God is doing some neat things in Saskatoon. He is doing some different things, and the challenge will always be to be loyal in following Jesus.

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