FAMOUS LOST WORDS SERMON SERIES
SUNDAY, JUNE 4, 1995
A couple of years ago I decided to do something that was a little bit radical. I decided to commit to run a marathon, a 26.2 mile race. As I was training for the marathon I talked to a number of people and they all said that I would have a blast except when I hit the twenty mile marker, at which point I would hit the wall. They said my body would shut down, I would want to quit.
Sure enough, I start the race. Everything is going fine until about the 20 mile marker, I hit the wall. Everything in my body was saying, “Stop.” My toes were saying, “There are too many blisters.” My ankles were saying, “This hurts.” My knees were saying, “I want some relief.” I really did want to stop the race because, frankly, I was hitting a quitting point, a wall, a barrier.
We have got to face the facts. No matter what we do in this life, spiritually, relationally or vocationally we will hit walls. We will come to points where we want to throw in the towel, where we want to walk away, where we want to get some relief, where we want to keep our options open. The reason is, it is easier to quit than to commit.
I am going to talk to you today about a foundational character quality, commitment. Commitment means pledging yourself to a position no matter what the cost. Pledging yourself to a position no matter what the cost. When I think about commitment, my mind rushes to Daniel. Daniel was a young man committed to the Lord. He pledged himself to this position no matter what the outcome. Daniel was captured and deported to Babylon, he was away from his friends and from his family members. There were only a few associates that he knew. He committed himself in a very ungodly environment to pray and to continue to develop his relationship with the Lord. The King of Babylon loved Daniel, he respected him. And because the King respected him and because he was a foreigner not from Babylon, people began to resent Daniel. Some palace plotters went into the palatial study of the King one day and they said, “King, you are not a man, you are the man. In fact, you are such a great man, we think you should set forth an edict that everyone should worship only you. And if anyone worships anything else we think, King, that they should be thrown into the lion’s den.” The King said, “That sounds great to me.” He had a big ego. The next day, Daniel walks outside on his rooftop, he kneels to pray like he has always done. He knew the implications of his prayer. The palace plotters said, “King, look there is Daniel praying.” And the King said, “Oh no, what have I done?” I can’t go back on my word, I have got to throw my man, Daniel, into the lion’s den.” Read the text. Daniel was not promised a deliverance prior to entering the lion’s den. He wasn’t. And this lion’s den was not full of lions named Simba and Nala singing Hakun Matada. That didn’t take place there. These were mean, menacing, ugly, fang-baring lions who tore people apart. But Daniel was committed. He could have said right before he was thrown in the lion’s den, “You know, King, I really wasn’t praying, I was catching rays up there. I really wasn’t praying, I was fixing my hair.” He was committed to the Lord and God delivered him, He shut the mouths of the lions. A man who pledged himself to a position.
Why is there so little commitment these days? We don’t like to be committed. We would rather throw in the towel than stay in the game. We would rather walk out than work through. We would rather make excuses than give reasons to stay with it. Why? Our society applauds our lack of commitment. Our society glamorizes it. Think about television. You surf a little bit through the channels and you see a man working. He has to meet a deadline in the next hour and the boss comes in and gives him yet another report and another deadline. The man turns to the camera and he says, “I cannot take it any more.” The veins are sticking out of his forehead. “I’m going to go in and I’m going to give him a piece of my mind.” So he storms into his boss’ office and the music is reaching a fever pitch level. You are sitting on the edge of your recliner watching. “I quit. You make me sick, boss, you are not concerned about me.” And the man spins on his heels and walks out. The credits roll and the advertisers pitch beer and antacids and we think, “Wow. All right. A lack of commitment. I would love to do that one day to my boss, to my teacher, to my coach. To tell them off. To quit in their face.”
You turn to another program. You see a marriage situation, maybe a soap opera. I know we don’t have anyone here who watches soap operas. Just a hypothetical situation. You are watching a soap opera and you have a conflict going on and the wife says, “I’m tired of you. I want a divorce. You make we sick. You have bad breath.” And she turns and she walks away. The music again is reaching the fever pitch level. The commercials roll and there you have it.
You see they don’t show you the man who is now unemployed because of his lack of commitment. They don’t show you the rippling effect of divorce because this woman was not committed to her marriage. They don’t show you the children now without a dad. They don’t show you that. A lack of commitment.
You can talk about the AIDS virus, and the new ebola virus, but lack of commitment is a disease that has reached epidemic proportions. We just want to sit back and let it kind of cruise, put it on automatic pilot. We don’t really want to pledge ourselves to a position anymore.
The bottom line for this lack of commitment disease can be traced back to the book of Genesis. Genesis 3. Adam and Eve had it great, a perfect environment. All they had to do was some yard work every day. And God said, “Adam and Eve you are committed to Me. I love you and I know you love me. I want to ask you to do one thing. I am going to test your love. Please do not touch the tree or any fruit on the tree in the middle of the garden.” “OK, God. We are committed to You, God. We love you, God.” The evil one comes on the scene and the evil one begins to attack their lack of commitment, he will do it in your life and my life too. The evil one’s favorite thing to tell you and me is “Hey, don’t commit. Wait until tomorrow. Wait until the next day. Put it off. Make excuses. Give reasons. Keep your options open. Arrive late.” “Hey, Adam and Eve, did God really mean for you not to touch that fruit? You see, if you touch the fruit, you will become like God. That’s why He said it.” And they did it and from that moment on we have been struggling with the lack of commitment. A lack of commitment. A lack of commitment. The root of the lack of commitment is basic raw, southward bound, selfishness. What’s good for me? I want my needs met. I have got to do what is best for me. It’s me, and it’s a very meistic, me-centered world today. I have got to make me feel good and me look good and me come out OK.
Commitment, though, Biblical commitment swims against the current of our society. It is pledging yourself to a position no matter what the cost. Commitment.
The good news, though, today is, God wants us to be committed people. God really does. And God will never ask any of us to commit ourselves to anything that we cannot fulfill. Because God, if we will ask Him to, will empower us to commit, will empower us to break through the walls and be the kind of people that He wants us to be in this society. But our world cannot be impacted, nor can it be changed, relationships healed or churches really move on until we say I am going to commit. I am going to commit.
I want to share with you a quick three step process on commitment, something that we can all apply. Step one. We have to pledge ourselves to the big three. If you want to be committed you have got to pledge yourself to the big three. A lot of us are very good at committing to things but committing to the wrong things. Take for instance the man who is so involved in the golf game that he never goes to church, he doesn’t spend quality time with his family or his kids, because he is into golf, being a scratch golfer one day. He will look back on his life when he is sixty and he will say, “You mean I spent about fifteen hours a week on the golf course hitting a little white ball into a little hole and now my marriage is a mess. My kids don’t even know me.” Committed to the wrong things.
I know other people and they are so committed to their house and building a nice, beautiful house and so emersed in that that they neglect everything else in their life. Committed to the wrong things.
You have got to choose the big three to commit to. First, spiritual commitment. The Bible talks on and on about spiritual commitment. God, don’t miss this point, God is the initiator of commitment. He committed Himself to Abraham. He committed Himself to Moses. He committed Himself to David. And finally, He committed Himself by commissioning His son, Jesus Christ, to live a sinless life, to die on the cross for our sins, to rise again. He committed Himself with this new covenant. Just think about it. God has committed to you and to me just for our showing up. We don’t have to do one thing. Not give one cent to the church or to the United Way, or smile. Just for being here, just because our hearts are beating, God is committed to us. And that is an awesome fact to think about. Yet many of us have never committed our lives to Him.
I want to talk to those of you who are investigating the Christian life. We have many investigators who come on a given weekend. If you are investigating Christianity, commit yourself to that. Pledge yourself to a position. “I am going to see if Jesus really is who He said He is, and whether He can change my life or deal with this relationship.” Give it some time, at least six weeks, to see if He is real. Engage in conversation with, maybe, someone who brought you, or talk to one of us. You owe it to yourself. Some of you right now might be ready to make the best step of your life, to receive Christ personally, to commit your life to Jesus. I am not talking about a religion here. I am not talking about being a Baptist, a Catholic, a Methodist, a Pentecostal. I am talking about a relationship with Jesus. The way to do that is to come to a point in your life where you realize your moral column is really messy. Even if you have told only one white lie, in the eyes of God, you fall miserably short of God’s standard of goodness. The Bible says in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned.” Not some, all have sinned. Jesus Christ was sinless. Everyone else, all of us, have sinned. We matter so much to God, He is so committed to us that He sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our sins, everything that we have done past, present and future and if we receive that, if we commit our lives to Christ, the moment we do that, we are a new person. Our home is in heaven.
If we are relying on the performance plan to get to heaven, we are not going to make it. I talked to a guy this week and I asked him, “If someone walked up to you and asked how could he get to heaven, what would you say?” He said, “Well, I’m a good guy. God and I had this deal worked out. I have not been to church in about six years, but you know, I need to watch my language and be nice to my children.” I said, “Friend, I hate to say this to you but I have got to, if you are relying on that, you are not going to go to heaven.” And a lot of you are relying on the performance plan to get to heaven. It’s not going to work. Commit your life to Christ.
Have you ever though about when Jesus was dying on the cross for our sins? Jesus was committed to do that. When the nails were going through His hands and feet, when they were plucking out His beard, when they were torturing Him, all hell screamed in His ear, QUIT, stop it, call the angels down, it’s too tough. He didn’t do it though because He is committed to you and me. He had you, He had me on His mind when He was going through that suffering, humiliating death. Even the Father in heaven turned His back on the son during this time. Jesus was committed to it, He pledged Himself to that position no matter what happened and He rose again. Spiritual commitment.
We also need to be committed to the church. The Bible says that the church is the bride of Christ. We have too many church hoppers, shoppers and boppers, not committed to anything. “I’ll stay here for awhile and if I meet a hypocrite, I am going somewhere else.” Or, “I didn’t agree with what someone said in some message and I’ll just never go back. “Have you ever eaten in a restaurant before? Have you ever had a bad meal? I did this week. Did I say, “Well, I had a bad meal, I’ll never go to that restaurant again.” Find a church, commit to it, if it is this church we would love to have you. If another church, they would love to have you. Make sure the church is a Bible believing church and that you get involved. You have got to be in church, the Bible says, regularly. That means at least once a week. If you are not coming at least once a week, if it is not a priority to you, something is wrong in your life. I’m talking to Christians here. Something is wrong. “Well we have this lake place.” Something is wrong. “We have this vacation home.” Something is wrong. “I’m into sail boat racing.” Something is wrong. If God is God, if Jesus is Lord of your life and you are not regularly worshipping Him, if you are not excited to go to church, something is wrong with the commitment quotient in your life. We ask for church membership here for a Biblical reason. Christ is committed to the church. We ask for church membership because of a cultural reason. It is the antidote to our society. We ask for church membership for a practical reason. It defines who can be counted on.
Don’t just come, though, once a week. A lot of you show up and you go, “OK, I have not been spiritually fed for a week. OK, Ed, Stan, feed me.” A weekly gorging. “I’ve got enough, now I can hit the world, you know.” We have got to worship together, that is a priority but that is not spiritual maturity. You can’t feed off someone else. I have got children, many children, at different ages of development. I have got an eight year old, a three year old and twins who are eleven months. It is kind of wild to feed our eleven month old twins. Broccoli mixed with chicken and green beans with all this stuff and you know it gets everywhere. You feed and feed and feed them. Lisa and I do not want to do this for the rest of our lives. What is our desire? Our desire is to teach our children to what, feed themselves. That is God’s desire for you. Too many of you are still on a baby food diet spiritually. Feed me, feed me. The next Bible study, the next sermon, the next praise and worship time, just feed me. And we have got to be fed that way, corporately. Real maturity happens, though, when you are fed corporately and then you learn individually how to feed yourselves. Prayer, devotions daily. Then you become mature. When you begin to get outside of yourself and serve others within the context of the Body of Christ, that is when you grow. Spiritual commitment. I am not talking about just a weekend deal, attendance at weekend services, participation in Bible study, and in a small group using your abilities within this church or in another church. That is spiritual commitment.
The second of the big three is relational commitment. Committed in relationships. Let’s talk first of all about a husband and wife. There are going to be relational sticking points in your marriage. There are going to be times when you want to walk out, when you think the cost is too high, when the wall is too big. You have got to crash through that. You have got to break through the wall, you have got to say, “God, I committed myself to You when I was married.” Too many of us take that lightly. We say, “Hey, you know, I said this ten years ago but I really didn’t mean it.” And we start playing games with ourselves. “Do you know I was kind of pressured into marrying her.” Guys, we are the worst at this. Men are pathetic as far as commitment goes. Isn’t that right, ladies? Dating relationship? “Well, when you start putting a commitment on me, well I might date someone else now.” “I’m going to move.” We are freaked out over commitment.
I don’t do weddings hardly anymore because that is all I would be doing now with our church as big as it is, I wouldn’t be able to preach. However, when I was on staff at a church in Houston I used to do about 150 weddings a year. I would talk to couples in marriage counseling sessions and this is the most hilarious thing. Prior to their marriage, the guy and the lady are in my office and I start talking about what we are going to do in the marriage ceremony. I talk about commitment. It never fails. The woman is shaking her head, yes, and the guy is looking totally astonished. It is like it just hit him. I don’t know what it is about us. We have got to be committed relationally. Committed in our marriages. Because if you are not committed in your marriage, when you hit this wall you are going to say, “Ah, a wall. I’m going to divorce you.” Then you will marry someone else, “Ah, a wall.” And you will marry someone else, “Ah, a wall.” And we take this lack of commitment, this fear of the wall into every relationship. We have got to blast through it with God’s power. Once we blast through it, we will grow and develop. I have never seen growth and development take place when someone just kind of quits, throws in the towel.
I looked back on my life as I was preparing for this message this past week. I thought, Ed, what do you regret that you have quit in your life? There are three or four things. I look back and do you know what I really regret? I regret not staying with the drums. I have natural rhythm and I could play the drums well for a third grader. I quit though. And I would love to play the drums, kind of like Phil Collins. What have you quit? Look back on your life. What have you quit relationally? That spouse maybe. That child maybe. Maybe that uncle, maybe that parent.
Children you have got to be committed to your parents. Have you thanked your parents for what they have done for you? Even children who are in their twenties and thirties and forties and fifties, have you thanked your parents? Have you called them up and said, “Mom, thank you for carrying me around in your womb for nine months.” “Mom, Dad, thank you for providing for me an education, or clothes” Have you ever thanked them for that? Are you committed to your parents or do you always joke about them and tease them and talk behind their back. “Oh, can you believe Dad. Can you believe Mom.”
And, hey, baby boomers and busters are infamous for bashing their parents. “I am the way I am because mom put my diapers on too tight, that is just the way I am. That is the reason I am the way I am, it’s my parents.” Some here have really been damaged by your parents, I realize that, in other ways that we will talk about later. I realize that. But, God put your parents in His authority, in His chain of command over you to mold you into a great person for Him. And they are not perfect. My parents were not perfect, neither were yours. Thank your parents. Relationally commit to them.
You have got to commit spiritually, relationally and also vocationally. Are you committed to your job? We are always looking for a better lie, another option. We are not committed to our vocations anymore. I’ll just work long enough to get a pay check then I can snowboard on the weekend, or surf or windsurf or whatever. I read about our generation, about character qualities that we have and this commitment thing keeps coming up over and over and over again. Are you committed, though, to your job? I am not saying to never move somewhere else, or never go to another company, or this or that. But I am saying, when you are working at a particular place, you act like you are going to stay there for the rest of your life. “I’m committed to this. I’m going to be loyal. I’m going to be here through think and thin.” Usually we quit prematurely right when the breakthrough happens. Usually we see the wall and we think that the wall is too imposing, too big. And then we miss what God wants us to do in our live.
I faced a quitting point in the first year of this church. I have never told anyone this but Lisa. I came here and it was overwhelming to me. And it was tough. I spent many sleepless nights praying and saying “Lisa, did we miss God’s call here? Did I miss it?” I know it was the evil one saying “Ed, give up your commitment. Ed, throw in the towel. Ed, go somewhere easier.” Because I was working too hard, doing a lot of things that I shouldn’t have been doing as far as the church was concerned. I was making the church too much a part of my life. The church is great but that is not my top priority. First is my relationship with the Lord and second, my family. And I could have said, “I quit, I have had enough of this church in Las Colinas.” But Lisa said, “Ed, you made a commitment before God.” And I did. I made a commitment before God to stay here for the rest of my life because I believe great churches are built by consistency in leadership. And that was a major test that I went through in the first year I was here. And I blasted through the wall not because I am some great endurance-driven guy. God gave me the strength and I see what God has done in my life through this commitment. But it is tough. It is really tough to blast through a breaking point.
So we have got to pledge ourselves to the big three. Now we are cruising. The second step. This will be short. Write out a commitment card. Write out a commitment card. This afternoon write out a commitment card to Jesus Christ, that is your spiritual commitment. Write out a commitment card to your church, this church or maybe another church. Write it out. I am committed through thick and through thin. I am going to be here. I am going to be a part of worship, a part of the small group program. My time, my talents, my treasures. Write a commitment card out to your spouse or to your parents or to your children or maybe a friend. Commitment. And declare that commitment at least four times a year in creative ways, to your employer, your spouse and even the church.
The third step. Connect with committed people. I see this over and over and over again. I just got back from South Padre Island where we held our Youth Retreat, suffering for the Lord down there. Every night Stan Durham and I would put on services for the young people. And sometimes the services would last an hour, other times they would last three hours, believe it or not. We had a great time of interaction with our Junior High and High School ministry, something that I am committed to because that is our future. I am really involved in that area of our church. When I talk to these young people, and I have done this since I have been eighteen years of age, I am thirty-four now, when I talk to these young people the same thing always comes up if we are dealing with issues and problems. Next to their personal relationship with Christ it is always an issue that they are hanging out with the wrong people. Always. They are hanging out with people who drag them down. And the same thing is true with you and with me. I don’t care how mature you are spiritually, if your best friends and those people, single adults, that you date, if they are not Christ-followers, they are going to drag you down. “But I am helping them.” They will drag you down. “But they are my best friends.” They will drag you down.
I am not saying , nor is the Bible ever saying we should not befriend those who are facing a Christless eternity. I have hundreds of friends who don’t know Christ personally. But my best friends are Christians. My best friends are people who have a long track record of commitment because I have learned that if you have a long track record of commitment, I want to connect with you because that helps the commitment quotient in my life. It will help yours too. Do you have friends who are committed or friends who kind of flounder around, friends who are spineless, friends when peer pressure begins to circle like a group of tiger sharks, they back out? Some of you need to go home today and back off some friendships and relationships. You may need to end some dating relationships. And say, “God, I am going to be committed to connecting with people who have the same commitment that You have and that I have.” Don’t mess up in this realm.
Women, those of you who are single. I see you mess up in this area so much. Twenties, thirties, the biological clock starts ticking. I am not married. And then anyone who comes along and wears pants……”Here comes the bride…here comes the bride”. And then about a year later you go, “This guy is not committed to anything. What was I thinking about?” Be patient. Be patient. Be patient.
How about your friends. Are they really committed people? Deuteronomy 6, you’re talking about an excellent text. The children of Israel were waiting to close the most valuable real estate deal in the history of the world. They were to claim the Promised Land. And God told them right before they were stepping into the Promised Land, “Wait a minute, you are going to face some ungodly people. They are going to surround you. You can be friends with them but you cannot get involved in what they are involved in. Watch out. Be careful.” “All right, God, we are committed to You, we love You.” And the Israelites skipped their way into the Promised Land. What happens? They associate themselves ever so slowly, you know Satan kind of inches us closer and closer, and then one day they had no commitment. Is that you? Listen to these verses about commitment. Psalm 37:5. “Commit your way to the Lord. Trust also in Him and He will do it.” You see, Niki didn’t come up with “do it” first, the Bible did. In Hebrews 10:25. Jesus says, “Do not forsake our own assembling together.” Galatians 1:4. Jesus said, “I gave myself for your sins.” In Luke 14 Jesus used an excellent illustration about tasteless salt. He said the problem with some of you, you are like tasteless salt, you have lost your punch. You are not committed to anything.
You know I love health food but one of my weaknesses is those ice cold Cokes, man, I love Coke. And now and then, and I hate this when it happens, I will walk in and open our refrigerator and there is a Coke. And I can tell that maybe LeeBeth has had a little bit of it, and I am thinking, oh boy, I can have a glass full of Coke. So I pour it in this tall glass with ice and I cannot wait to drink it. The Coke sometimes is flat. Isn’t that gross? I spit it in the sink. I hate flat Cokes. I like Cokes with a lot of bite, a lot of spizerinkdom. Some of you are like flat Coke. “Yeah, I’m here, but I’m not committed. I am just going to be like a flat Coke. I look OK on the outside, but I am just kind of flaaaaat.”
Please get serious and apply these principles. I need to work on this. We all do. Please do it. It will serve you well. We are almost out of time here but you know I kind of left you hanging about the marathon. You are wondering, did he finish? Before the race, I talked to a single friend of mine and he name was Richard Darden. Richard knew a lot about running in marathons. I asked Richard if he would mind running the last seven miles with me in the marathon so that when I hit the wall he would be there to coach me through. He said, “Ed, no problem.” He said, I will have a white sweat suit on, look for me and I will be there.” So when I hit about the nineteenth mile I was blistering at about an eleven minute pace, and I see Richard. He comes up to me and says, “Ed, you are cramping.” And I said, “I know it.” He said do this and focus here and start to use your legs like this and your arms. He challenged me and he encouraged me and after about ten minutes with Richard something came over me and I was able to sprint the last seven miles of the race, six minute miles. I had never run six minute miles before in my life. Why did I do it? Because I had a great coach.
You are running this race called life. You are a Christ-follower. Jesus is omnipresent, He is right there by you. And a lot of you don’t even realize He is by you, and a lot of you don’t even think about asking His advice. He wants to coach you when you cramp up, He wants to teach you when you face the wall, He wants to help empower you to blast through the wall, to run the race. And every time you blast through the wall, a victory is gained in heaven and in your life. There is a cosmic celebration going on, the saints are giving you a standing ovation because they are cheering for you to break down the walls. You can’t do it, though, without Jesus and without the C word.