The Main Event
September 15, 2013
Any fighter knows that to fight and win, he or she must be trained to take on their opponent. They must have a strategy in place. And they’ve got to be prepared for the opening bell of the main event.
In this message, Pastor Ed Young opens the pages of Scripture to help us train for our opponent and discover God’s strategy for the fight of our lives. Then, when we step into the family octagon, we’re prepared for the main event!
Good morning! I want to welcome everyone to Fellowship Church. All of our different environments, different places. How are you guys doing? Welcome, welcome, welcome. Today we’re talking about the Family Octagon. The family is the ultimate fight because we’re fighting for the ultimate. So before we get into this let me have a word of prayer.
God, every single person here hearing my voice is a member of a family. We have sons, daughters, grandparents, uncles, spouses, single parents, those who are going through divorce. Speak to our hearts, God, at our deepest point of need. No one is here by accident. We’re here for a reason. We ask all these things in Christ’s name. Amen.
When you walked into all of our environments you received a pre-fight weigh-in. Do you have a pre-fight weigh-in? It doesn’t matter if you’re a student, it doesn’t matter if you’re a single, doesn’t matter if you’ve been married with 17 kids, take this pre-fight weigh-in test out. Now last time we took the test and we talked about some of these questions. Hopefully you can take the test very, very rapidly and when you do you can fill out your score. For example if you scored perfectly, if you aced the test, you got a 24. If you did pretty well, I mean OK, mediocre, you scored about a 16. Now if you got an 8 or less (that’s impossible), between an 8-16 you need some improvement. Again, it doesn’t matter what stage or age you are this test is for you. If you’re a kid and you’re like, “I can’t take this test.” Think about your parents, think about your family. Maybe you’re a single parent and you’re not sure. Think about what you want your family to look like.
Now last time after we took this test we said, hey, we’re gonna talk to some couples at Fellowship Church about the answers, about these questions, about some of their struggles. So we filmed some of these couples talking about the answers and the questions of this pre-fight weigh-in test. Because remember, we’re all in the Family Octagon. Watch this.
Ed: First question, there are 8 questions because there are 8 sides to the octagon, the first question: Do you go on a date with your spouse at least twice a month?
- We have to actually schedule it in because Lee is so busy with basketball.
- Between always and sometimes.
- We’ve done at least once, one date this year, so we have one tomorrow.
Ed: Do you eat dinner as a family three times per week?
- I like to cook so that’s something that we do quite often.
- We frequently end up at the dinner table together.
- Whether they like the food or not.
- And we may have to eat early on some nights but we make it work.
Ed: Do your children sleep in their own beds every night? Somebody help me!
- Yes, sir!
- Every single night.
- I don’t think they have ever slept in our bed.
Ed: Our kids would have nightmares, they’d come in the room and I’d be like, “Lisa get up.” So Lisa would get up and…
- We had to really nip that in the bud because we would not get any rest or any peace.
- Or other things.
Ed: Do you have sexual intimacy with your spouse two times per day?
- Hot dang!
Ed: Oh I’m sorry. I meant a week.
- That would be an “always.”
Ed: I woke some guys up. “Amen! I love this church!”
- It gets hard scheduling it in. Yeah, we’re satisfied
Ed: Number 5, do you and your spouse present a unified front (oh man) when children question your authority?
- I always say, “What did dad say?”
- “What did mom say?”
- We have a line that just says, we’re a team.
- If we don’t come together he just gets right in there.
Ed: Number 6, do you have a set bedtime for your kids that is consistently enforced?
- Yes, he’s always… I won’t say always…
- They don’t fight it, they understand it. That’s what it is. That’s when they go to bed.
- 8:30 but 90% of the time before 9:15.
Ed: Seven – Do you regularly evaluate your calendar to prevent ECA-itis.
- Oh yeah, that’s a 3. We have to make sure we have all those schedules with the basketball.
Ed: Number 8, is weekly church attendance a priority for you and your family?
- It is. I mean, with a 3-year-old we want to make sure that he’s being brought up the right way.
- Absolutely, yeah.
- Nothing comes before coming to The House.
Ed: We’ve gotta fight to keep God first in our lives and in the family unit.
Those are pretty revealing questions, aren’t they? Again, it doesn’t matter what stage or age you find yourself in, this series is for you. All of us are preparing (remember this?) for the next season of life. So whoever you are, wherever you are, this can relate. Hopefully by the end of this series we will be able to go, “Man, I’m gonna score a 3. I know what it takes to score a 3, on every single question.”
The three big things we’ve been talking about in the Family Octagon, because again I will say the family is an ultimate fight because we’re fighting for the ultimate. The thing we’ve been talking about the Octagon, because there are three rounds in most UFC fights, we’ve been talking about love, the whole concept of love and loving. We’ve been talking about fighting. That’s right. Conflict, battling in relationship. And we’ve been talking about winning. Love, fight, win. Love is the fuel for the fight to win every single time. That’s right. Our great God wants all of us to win relationally. God does. What did God do? Love, fight, win. God loved the world so much he commissioned Jesus Christ to live a perfect life, a totally righteous life. He loved us. Love must have an object, we’re the object of God’s love.
Jesus fought. I think too often we of Jesus as a pale and frail guy, sort of an emaciated-looking, pasty white boy. Just the opposite is true! Jesus, think about a warrior. Think about a conqueror. Think about a fighter. He fought the good fight. He performed perfectly, died sacrificially, rose again. Jesus rose from the grave and when he rose from the grave what happened? He won. And we win. So he wants us to win. Love, fight, win.
Well how do we win? That’s the question we’re going to address over the next several minutes. How do we win? What does it look like to be successful? What do you mean, Ed, that family is to win? What are you talking about?
Well the first thing is we have to realize the formula that God has for the family. God has a formula, a fantastic formula, for all families here. Remember, everybody is a member of a family. When we’re born (I was born March 16, 1961. I’m fitty-two years old), when I was born I was born into a family. Parents – mom and dad. Maybe you know your parents, maybe you’ve never even known your parents. I don’t know. So on one hand I was born into a family. On the other hand I was born, the Bible tells me, estranged and separated from God. When God sent Jesus to die on the cross for my sins and your sins and rise again, Jesus did the adoptive work. He reconciled us to God, thereby giving us an opportunity to receive Christ and to be (are you ready for this phrase?) born again.
Now when I threw that phrase out some of you were like, “Oh, I heard that. Yeah, the media talks about that. Born again, born again, what is born again? It’s kind of a weird evangelical catch-phrase.” No, it’s deep. Those people who just say born again don’t even know what they’re saying. I’ve got a spiritual birthday. I’m born again. I’ve got a physical birthday, I’m born. So I’m born once physically, then I have an opportunity to be born again through Christ. I’m born into the family of God. So I’m born again and I make that decision.
When I was born I didn’t make the decision to be born physically. I mean, I didn’t tell my parents, “Hey, why don’t you conceive…” No, I didn’t have a decision in the matter. But when I’m born again I’ve got a choice in the matter. I’ve got a decision. So once we make that decision then we discover what it means to love, fight, and win. We can understand the formula.
See my hair? My hair looks red, doesn’t it? You notice that? It looks red. Last night right before the service I thought, man, I’m gonna dye my hair. So I put this formula in it and it turned it blonde. I’m talking about professional wrestler Rick Flare blonde. And I’m like, “Man, I can’t go out there like that!” so I had some other color and I put this other color on. I thought I’d get it real dark because my natural color is dark. Turned it red. Wow. That’s funky. I look like my mother – not that that’s bad – my mother’s hair is this color. Well the formula didn’t work, right? And hopefully between this service and the next I’ll get it right. Because I’m going upstairs and I’m gonna color my hair again. My hair might be falling out. It’s all messed up.
See the formula I think, and I thought, would work didn’t work. And that’s where our culture is where it comes to the family. We’re like, “Oh, I know what works. I know what works.” And what do we say in the culture? It sounds so sexy, so cool. Oh-Family first! Kids first! I’ve been trying to find those Scriptures. They’re not in the book. They’re not in the Bible. That’s not a part of God’s formula. Family first or kids first. Isn’t that odd? Well in reality it’s not odd because God says very simply, if you want to know how to love your family the best, love me the most. We love God with our priorities, with the totality of who we are, and then because of that love, because of that position, because of that priority we love our spouse. Or maybe you’re a single parent, your kids or your future spouse. The Bible says in Matthew 6:33, and I love this verse, it’s one of my favorite verses. But most of us read this verse very, very softly and we put it on coffee mugs and t-shirts and we say, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” Notice here the priority first, and notice the purity, righteousness, and also the provision. All the things. Isn’t that sweet and kind? Amen.
That’s not the way the verse should be read! This is a powerful, power-packed verse. This is a verse that has testosterone dripping all over it. It should be like I’m in the Octagon. Seek first! His kingdom in the ringdom! Seek first his righteousness, and all these things will be added.” That’s my best stab at being a UFC fighter. Sorry. I’m 52 years old. Gimme a break. And all these things will be added unto you. We’re talking about priorities here. In the Octagon, the family is the ultimate fight. We’re fighting for the ultimate.
How many people understand that the family is a fight? It’s a fight at my house. Yeah. I think all of us, when it comes to the family situation, especially parents, we’ve woken up one day and we’ve gone, “I just got pumped! Because it’s hard. It’s not easy. It is well worth the fight. And here’s the cool thing about the ring. God says do it my way. Priorities are basically the decision before the decision. Say that with me. The decision before the decision. I seek God first. Not my kids, not my spouse, not my career, God first. God first. And the priorities have already been decided for us in the Octagon. God, spouse, children. Say it with me. God, spouse, children. Once again. God, spouse, children. All you have to do is read the Scriptures. Thumb through Ephesians 5, chapter 6, say it with me again. God, spouse, children. That’s a tall order, yet when God is at the top of the order my family is in order.
Conversely, when I’m seeking Lisa first or my children first, God comes in second, God is not a runner up God. He’s not. We have this desire, this thirst for first, don’t we? What do we talk about first? Listen to sports radio. Who’s first? Who’s first? ESPN, first, first, first. Who’s first in the beauty pageant? Who’s first in the home décor contest? Who’s first? Who’s first? We have a desire, a thirst, for first. I’ve never seen foam fingers that say, “We’re #4!” I’ve never seen someone say, “Hey, let’s talk about the middle of the pack in the SEC. It’s a very interesting race.” We don’t care about that. I want to talk about first. We’re made for first. I think we have a thirst for first. We’re made in the image of God. God – that’s right, our great God – wants us to do what? To put him first.
You might be going, “Well, Ed, you don’t understand, my brother. My family is in complete chaos. You don’t get it.” When God looks at chaos, you know what God sees? Order waiting to happen. He sees potential in your life and mine. He sees order waiting to happen. So seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things (notice the context here) the things it takes to live and survive will be added to you. God’s way works. We seek him first. First. First. And he will take care of the rest. Is that a great verse? It’s not easy. It’s a tough verse. That’s the formula that God wants us to realize and understand.
The next thing I want to tell you is I want to tell you about a focus. We’ve got a formula but also a focus. When we understand the formula (God, spouse, and children) – and isn’t it interesting? The first relationship always to slide is the marriage. Isn’t that interesting? It’s usually the marriage over your relationship with your kids, and my relationship with my kids. I just have an easier time putting my marriage on the back burner as opposed to other relationships in my life. Why is that true? Because the enemy knows if we get our focus messed up or we get anything out of focus that he has us where he wants us. One of the major ways he likes to do that is in the context of marriage. Are you focused on keeping God #1? Are you living out those commitments that reflect your priorities? Because remember, when it comes to priorities it’s the decision before the decision. When it comes to priorities we don’t have to debate or discuss priorities. It’s like, “I wonder what my priorities should be? What are my priorities, what? What?” It’s not what, it’s who? God, spouse, kids. They’ve already been decided. So God has given us this incredible knowledge and this will to just simply agree to what he’s already agreed on. Isn’t that great? I could live my life and go, wow, the decision has been made before the decision so the decision’s been made. I can just chill, man. I can just do what God wants me to do in the Octagon because the decision has been made before the decision. Priorities – advance decision-making.
The rub comes in with our commitments. We are either people of commitments, we either kick out those commitments, or we’re people of the omit-ments. And so often we omit things we should commit to. It’s like the Harvard study I talked about last time in the Harvard Business Review. Harvard did a study and said when it comes to priorities, priorities aren’t the big argument, it’s the commitment. And Harvard concluded that many people are committed but they’re committed to the wrong stuff and the commitments don’t line up with the priorities.
Well, I’ve been saying that, God’s been saying that for thousands of years! Seek first the kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you. We’ve got to focus on God. But I’m telling you, parenting isn’t easy. It isn’t easy.
Just this week my children – and they’re adult children – the twins who are 19, son who is 21, and our oldest daughter is 26. Just this week one of the kids came up to me and tried to play Lisa against me. Does that ever happen to you as a parent? Yeah, yeah. So Lisa sent this text out, and I got it, and it was a beautifully written text about a matter that one of our kids was dealing with. And this adult child comes up to me because Lisa is out of town this weekend speaking, and this child goes, “Dad, can you believe what Mom said? Did you get the text? I mean I just don’t….” Now I’ve not always done this right but one of the major things when you’re focusing on seeking God first is to present to your kids a unified front. You might be in a blended family, a single parent family, that’s a tall order, isn’t it? It’s a tall order even if you’re in like the nuclear family with 2.3 kids. And I said, “Whoa! Ho-ho-ho!!” That loud. And some people say, “You mean you raised your voice?” Yes! What does discipline look like in your family? I’m telling you! I said,
“I got your mom’s back! She’s exactly right. For example what if you were her and what if she was you? What would you say?” Just like that.
“Well, I never looked at it that way.” Yeah, OK. We’re together. So she finally is getting it. It’s taken us 19 years. She’s finally … that’s what I’m talking about! That doesn’t mean I yell all the time or you yell all the time but sometimes I do.
I think so often we’re like, “Oh, whatever you think. Whatever you feel. Let me hear your rationale. Oh that’s a really good argument.” No. I’m the parent! You’re the parent! It’s great to be friends and all that but we’re parents first! We focus on doing what? Pleasing God. God is the one who made up the essence of the family. He loves us, he disciplines us. He doesn’t punish us. The punishment was taken on the cross 2,000 years ago. God disciplines us out of love. However, he allows us to suffer consequences, both good and bad. And as parents we’ve got to do that.
Obviously it ain’t working in our culture very well. I mean, just look around. There are jacked up families. Just look around and see what’s going on. Look around and see what people are exposed to. We’ve got to focus on the right stuff. I love what the apostle Paul penned. He said in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I’ve fought the good fight.” So don’t tell me, “This UFC/MMA stuff is too violent. I’m not sure about it!” One of the first things I learned in my four years in seminary and doing doctrinal work is simply this. The two major illustrations that the Scripture writers used in talking about the Christian life, #1- that of an athlete. #2 – that of a warrior, a fighter. So this is Bible here, man! Don’t be telling me, “Oh I can’t believe it’s just tough and rugged and you’re fighting it out.” We are fighting it out. We’re fighting against the enemy. And in our families we need to understand we should be fighting for what God wants but too often we’re fighting just in the family.
Just the other day our kids were nyah-nyah-ing at each other. “Nyah-nyah. nyah-nyah- nyah-nyah- nyah-nyah…” And Lisa goes, “Hey guys! We’re on the same team! We’re on the same team! We’re family!” I mean, when all Hell breaks loose we’re all each other’s got. We’ve got God, obviously. But after that we’ve got each other. We need to understand that, parents. We need to lead out in that, parents. Because those values are more caught than taught.
What happens though? Someone is born. That’s right, we’re born into a family. We’re born into the Octagon and a little baby is so cute and a little baby at a young age looks around the Octagon and goes, “You know what? I can make my parents submit. I can kick their butt.” And a little baby – that’s right, that beautiful bundle of joy. I love babies and I know everybody does – kicks mom and dad’s butt. Because early the home is diaper-driven, and what starts out as a stage becomes the rage and it becomes just normal. And we revolve everything around the child. And one the child feels like, “Man, I’m the man! I’m the woman! I’m the champion! I’m ranked #1!” Once they have that #1 ranking it takes a fight, a fight to put order in the chaos. But our culture tells us it’s the kids, it’s the kids, it’s the kids. Our culture says it’s the family first, family first, family first. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t work. God is the author of the family. He says, “Do it my way.” And if we put God first then we’ll love each other the best. When we put God first I love Lisa the best and I love my children the best. When I put God first, I love Lisa the best and my children the best. It’s a fight! My priorities have been settled. Do I commit to those priorities, the who? Or not? That’s the question. My formula doesn’t work. You think it does, look at my red head.
God wants us to focus like never before. Notice something else. He wants us to release our fortitude. He wants us to release our guts. He wants us to crash through quitting points, as I love to say. And in the family and in marriage we all have quitting points. Hello. We all do. It’s like, “Man, I’m done. I’ve had enough. I got pumped. The shine is worn off, you know what I’m saying?” What do we do? Towering question. We seek God first. Even though we don’t feel like putting our spouse behind God. We might not feel it, we do it. Because it’s easier to act your way into a feeling than to feel your way into an action. “Oh I just don’t feel love any more. I just don’t love… I just don’t feel it.” Well I don’t either always. Join the club!
You think Jesus always felt like doing what he did for us? “Oh I just feel like being whipped and tortured and I feel like going to a Roman cross.” You think he felt that? What? What?! Oh man, but our culture says if you feel it, it must be real. Man if I did what I felt like I’d be the craziest guy in the world. No wonder we got chaos. But when God sees chaos he goes, “Man, that’s order waiting to happen. I want you to do stuff my way! I designed you! I designed you for all the stuff.” But the fortitude…
One of my favorite scriptures is Psalm 37. It says, “Commit your way to the Lord, trust in him and he will do this. He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.” Lisa and I have written many books about this. We’ve written many books about parenting. And I can tell you, there have been times in our marriage where Lisa and I didn’t feel it but we went on a date night. But we didn’t feel it. There were many times I didn’t feel like spending time or disciplining the kids. Oh man! I will just let Lisa do that. You know what the word ‘dad’ means? Divinely Appointed Decision-maker. Do the research.
Do you realize little girls sort of grow up naturally feminine and they just kinda know what it means to be a girl? Little boys, they don’t… unless they’ve got a father or male figure. I just talked to a young lady, a single parent, and she’s doing something so, so wise. She is bringing her son, her 10-year-old son, around people who are strong, male role models. The father of the child is a dope addict, he’s involved in a lot of deep and dark stuff and she told me, “Ed, I cannot have my 10-year-old around that.” So I am making this choice to do what? Do expose him to great role models.” And that’s the beauty, isn’t it, of the church? That’s the beauty of it. So many times, parents, you feel like man, I don’t want to discipline any more. Go for it!
Yesterday morning I woke up, opened our garage, and our bullmastiff, he’s a ginormous dog, was in his crate and he left in his crate several weapons of mass destruction. Turned over the water bowl, it was horrendous.
“Landra!” One of my 19-year-old twins. Boca’s kinda like her dog. “Landra.” She was upstairs. “Landra, take care of Boca.”
“What do you mean, Dad? What do you mean?” and I was so proud of her. She didn’t complain, didn’t whine, she just started working. She pulled the crate out of the garage. God bless our neighbors. Hosed it off, captured big Boca, that’s his name. It means mouth. He’s a big, honkin’ bucket-head. Hosed him off, gave him a bath. He smelled so good! But I was thinking to myself, this is really awesome!
Now parenting has not always been that easy. But it took even for me some fortitude, some discipline, to just say, “Landra, do this. I want you to take care of Boca.” And of course, she did it.
But I want you to think, parents, about those activities, about those situations, about those conversations that you have with your kids when it comes to discipline, when it comes to… “I don’t even want to ask my son. I don’t even want to challenge my daughter to do this. They’re gonna balk at me. We’re gonna argue. It’s gonna be drama and trauma. I will just do it myself.” It is worth… parents, listen to me… the fight. It’s worth the fight.
The best sermon that I will ever preach is not up here with red hair. It’s not the best. The best sermon I’ll ever preach is my relationship with Lisa and my relationship with my four children. That’s it. That’s the most important sermon I’ll ever preach and you’re the same exact way. So if someone like me, if someone like Lisa, can do by God’s grace what we’ve done, you can do it as well.
So I like this, man. You got the formula, yeah. The focus, all right! The fortitude, the guts! But there’s one more before we close down.
When you’re fighting in the Octagon remember you’ve got fans watching you. The only arena, the only venue that supports the family is this arena right here. Government doesn’t do it, for the most part. The media entertainment world doesn’t do it, for the most part. Athletics, they don’t do it for the most part. The church is the only arena where we have people cheering for us to love, fight, and win. Love, fight, win. Isn’t that cool? That’s what I love about our church. We’re people that encourage one another and support one another. So as we’re fighting, as we’re doing the ground and pound thing in the Octagon, remember the crowd.
Hebrews 12:1 says that we’re surrounded by a great crowd of witnesses. So as we’re fighting in the Octagon – check this out – we’re fighting. We’ve gotta remember the fan. We’ve gotta look and see the church. At least once a week we’re worshipping and being encouraged by people cheering us on. And then the Bible says in Hebrews 12 we can look and we can see the great heroes of the faith cheering us on.
We can see Noah saying, “It doesn’t matter how much your life is flooded God will save you.”
We can see Abraham saying, “By faith be patient, by faith.”
We can see Samuel saying, “Obedience is better than sacrifice.”
We can see Rahab, that former prostitute, stand up and she’ll go, “Hey, I don’t care what you’ve done, God will forgive you and change your life.”
I can see Joshua saying, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord, choose to serve the Lord.”
I can see Samson saying, “Man, listen to your parents when it comes to who you date. Listen to your parents!”
I can hear Daniel saying, “It doesn’t matter how many lions you’re facing in the den, God will deliver you!”
I can hear Elijah standing up saying, “Hey, face the evil people. Face the culture wars. Do it God’s way!”
And finally, I can see some nail-pierced hands lifted up. The nail-pierced hands of our Savior, our forgiver, our lover, our fighter, our winner. Have you taken the hand of Jesus? Have you taken his nail-pierced hand? Have you allowed him to adopt you into his family? To love you? To give you the fight and to win?
The family is the ultimate fight because we’re fighting for the ultimate. Bottom line, we win. We win.
[Ed leads in closing prayer.]