This program aired on KIUN 1400 AM in Pecos, TX on November 23, 2016.
In a recent article in a brotherhood journal the writer related a story told by a Christian university official in a sermon. This brother used the analogy of a football huddle to teach important lessons on Christian living. He pointed out that in the huddle the players lean on each other for mutual support. While in the huddle they communicate a plan to overcome their opponent during the next play. Finally, he said that the huddle symbolizes a sense of unity, even though each person in the huddle has different talents and assignments.
This brother was not the first to use a sports analogy to represent the Christian life. Paul used the examples of running a race and boxing in his letter to the church in Corinth (1 Cor. 9:24-27). These examples were based upon individual athletic effort, which fit into the context of his exhortation to this church. His point was that each individual Christian must put forth the effort to win in the great struggle against evil. Nevertheless, Paul was also keenly aware of the corporate, or team, aspect of the Christian endeavor.
He spoke of this aspect in his analogy in which he described the church as a body. His words in 1 Cor. 12:14-27 are especially important in this regard. In this passage Paul spoke of the various members of the body, each of whom is different, and has a different purpose in the body. Even so, he pointed out that the body needs each of these various members in order to function properly. He underscored this point in Eph. 4:11-16, where he concluded that the body is held together by that which each joint supplies, and grows because of the working of each individual part (v. 16).
These truths suggest that the brother’s analogy of a football huddle fits perfectly into the reality of the Christian walk. Like football, the Christian walk cannot be successfully navigated alone. It takes eleven players working together to make a successful football team. In a similar way, it takes all the members of the body of Christ working together to be successful in our pursuit of eternal life. In football, each of the players has different skills and different tasks. If any one of them fails in his assignment, the play fails, and the game may be lost. In our walk as Christians, we each have differing abilities and gifts from God. Each of these gifts and abilities are necessary for the success of our team, the church. If any of us fails to do his or her part, the church suffers for it.
This brings us back to the imagery of the huddle. For Christians, the huddle occurs every time we gather together for Bible study or worship. Our first purpose in assembling, of course, is to offer acceptable worship to God the Father, but an adjunct to this is the encouragement we give to each other when we assemble. Like a football huddle, we pump each other up and gain mutual support. Like a football huddle, we communicate the plan that God has given us in order to overcome our spiritual enemy, the devil. And like a football huddle, we experience unity, even though we are of differing gifts and abilities, and have different assignments in the body of Christ.
A football player who misses the huddle will not be able to contribute to the success of his team. The same is true of Christians. If we’re not in the huddle, we aren’t helping the church. The writer of Hebrews said it this way: “And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Heb. 10:24-25). Therefore, let’s huddle up, each and every time the church meets.
Two of the most important words in any language are, “Thank You.” They are some of the very first words we learn to speak as children, and most parents are very diligent to be sure that their children use them regularly. They are words of common courtesy that reflect one’s gratitude for something done for them by another. Even in as rushed and impersonal a society as the one in which we now live, saying “Thank You” is still pretty common, and it is noticed when it is neglected.
When it comes to expressing gratitude, there is no one more deserving of thanks than our Father in heaven, and our Lord Jesus Christ. All we need do is consider the world in which we live. It is a special place, created by God just for human beings. It contains all the resources necessary for us to thrive. Despite the alarmist warnings of unbelievers that the earth’s resources are limited or diminishing, God has provided for us far in excess of what mankind will ever need. The earth will continue to abundantly provide for mankind until our Father sends His Son for judgment at the end of time (cf. Gen. 8:22).
As a result, just waking up in the morning, breathing the fresh air, eating a meal, and enjoying all that God has placed at our disposal should be more than enough reason to say, “Thank You, Lord!” When we look up at the stars at night and see the majesty of the heavens, and note that all the stars and planets travel in their courses at God’s command and under His control, we should also be prompted to say, “Thank You, Lord!” What a marvelous and wonderful world God has provided for us!
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught us that our Father in heaven cares for us in such detail that He will provide for all of our physical needs. The unbelievers worry about what they will eat, or what they will drink, or how they will be clothed, but Jesus said that His Father knows our needs and will abundantly supply them. In Mt. 6:24-33 He spoke in detail about this truth and concluded by saying, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (v. 33).
As important as these physical blessings are, there is something even more important for which we should express our gratitude to our Father in heaven. The most important thing our Father has done for us is to provide His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 Jn. 2:1-2). In Christ we have all spiritual blessings, redemption through His blood, and the forgiveness of our trespasses (Eph. 1:3-7). Because of this sacrifice, we have hope, not only in life, but also in eternity. If this is not something for which we should say, “Thank You, Lord,” it is hard to imagine what would deserve such a response.
In Phil. 4:6 Paul said, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” In Col. 4:2 Paul said, “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving.” In Rev. 7:9-12 John describes a marvelous scene in heaven in which all the angels, the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures all fell down before the Father’s throne and offered praise, saying, “Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.” (v. 12).
May this be our prayer of thanksgiving every day as we remember God’s marvelous gift of eternal life. For Christians, every day is a day to say, “Thank You, Lord!”
One of the characteristics of modern society is its infatuation with things that are new. Marketing experts recognize this and capitalize on it whenever possible. They convince a company to make a minor adjustment in the appearance or in the ingredients of a product, and just like that, the product is “new and improved.” It may not be substantially different from its predecessor, but because it is not exactly the same, it can be called “new.” Consumers, who have been conditioned to think that they must have the newest version of every product, flock to purchase these “new” items with little thought as to whether the new thing is actually better than the old one.
It may be surprising to some to learn that this fascination with “newness” is not itself a new thing. One proof of this fact is what Luke said about the Athenians when Paul visited that city during his second missionary journey. In Acts 17:21, after the Athenians had invited Paul to speak to them in the Areopagus, Luke noted, “(Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.)” This was nearly 2,000 years ago and even back then people loved “new” things.
The irony of this fascination with newness, especially in a spiritual context, is that “new and improved” was never a part of God’s plan. In Eph. 3:1-12 Paul explained to the church in Ephesus that the message he had proclaimed to them was the eternal purpose of God that He carried out in Christ (v. 11). Even though it had been a mystery in past generations (vs. 4-5), and had only been fully revealed in the ministry of the apostles, it was the same message that God had ordained before the foundation of the world.
This should suggest something to us about the content of our preaching, and about the substance of our beliefs. The message of God may, in fact, be new to those who have never heard it, but it is actually an old message. It is a message that was first revealed in Gen. 3:15 when God told Satan that He would put enmity between him and the woman, and between his seed and her seed. That enmity is Jesus Christ, by whose sacrifice on the cross the sins of all mankind for all time have been atoned.
More than this, however, it is a perfect and timeless message. It is a perfect message, because it came directly from the mind of God. When the Lord Jesus lived on the earth, He said that He only spoke what the Father gave Him to speak (Jn. 12:49). Before He left the earth, He told the apostles that He would send the Holy Spirit to guide them into all the truth, but in doing so also pointed out that the Holy Spirit would only speak what God the Father commanded Him to speak (Jn. 16:13). Therefore, the message the apostles proclaimed was the one the Holy Spirit give them, and it was perfect and complete in every respect because it came from God Himself.
Because that message was, and remains, perfect, it is timeless and it needs no improvement. Jude, the Lord’s half-brother, said that the faith was “once for all handed down to the saints” (Ju. 3). For this reason, there is nothing new to be added to it. There is nothing new which can improve it. It must, therefore, be proclaimed just as it was by the men who first received it from the Lord.
We must be wary of anyone who claims something new with regard to God’s will for mankind. The scriptures tell us that they are God-breathed (inspired), and that they equip us for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Since this is true, the message they proclaim is a message for all people for all time, until the Lord comes again. Let us therefore seek “the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it” (Jer. 6:16, NASB).
We sometimes chuckle as we remember things our mothers said or did as we were growing up. We are less jovial about these things when we catch ourselves saying and doing the very same things with our own children. One of the most common “mom-isms” is the question, “Do you hear me?”. It’s a simple enough question, but what cements it in our memory is the fact that it is often shouted loudly and in heated tones only inches away from a child’s ears. Most of us have had this question addressed to us in this manner, and have addressed it to our own children in the same way. The point of the question is not to check the child’s hearing, but to emphasize the expectation that the child will obey the parent’s orders on that occasion.
Our Lord, of course, was not prone to outbursts of anger, but He used several phrases that made the same point as, “Do you hear me?”. One of these was, “He who has ears, let him hear.” He used this phrase at the end of the parable of the sower (Mt. 13:9), and on several other occasions. He used similar words in each of His letters to the seven churches of Asia in Rev. 2 & 3. The point of this phrase was just what our mothers wanted us to understand. There is an expectation of obedience that accompanies what has just been said.
The Lord emphasized the need for obedience in another way at the end of the Sermon on the Mount. In Mt. 7:24-27 the Lord said that one who heard His words and did them (that is, obeyed) would be like a man who built his house on a rock. His house would withstand everything that life might throw at it. On the other hand, one who heard the Lord’s words and did not do them would be like a man who built his house on the sand. His house would fall when life came crashing down upon it. The benefits of obedience should be evident from this illustration, especially in a spiritual sense.
On another occasion, the Pharisees accused the Lord of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons (Lk. 11:15). In response to this the Lord explained that a house divided against itself will fall. Therefore, He could not be casting out demons by the power of Beelzebul. Instead, He was casting them out by the power of God, thus demonstrating that the kingdom of God had come upon them.
The Lord’s rebuttal was so eloquent and powerful that a woman standing in the crowd exclaimed, “Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed” (Lk. 11:27). To this the Lord replied, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it” (Lk. 11:28). This reply was not a sign of disrespect for His earthly mother, Mary. Rather, it was the kind of corrective statement that the Lord often made when people missed the point of His teachings.
The most important aspect of the Lord’s teaching was, and is, that we are expected not only to hear what He said, but to obey it as well. Many heard the Lord’s teachings as He went from place to place, but few actually obeyed His teaching. Some listened looking only for an opportunity to accuse Him. Others listened out of simple politeness, with no intention of acting on what He said. Those who heard and obeyed what He said were the only ones who would be blessed by God.
This is a fundamental truth that has not changed since God put Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. He expected them to hear and obey, and He still expects us to hear and obey today. If we truly want to go to heaven, we must not only hear the word of God, but we must observe it as well. Nothing else will please Him.