Make the Most of 2018 – Keep God’s Kingdom First!

BELIEVE    FOCUS            Make the Most of 2018 — Keep God’s Kingdom First!

God has given each of us a brand new year of life.  What do you want to do with this new year of life?  Do you want to get the most out of it that you possibly can?  I think everyone would like to make the most of 2018 and every day of their life.  The challenge is how to do it?

We all start off with great hopes and dreams – but far too many people end up living lives of silent desperation.  How can we overcome our enemy the devil – who is constantly looking for ways to destroy us?  How can we get through all of the problems of the world, financial challenges, illnesses, difficulties with our children – and a million other daily problems – to reach the abundant and eternal life that Jesus was born on Christmas day to bring to us?  A big part of the answer is deciding if you are going to spend your life trying to catch 2 rabbits?  Or, Are willing to focus your life on catching one rabbit?  

Can You Catch 2  RABBITS

Why was Jesus born?  What motivated Jesus to come in to our world?  The Bible teaches us that Jesus was willing to come down from the beauty and brilliance of perfect heaven to be born in a stinking, freezing barn – in order to bring you and me the greatest of all gifts – Salvation = Abundant life in this world and Eternal life in heaven.  Jesus was willing to leave heaven and come into this world – in order to give you the power and the guidance you need to work through every challenge and every battle to be able to make the most of your life in this world and your eternity.

Jesus came to give you the help you need for every day and all the way through this world until you get to heaven.  Jesus did His part – but in order to get the value out of His gift – everyone has to be willing to do their part.  If you really want the gift Jesus came to bring you – you have to do your part by choosing to focus your life.

Jesus did His best to make sure that everyone knew they could have His gift of Salvation.  Salvation is available to everyone – but you won’t get the power and value out of the gift – unless you are willing to focus your life.

It might be similar to you telling me that you really want to get healthy.  So, for Christmas, I gave you a brand new, top of the line BowFlex Max M7 trainer.  Does me giving you that BowFlex trainer – automatically make you healthy?  No.  What do you have to do to get the value out of that gift?  You have to commit to using it!

Jesus told the whole world – that His gift of Salvation is available to everyone.  Jesus also told the whole world – there is a condition to getting the value out of that gift.  You have to be willing to do your part – you have to be willing to focus your life.  Take a good look at how Jesus describes focusing your life – you have to choose one master.

Matthew 6:24-25 (NLT)    No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and material things.  That is why I tell you not to worry about the needs for everyday life… 

Jesus teaches us that we can all have salvation – it’s available free of charge to everyone.  But receiving Salvation – is not saying a few words or swallowing a magic pill – it is receiving God’s power and guidance to follow the path of life.

Jesus shows us that if we really want the gift of salvation – we have to choose one master – we can’t serve both God and material desires.  One picture that helps me to understand what Jesus is saying to us – is what happens if you try to catch 2 rabbits?  You end up frustrated and empty handed every time.  You have to choose one rabbit – because you will never be able to catch 2 rabbits at the same time.

Jesus teaches us that it is very important to think carefully about which rabbit you are chasing.  Which rabbit would you say that most people are chasing in our world today?  If you look around – it’s easy to see that the majority of people are choosing to chase the rabbit of material things because material things promise us instant gratification.

If you buy a new iPhone – you can have instant happiness.  If you jump in bed with someone, you can have instant happiness.  If you take a powerful drug, you can have instant happiness.

The problem is that instant happiness doesn’t lead to lasting happiness – does it?  How long will a new iPhone keep you happy?  What happens when you wake up in bed the next morning with someone who isn’t committed to you?  What happens after the great high of the pill wears off?

To help people overcome the temptation to make material things their master – I encourage them to go to a junk yard.  Take a good look around and see what happens to the things that 10 years ago people were convinced that they had to have and couldn’t live without?  Look at those material things – and think about the price that a lot of people paid for them.  Some of them lost their health working overtime.  Some of them lost their marriages and families – because they invested their best time and energy in things instead of the key people in their lives. 

Jesus wants to help all of us to realize that you can’t catch 2 rabbits.  You need to think carefully about the master of your life.  If you chase material things – you will get temporary happiness and long-term disappointment.  If you focus on pursuing God’s Kingdom and keeping it in first place – God will give you lasting happiness and God will provide for you all of the temporary material things you need.

Matthew 6:32-33 (NLT)    Concerns about material things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.  Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and God will give you everything you need.  

The Apostle Paul learned the value of focus from Jesus.  Paul started his life pursuing fame and fortune.  Paul graduated at the top of his class from the leading schools of his time.  Paul was the top of his class in a group of new leaders for Judaism.  Paul had everything going for him – as far as society was concerned – but he discovered that focusing on fame and fortune were worthless compared to the gift of Salvation.

Philippians 3:8-10 (MSG)    All the things I once thought were so important are worthless, compared to the high privilege of knowing Jesus Christ as my Savior.  …I gave up inferior things so I could focus on knowing Christ, and experience His resurrection power

Paul wants to help us to learn from his experience – how to chase the right rabbit, to choose the right Master – so that we can receive all of the blessings that Jesus came to bring us.  Jesus was born in a barn – to offer the whole world the gift we all need more than any other gift – Salvation.  Everyone can have the gift – but there is a price to pay if you want to receive the full value of the gift of salvation.  We have to decide if we are willing to keep growing in that gift – by making the commitment to keep learning. 

Are You Willing to KEEP  LEARNING

It’s pretty easy to say in your mind – I want to make the most of 2018.  You might even write down a list of New Year’s resolutions to help you get started.  And you start following those New Year’s resolutions with good intentions.  But, do you know how long most New Year’s resolutions last?  80% fail in the first month.  Why do resolutions fail?  It’s not because they are bad goals.  The big problem is the work that is required to move from having a goal to actually reaching that goal.

Let’s go back to the picture of you telling me that you really wanted to get healthy in 2018.  So I spent the $2,000.00 and gave you the Christmas gift of a brand new BowFlex Max M7 Trainer.  It’s a great tool – but will you get all of the benefit out of it – in one day?  One week?  Or one month?  How long do you have to keep using the gift to get all of the good health that the gift has to offer you?

It’s a life-long commitment, isn’t it?  When it comes to the gift of Jesus, some people like to talk about the day they were saved.  That’s great.  What they don’t realize – is the day that you say yes and invite Jesus to be your Savior – is not the day that your journey is over and all the work is done.  The day you said yes to Jesus is the day you started the journey – and every day after that you have to keep deciding am I going to keep growing in this gift?  The Apostle Paul shows us what it means to make a commitment to stay focused and keep growing in the gift Jesus came to bring us.

Philippians 3:12 (TLB)    I don’t mean to say I am perfect. I haven’t learned all I should even yet, but I keep working  toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ saved me for and wants me to be.

To get the most out of 2018 and every day of your life – Jesus teaches us that we have to focus and choose the right master.  The Apostle Paul shows us that we have to stay focused and keep working every day – and Paul helps us to understand that life is not always going to go according to plans.   

Life Doesn’t Always  GO  ACCORDING  to  PLAN 

We talked a little earlier about the fact that just sitting down and writing out a plan – does not mean that you have done everything you will have to do to reach your goal.  Plans are good and plans are helpful.  The problem is that life does not always go according to plan.  Paul shows us that he had a plan and he had good intentions.  But he still made mistakes.  So, what do you do, when you messed up?  You can sit and have a pity party, or you can ask God to help you let go of your past mistakes and focus on the future that God wants to help lead you into.

Philippians 3:13 (TLB)    I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one thing: Letting go of the past and focusing on what lies ahead…

On Monday, we started a Men’s Study on a book by Christian athlete Tim Tebow.  You might remember that Tim Tebow looked like he was on the path to fame and fortune in football.  He became the first college sophomore in history to win the Heisman trophy – by leading his team the University of Florida Gators to the 2006 College National Championship.  He led the Gators to another National Championship in 2008.  He was drafted in the first round of the NFL draft by the Denver Broncos.  He helped to lead the Broncos to the playoffs – and then things began to unravel.  Tim Tebow had a plan of being a great NFL quarterback.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t the right fit – and he had to decide if he was going to stay angry – or if he would let go of all of the hopes and dreams of his past and let God lead him into the plans that God had for his life.

Tim Tebow is very honest in his book about how hard it is to let go of our plans and dreams.  He shared the lesson from the boxer Mike Tyson – Everyone has a plan, until they get hit in the mouth.  Tim Tebow had a very hard time letting go of the past.  For 20 years – he had been told that he was the best football player anyone had ever seen – but it wasn’t enough to make him a great NFL quarterback.

It’s not easy for Tim Tebow or any of us to let go of our plans and dreams.  But when we make mistakes or things don’t work out the way we had hoped – what are we going to do?  Are you going to stay stuck in a pity party?  Or will you ask God to help you to focus on what lies ahead?

Tim Tebow decided to focus on trusting God to lead him forward.  He wrote the book our group started studying based on the scripture that helped him to overcome his disappointment, to let go of the past – and focus on the future God has for him. 

 Psalm 16:8 (NLT)     I know the LORD is always with me.  I will not be shaken.  For God is right beside me.

Most of us have never had to deal with losing a dream of being a great NFL quarterback.  But all of us have had to deal with plans and dreams that didn’t work out for us.  And like the Apostle Paul and Tim Tebow – we all have to decide – Am I going to be mad and sad?  Or will I ask God to help me let go of the past and focus on what lies ahead?  Will I focus on growing in my faith?  Trusting that God is always with me.  Knowing that I will not be shaken – because God is always right beside me.

Jesus was born in a freezing, stinking barn to bring you the most important of all gifts Salvation.  Jesus wants to help you make the most of His gift by:  Choosing the right Master.  Making the Commitment to Keep Learning.  Be willing to Let Go of the Past.  And by having confidence that you can reach the goal.

YOU  CAN  Reach the Goal! 

The Bible teaches us that our journey of faith is like running a Marathon.  You don’t get the prize when you tell everyone you are going to run a Marathon – do you?  You don’t get the prize when you show up at the starting line.  You don’t get the prize at the half-way point.  Where do you get the prize for running a Marathon?  At the finish line.  As you look at how you are going to make the most of 2018, your life, and your eternity – God wants you to know that you can reach the goal.  Join the Apostle Paul in making your commitment to stay focused on Jesus – and you can receive everything God has planned and prepared for you.

Philippians 3:14-15 (MSG)    I am committed to reaching the goal and receiving the prize for which God called me through Christ to eternal life in heaven.  Let’s keep focused on the goal, those of us who want everything God has planned and prepared for us!

Wanting to make the most of life is easy.  Everyone wants to make the most of their lives.  But how many people are willing to follow through and pay the price that is required to reach the goal that God has planned and prepared for each of us?

God is reaching out to you this morning – to help you know that you can make it.  God became human in Jesus Christ – to help you stop trying to catch 2 rabbits and focus on following the Right Master.  God wants to give you the strength you need – to Keep Learning, To Let Go of the Past, and to know that you can reach the Goal.

God is reaching out to you this morning – to help you focus your life and receive all of the blessings that Jesus came to bring to you.

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