by Rev Bill
I read an inspirational story this week about Rudy Ruettiger.
Rudy grew up in a devout Catholic family in a small town in Illinois. Like many devout Catholic boys, his dream growing up was to attend the University of Notre Dame and play football for the Fighting Irish. Well – all the while he was told he didn't have a chance –he was too small and too dumb. In fact, Rudy was only 5'6″ and he graduated third in his class — third from the bottom, that is!
After high school Rudy went into the Navy — then spent four years working a union job at a power plant after his discharge. It was a good job — secure, good benefits, decent pay. But something within him told him this secure job was not for him. There was something else he wanted to do with his life. He wanted to play football for the Fighting Irish!
Of course, it was a ridiculous dream.
Everybody told him so.
Still, he refused to let it go. Finally, Rudy made the most important decision of his life: he decided to take control of his life — or better yet to let God take control of it. He came to the realization that it was his life, he was responsible for it, and no one else can live it for him. He decided to take control of his life away from others, and give it to God. He quit his job and moved to South Bend.
Of course, nothing had changed for him academically. He still had a poor high school transcript, and he was denied admission to Notre Dame. The admissions counselor at Notre Dame told him that if he really wanted to attend Notre Dame he would have to attend Holy Cross Junior College first. If he made straight A's four semesters in a row at Holy Cross, he would be admitted to Notre Dame. At this point in his academic career, Rudy had never made anything better than a C! However, he threw himself into his studies, and made the necessary grades – and was accepted at Notre Dame. In the process he discovered he is dyslexic, and he learned how to deal with this condition.
After getting accepted at Notre Dame, he faced his next challenge – playing football! He tried out for the Fighting Irish football team. Being 5'6″ and 190 pounds, he knew he didn't have a chance of making varsity—all he wanted was to make the squad. You see, even though a college football team dresses out about 60 players each game, there are an additional 40 or so who are on the team, and who practice everyday with the team, but never get to wear a uniform. Basically, they serve as "punching bags" for the varsity players in practice. This is the squad Rudy hoped to make. Due to his effort, he made it ahead of players who were bigger, faster, and stronger, simply because he had more heart.
For two years, Monday through Friday Rudy worked out with one of the greatest teams in college football history. On Saturday, the best 60 players suited up and Rudy watched the game from the stands, like any other fan.
In the last home game of his senior year, Rudy was given the opportunity to suit up. What had seemed impossible years before had become reality. Rudy's hard work and intense enthusiasm had caused him to become something of a local hero among the other players, the students, and the fans in South Bend. Toward the end of the game, with Notre Dame leading by more than a touchdown, the players and fans began chanting, "Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!" The coach sent Rudy in to play with 27 seconds left in the game. On the last play of the game, Rudy broke through the line and sacked the Georgia Tech quarterback. The Fighting Irish players spontaneously lifted Rudy to their shoulders and carried him off the field.
Rudy's success didn't end with a 27-second college football career. He sold Hollywood on the idea of producing his life story, and he now makes his living now writing and speaking to sales organizations and youth groups. He is an example of what can happen when an individual decides not to listen to others but to themselves – to God – and take control of their lives.
Friends — we don't have to live our lives enslaved to the thoughts, opinions and expectations of others. This is not the way God wants us to live – God wants us to take the control of our lives away from others and give it to God.
Of course, this is not to say we live our lives in total disregard for others — we must always be sensitive to the needs others – even serve others. But we cannot give to others that which belongs only to God. The decision to give the control of our lives to God frees us from the expectations of others, and empowers us to live a life committed to God – God's will for us – and God's expectations for us.
Jesus gives us a perfect image of this type of independence – this life of giving control of His life to God. He has been called "The Man For Others," yet, when you read the Gospels, you get the impression that he was "His own man" — or more aptly put – God's man.
Our Gospel lesson for today is an example in the life of Jesus that can show us how to live our lives under God's control and by God's expectations instead of the control or expectation of others. In this passage from Mark 6 it is still in the early stages of Jesus' ministry. He had performed some miracles throughout the country and had begun to establish a name for himself. Then he visited his hometown. As an itinerant Rabbi, Jewish custom dictated that he be invited to speak at the synagogue. When he did, the people were shocked by his words. They said among themselves: "Who does he think he is? Isn't this the carpenter? Isn't this the son of Mary? Don't we know his brothers and sisters?" The people who heard his message become outraged – this was not who they thought Jesus was – or what they thought Jesus should be saying or doing.
Jesus merely replied, "Only in his hometown is a prophet without honor." Then the Bible says that he was unable to perform many miracles there because of their unbelief.
I think we see here three keys to giving God control of your life and living under His control and His expectations for our lives instead of the control and expectations of others.
1. Don't let anyone else define you.
The people in his hometown had a specific opinion of who they thought Jesus was and who they thought He should be. They saw him a certain way: as a carpenter, the son of Mary, a member of his family. That was all they saw. Those were the only roles they saw Jesus in – and they were not willing to see Him as anything else.
Jesus, however, saw Himself differently. He saw himself as God's Son…as the Messiah…as the one who would die for the sins of the world. Jesus refused to let anyone else define who He was or what He should do. He let God define who He was and what He was to do with His life.
You probably know this to be true in your life. Just like Jesus…just like Rudy Ruettiger…there may be people in your life who have an idea of who they think you are and what they think you should do – which may be the opposite of who God knows you are and what God wants you to do. Many times others' ideas of who you are and what you should be doing only serve to limit you.
I heard a story of a busboy at a restaurant in Nashville. The "house band" at the restaurant was pretty good – but never did more than be the "house band" at that restaurant. The busboy knew he was a good musician – and asked this band if he could "sit in". The band members didn't laugh at him behind his back—they laughed at him to his face. They saw him as just a busboy—and a big hick. The busboy, however, saw himself differently. He saw himself as a musician…as a potential country superstar. He refused to let the band members and others define him; he knew he would make a name for himself. Finally he did make a name for himself: Randy Travis.
How about you? How do others define you? Maybe they see you as "only" a busboy…or a housewife…or a teacher…or a salesman…or a retired person… and on and on. But God sees you in a different way. He doesn't see you in terms of who you are right now and where you've been, he sees you in terms of who you can be.
Don't let others tell you who you are! Let God tell you who you really are – and live by how God sees you.
So – first of all –
Don't let anyone define you.
Second — Don't let others judge you.
In verse 3 of our passage it says the people "took offense" at Jesus.
Why were they offended at Jesus?
Because He didn't fit into their preconceived idea of who they thought he should be. He refused to fit into their preconceived notions of what they thought Jesus should do – so they judged him—they took offense at him. How did Jesus respond? He said, in effect, "You don't get it. A prophet has honor everywhere but in his own hometown…and you don't get what I'm trying to do."
I read not long ago about "people who don't get it." You know – people who don't understand even simple things. The people for whom instructions from small-appliance instruction manuals have warnings they shouldn't have to have … like the hair dryers that warn "Do not use submerge this appliance in water" — or the knife-set that says: "Warning! Blade is sharp. Keep away from children" – or the warnings fast food restaurants put on their coffee cups: "Caution – Contents hot"!
The article I was reading was pointing out the fact that some folks just don't get it. The author of the article pointed out that many folks use poor judgment when using appliances or when judging other people. He wrote from experience. Many underestimated his abilities in his early years. He had epilepsy, dyslexia, and other disabilities that caused doctors, counselors, and teachers to warn that him that he would never be able to function or graduate from high school. Yet, through the help of his faith in Christ, he overcame his obstacles and graduated with honors…and went to college on a full academic scholarship. You see – he refused to let the poor judgment of others prevent him from being all that God called him to be.
Be prepared. When it comes to doing God's will in your life, some people won't get it. They may accuse you of impure motives, or selfish ambition, or trying to get ahead of God, or any other number of things— but you cannot afford to allow yourself to listen to their judgmental comments.
A Little League coach once told me that he coached a 9-10 year old team who won the league championship, so he was asked to coach the League All-Star team. As he began preparing the team for it's first tournament, the coach from the team the year before him some solemn advice:
"If you are out here to make friends, QUIT NOW! You've got 14 great players who are used to playing all the time, and 14 sets of devoted parents who have sacrificed to help their child make it to this level and only nine positions to fill. None of them will understand why they have to be one of the ones who sit on the bench part of the time. Plus, every other coach in this league will second guess every decision you make. If you lose, it's your fault. If you win, it's because you had a good team. So don't be expect to be the hero. And whatever you do, whatever coaching decision you make, you're the one that has to live with it…so do what you feel is best."
Though this is just Little League, and hardly a matter of life and death, these sobering words prepared the coach for the challenge before him. They also served to remind him of the fact that we cannot let the opinions of others keep us from doing what we know we should be doing with our lives. The team won a few games – then lost in the tournament. The coach shared with me that he will no longer coach Little League Baseball All Star teams – but might start dong something less dangerous — like wrestling lions!
Walt Kallestad, pastor of Community Church of Joy in Phoenix, Arizona, said he thought when he began to succeed that others would be happy for him. They weren't. People in his denomination accused him of compromising the message, other churches in town accused him of stealing members, and even some of the members of the congregation accused him of trying to build his own kingdom. Walt refused to let others judge him. Instead, he considers it his task to judge himself in light of the calling God has placed on his life.
Taking control of your own life – letting God take control of your life and following God's plan instead of the plans others may have – means:
You don't let others define you
You don't let others judge you,
and thirdly… You don't let others hold you back.
Verses v. 5-6 of Mark 6 say about Jesus:
He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith.
If Jesus had stayed in Nazareth (his hometown), he may have never accomplished what God called him to do. People who follow God's will for their lives instead of the plans of others for them recognize when something isn't working, and they move on. This happens in all kinds of situations. Workers who seem like underachievers in one job often excel in a new one. They haven't changed, the situation has.
Sometimes when what we are doing is not working out, we have a tendency to say, "I'm sorry. It's not you…it's me." We think that is being "humble." Sometimes that may be true. But there are times, though, when we might have to realize that God's plan is for us to move on and do something else – and let someone else do what we are doing.
This is what Jesus did in Nazareth. He was unable to perform miracles there because of their lack of faith. So what did he do? Stay in Nazareth and flounder? No. He moved on. He also taught his disciples to do the same thing.
In verse 11 of Matthew 6 He told His disciples:
If anyplace will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave…
He was saying, in effect, that we have to find our place and our ministry – and not flounder under other's expectations of us. Follow God and God's will for your life – and don't let others hold you back.
So — Taking control of your own life – letting God take control of your life and following God's plan instead of the plans others may have – means:
You don't let others define you
You don't let others judge you,
You don't let others hold you back.
God wants us to be like Jesus.
Many times we make the mistake of thinking this means being "meek" and "mild" and being someone's doormat. While Jesus did serve others — Jesus was no one's doormat. As you examine the life of Christ, you see the profile of an independent, Godly, strong man. He was not proud, or arrogant, or egotistical; but He was strong and self-assured. He knew who he was – who God called Him to be — and where he was going – what God called Him to be doing. He knew the work that God had called Him to do, and He didn't put his self-worth up for vote others to vote on – He was willing to follow God's see Himself as God saw Him –- and do what God wanted Him to do – whether it was how others saw Him or what others wanted Him to do or not.
To be like Christ is to let God control our lives instead of the opinions of others.
This means we don't let others define who we are; we let God tell us who we are.
This means that we don't let others judge us; we have God as our judge.
This means that we don't let others hold us back; we let God move us forward.
If we are going to follow God, we have to let God take control of our lives.
If this Church is going to follow God, God has to take control of this Church.
As the Wentworth Presbyterian Church prepares to move into a new chapter in it's rich history as Sally and I move to South Carolina next month, there may be a lot of people with a lot of opinions about what the Church can do and should do.
Some may give the opinion that this Church can not expect to do much. It's a small Church with not much growth potential – and you might as well accept that
You know what – God just might have another opinion.
God might have great things in store for this Church.
I pray that God does have great things in store for you and you shock everybody.
I pray that this Church excels – like Rudy Ruettiger – accomplishing things others may say are impossible – doing God's work in a strong way in this community.
For this to happen, you are going to have to let God take control.
This means that you can't let others define who you are as a Church – you have to let God tell you who you are.
This means that you can't let others judge what this Church can and can't do – you have to let God be the judge of that.
This means that you can't let others hold you back; you have to let God move you forward.
As individuals and as a Church –
Don't let others be in control of your life – don't live by how others define you – don't let others judge what you can and can not do – but let God be in control – let God define you – let God be the judge of who you are and what you can do.
If others are in control of you – if others are in control of this Church — you may not accomplish much – as individuals or as a Church. If God is in control of you – as a Church and as individuals – you and the "others" just might be surprised as what you can do.
Offended by the Nice Little Kid from Nazareth
by Edward F. Markquart, Seattle, Washington
God Wants You to Walk by Faith
by Pete Benson
I Know That Boy
by The Rev. J. Curtis Goforth, O.S.L.
by Larry Broding
First Thoughts on Mark 6:1-13
by William Loader, Murdoch University, Australia
You Cannot Go Home Again
by Alan Carr
The Master's Men
by Alan Carr
Sermons, Bible Commentaries and Bible Analyses for the 4th Sunday after Denaha (Baptism of our Lord)
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