U GOT GAME
October 1, 2000
Throughout our lives, we’re asked to adjust it. Now and then, we’re told we either have a good one or a bad one. When you think about it, we sport it 24/7. Oftentimes, it’s the difference between success and failure, receiving a promotion or demotion. It can make a marriage or mess one up. At the end of our lives, we’ll be known by it more than any other thing. What am I talking about? Attitude. Your attitude and my attitude.
This past Friday evening I took my family to a high school football game. We have so many children that we took up almost an entire row. Our twin daughters were seated at the end of the row, and I noticed that a young woman and her date were sitting in front of them. She had this long, flowing brown hair. I thought to myself, “Whoa! That could be dangerous with twins eating nachos, spilling cheese everywhere.” I was kind of watching them.
After a while, I forgot about it. Then suddenly, the twins looked my way and said, “Daddy, look at the girl’s hair. There’s a cricket in her hair!” Sure enough, I looked and a giant, Texas-sized cricket was hanging and clinging to her hair. It was making itself right at home, hopping around and jumping around. This girl with the long, flowing brown hair had no idea that a cricket was clinging to her hair.
I looked at the twins and I said, “Tell her that she has a cricket in her hair. Just tell her.” They said, “No.” They were too embarrassed to tell her. So, this went on and on and on.
A lot of us have a cricket clinging to our hair—the cricket of a bad attitude. Others in our lives recognize it. They can see the cricket in your hair and mine, but more often than not, they don’t say anything about it. They’re like my twins. They just stand there and look at it.
I truly believe this weekend’s message will pinpoint the crickets in your hair and in mine, because we’re going to get down and dirty about attitude. If this is your first weekend to attend Fellowship, you might be saying to yourself, “What’s up with this urban look, the street look, the graffiti and all of that?” As you read your Bible, you’ll discover that one of the most used illustrations to pinpoint the Christian life is that of a contest or athletic event. We’ve been asking ourselves a question over and over again in this series: You Got Game? The ultimate game is played within the confines of the church, within the confines of the streets of our lives. We’ve been seeing how to take things and move from being a spectator or fan and to hit the court or the field.
Today, we’re going to talk about attitude. I think all of us need some sort of attitude adjustment. I know I do. We need it tweaked, maybe changed a little bit. One of my favorite announcers in the world of sports is Keith Jackson. He has a one-of-a-kind voice. You know Keith Jackson. He’s the one who says during the football telecasts, “Whoa, Nellie! Fumble! Who’s got it?” Every time he opens up a game, he says the same thing, “Hello again, everybody. I’m Keith Jackson. When you talk about the Florida State Seminoles, you’ve got to talk about Bobby Bowden, this great coach….” If Keith Jackson happened to be on the stage right now, I think he would say, “When you talk about attitude, you’ve got to talk about the Apostle Paul.”
If you want to talk about attitude, if you want to talk about how to take the cricket out of your hair, you’ve got to talk about this great man of faith. The apostle Paul began the first church in Europe called the church at Philippi. This church had caught wind that Paul had been illegally arrested, so they sent Paul a gift. While Paul was chained to a Roman soldier, while he was imprisoned, he penned a thank you letter: 104 verses of inspired mail known as the book of Philippians. Fourteen times he uses the word “joy”. Paul is talking about attitude. He is talking about the kind of attitude we should sport in our lives.
Paul had every reason to have a bad attitude, didn’t he? He had every reason not to have this joy and this enthusiasm, but he had it. During this message, Paul will answer the question. He will answer the question of attitude. The same answer that Paul gave the Philippians through his thank you letter is the same answer that you need and I need to flick the cricket of a bad attitude out of our hair.
Now, before I get into the steps of a great attitude, and before I talk to you about how to develop one and how to take it from being a spectator into a participator on the courts of life, I want to do something a little bit different. I’ve never taken this angle before in the history of my teaching. I want to stop and share with you, before we get into this whole attitude thing, how to develop a bad attitude. I want to give “before” steps you must take if you want to mess up your life. If you want to have crickets clinging to your hair for the rest of your existence, do the following things.
Number one: make your attitude contingent upon circumstances. Just make the choice now—I am going to be happy when all my ducks are in a row. I’m going to be happy when I’m on a roll. And make sure—to have a bad attitude—that you adopt “when and then” thinking. When I close the deal, then I’ll be happy. When I get married, then I’ll be happy. When I make this amount of money, then I’ll be happy. When I drive this or wear that, then I’ll be happy. When I have a baby, then I’ll be happy. If you adopt that mentality, you’re going to have a horrible life. You’ll be messed up, and no one will want to be around you. It’s the first step—a very important one—to sporting a bad attitude, to keeping that cricket in your hair.
Here’s the second step: wallow, just roll around, in the pit of worry. Just say right now, “I’m going to start worrying. I’m going to mentally overdose on those worse-case scenarios. What if this happens? What if that happens? Wow! Ooh.” We worry so much, and we get so tyrannized by fear, that it messes up our attitude. If we just worry about the lint in our navel, and we don’t worry about anyone or anything else, it paralyzes us and keeps us from stepping out and experiencing the vitality and the joy of a great attitude. But you’ve got to worry, you’ve got to have that “worse-case-scenario-itis” if you want to have a bad attitude.
So, just worry and worry and worry. Most of the things you worry about will never happen anyway, but make sure you play them out. Just turn them over and over and over on the rotisserie grill of your mind. Okay. Don’t even think about meditating on a verse like this, “Who of you by a worrying can add a single hour to his life?” Just block out what I just said.
The third step to having a bad attitude: consistently put your needs above the needs of others. Adopt an “it’s all about me attitude.” Put your needs above your spouse, your co-workers, your friends, your children, and everyone. Just say, “I am going to be the sovereign ruler over my life. I’m the creature. God’s the creator. But you know what, God, I’m going to usurp your authority, and I’m going to take charge.” This is going to be bad, because most people who don’t know Christ are putting themselves above everything and everyone else. If you do the same thing, you’ll have some great battles with them. It’ll be great. It’ll be selfish and mean-spirited. And make sure that when you don’t get your way, just throw a fit…”It’s not fair. I deserve to be happy.”
Here’s a fourth step to a bad attitude—and then we’ll shut it down and change to something else—don’t ever get involved in church. Don’t come to church. You can do the poinsettia and lily thing, Easter and Christmas Eve. Okay, I’ll cut you some slack. You can come to church when your spouse or your friend kind of twists your arm. You see, if you come to church—and you don’t want to do this—you’ll sit under teaching and you’ll understand what an attitude of joy is all about. And you don’t want that.
So just hang out on the edge, and by all means don’t walk by the home team area. Don’t join a small group because you’ll meet singles and married adults who have this attitude of joy, and you’ll see this process happening. Attitude is contagious, and you don’t want to catch it. Don’t get involved in the ministry here. Don’t use any of your talents to say or to act or to teach or to greet or work with children or missions. Don’t do that—please, I beg you—because you’ll have an attitude of joy. And you don’t want that.
Also, don’t think about giving to the church. Don’t think about being a generous person. Just throw a five-spot or a bone God’s way because you don’t want God to bless your life. You don’t want His blessings, and if you do that, He’ll start blessing you like you’ve never seen before. Don’t go there.
That is how to develop a horrible attitude. Just practice those things and you’ll be there.
Let’s go back to the Apostle Paul. Paul was chained to a Roman soldier, and he had every reason, every excuse, to have a bad attitude. He had every reason to say, “my circumstances are horrible.” He could have said that. He had every reason to wallow in the pit of worry. He had every reason to put his needs above the needs of others. He had every reason to say, “The local church, my so-called friends in Philippi—just forget them. I’m just going to do the push back.” But he didn’t. Paul didn’t go there. Paul had unbridled, outrageous, contagious joy and enthusiasm.
I want to read for you several verses from this awesome, inspired piece of mail. It if you have your Bible, turn to the book of Philippians. I’ll just read some Scripture and comment. We need to understand some things about joy and attitude. In Philippians Chapter 1, beginning with Verse 3, Paul is speaking: “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you”—here it is—“I always pray with joy.” An attitude of joy is an intentional deal. It’s intentional. The Christian life is a decision followed by a process. It’s intentional. I always pray with joy.
We’re not talking about happiness here. Happiness comes from a Latin word “hap,” which means chance. Happiness is based on happenings, if my ducks lineup in a row, if I’m on a roll, “when and then” thinking. That’s not joy. Joy is inner delight derived from an intimate relationship with Christ. Happiness is circumstantial, and joy is relational. No matter what life brings my way, no matter what the circumstances, if I have this inner delight derived from an intimate relationship with Christ, joy will flood my soul. It’s the peace that surpasses all understanding. It’s this delight, this confidence on steroids.
The half-brother of Jesus talked about joy. James 1:2-3, “Consider it pure joy,”—it’s the PJ’s verse, isn’t it?—“my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” It’s not if we face the storms; it’s when. “Whenever you face trials of many kinds….” “Why? Why can we call it pure joy? Why should we have our PJ’s on?” He tells us, “Because you know….” Let me stop there: “You know.” He’s talking to Christ-followers here: “You know.” If you’re a Christ-follower, you know who you are. You know what you have. You know your identity.
So many people these days just don’t know who they are. It’s almost like they’re trying to say, “Would someone please tell me who I am? Who am I? Who am I?” We’re sinners, moral foul ups, saved by the grace of God. That’s who we are, and once we realize that, we know. “Because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” A faith cannot really be trusted unless the faith has really been tested. God will test us through so many circumstances, so many storms. And He wants us to have joy in those circumstances. It’s an intentional deal.
Verse 6 in Philippians 1. It says, “…He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Once we bow the knee to Christ, once he infiltrates our lives, His attitude is grafted into our being. And He, Jesus, began a great work in me—years ago when I received Him. The Bible says that He will complete it. The word “completion” is the same word used by Jesus right before He died. Jesus said this, “TETELESTAI—it is finished.”
Do you know someone in your life who was really stoked, really fired up, who bowed the knee to Christ, but know you see them, and they’ve drifted away. They’re kind of in the deep weeds. They’re messed up. They have a family of crickets clinging to their hair. Do you know people like that? Maybe you’re saying right now, “Ed, you’ve just described my son. You’ve just described to me my father. You’re talking about my friend. You’re talking about the person I invited to church today.”
One would think that surely God has folded His cosmic arms and spun on his cosmic heels and said, “This person has let me down. This person has messed up. This person is infiltrated with crickets. I don’t want to have anything to do with him anymore. I’m going to move on to other things.” That’s not true. The Bible does not say that. The Bible says, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion (tetelestai) until the day of Christ.”
Christ will still complete the work. He is still working. He is still moving. He is still active in this person’s life. We’ve got to pray for them, challenge them, talk to them, but Jesus is the ultimate closer. He’s the finisher. He’s going to score every time. He’s going to save the game every time. That’s good news. Man, that floods my soul with joy, because I know a lot of people right now who were once fired up, and now they’re not. But I rely on this promise: that God is doing His work. Even though I might not understand it, He’s doing His work.
Philippians 2:5, let’s go ahead and read some more, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” If you are not a follower of Christ, you cannot manufacture this. I’m not talking about some little self-help book you buy at Barnes and Noble with the cute little cover. I’m not talking about following some weirdo glassy-eyed guru who says, “Just think about joy.” I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about, again, an inner delight derived from an intimate relationship through Christ.
Think about God. Don’t we serve a great God? God could have said, “You know what, I want the prevailing attitude of my children to be that of boredom and somber-mindedness. To look at a lot of Christians, and to walk into a lot of churches, you would think that should be the prevailing attitude, “I’m a Christian, you know, I can’t really laugh. Church should not be creative or fun. It should be boring. It should be just same old, same old. I sing the same old hymns and sit in the same old seat, hear the same old, same old sermon.” Hey, man, that’s not Christianity. That’s not the deal. If you’re there, you don’t know what it means to follow Christ. What did God say? “I want the prevailing attitude of my children to be that of outrageous, contagious, joy—enthusiasm, creativity, innovation, fun, life, liberty. That’s it. Have you ever thanked God for that and said, “God, thank you for the joy.” God could have said, “I want you to be bored. Display an attitude of boredom.” He didn’t.
Galatians 5:22 highlights this again, “But the fruit of the Spirit is…joy….” What happens? A little theology lesson: the moment we ask Christ to infiltrate our lives, he places the person of the Holy Spirit in the depth of our being. And the third person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit, works overtime to produce supernatural fruit in your life and in mine. One of the things that I should produce, one of the telltale signs that I’m a Christ-follower, is the fruit I produce—specifically the fruit of joy.
A lot of us, though, produce the fruit, and then we eat it. We’ve got this juice dripping out of our mouths, and we’re spiritually fat. We’re obese. It’s not for self-consumption. The fruit I produce—it looks great and wonderful—I should share it with others. The fruit of the Spirit is joy. Are you producing a bumper crop that you’re sharing with a hungry world? Are you producing plastic fruit? Are you eating your fruit? Good questions.
2 Corinthians 9:2, we talked about that last weekend. The Corinthians were generous, and in this text it says, “Their enthusiasm stirred most of them to action.” “Enthusiasm” comes from two words, “en” meaning “in” and “theos” meaning “God”. If we’re in God, we should be enthusiastic. Your enthusiasm and my enthusiasm should stir others to action.
I’ll just be very candid with you. Every single weekend, I don’t just feel stoked and fired up and ready to come up here and teach. Most of them I do, but many times I feel so, so inadequate, so above and beyond my head and my realm. And I’m kind of feeling blasé. When I hit this campus, though, and I see the enthusiasm of the men and women in the parking crew, when I shake the hands of greeters or someone on security or someone helping in the preschool and nursery area, and I see your enthusiasm, I see the ushers enthusiasm, do you know what it does? It makes me enthused. It gets me fired up. It’s contagious. Christianity is not a solo sport. It’s a team deal, played on the courts of reality.
Let’s do one more. Philippians 1:12, Paul again chained to a soldier, Paul again having this attitude of joy, Paul again writing to those Philippians. He says, “Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.” I want to say, “Paul, why weren’t you teaching before 20-, 30-, 40-, 50,000 people?” Arguably, the greatest Christian who ever walked the face of the earth, he’s now in a prison cell chained to a Praetorian guard. He wasn’t doing the Johnny Cash thing: “I hear that train a-comin’, it’s rollin’ round the bend. I’m stuck in a Roman prison since I don’t know when….” He didn’t do that. He didn’t examine the lint in his navel. He didn’t worry. He didn’t freak. He didn’t make it circumstantial. He didn’t elevate his needs above the needs of others. He didn’t say, “Oh, forget the church.” What did he do? He displayed an attitude of joy. This Praetorian guard saw his attitude, and because the guards were interchanged, the whole Praetorian guard unit saw the difference of Jesus Christ.
Paul said, “My situation has advanced the gospel.” This word “advanced” means a team that goes before an advancing army to clear out the underbrush to make sure the army can move ahead and take care of business. Many of the things you’re doing and I’m doing in my life right now seem so weird, so odd, and so difficult, but we, by our attitude, are advancing the gospel to a greater degree. We are clearing out the underbrush and the junk for others to come in and do a greater and more profound work.
I’ve got to bring you back to the Apostle Paul—bring you back to him being chained to a Praetorian guard—and ask you this simple question: Who is your Praetorian guard? Who are you chained up to? Who is watching you? Is your attitude of joy snapping their head? Are they saying, “Something is different about her. Something’s different about him. They have an attitude that’s other-worldly, on another level. They have raised their game. I’m watching them play on the courts of life and they don’t have any crickets in their hair. What should we do about this?”
Yesterday at lunch, before I came to work, I had some pasta and marinara sauce, and it was packed with garlic. I’m talking about major league garlic. Right before I walked on stage last night, Owen Goff walked up to me and said, “Uh, Pastor, you need these.” He gave me a box of Altoids. I said, “Owen, why?” He said, “We have a bad breath problem.” A lot of us have a bad attitude, and it’s permeating everything we touch. It’s like bad breath. The following quick suggestions will be like a little Altoid that can change it.
First, how to develop a great attitude: make your life a thank you letter. Make your life like the book of Philippians. Make your life one that displays gratitude. Are you grateful for the blessings of God? Do you live with a thankful heart? I sometimes want to just kick myself and say, “Ed, you idiot,” because sometimes I say, “I need this or I need that and I want, want, want…” That’s a joke. I’ve got to thank God for what I have at this moment. His blessings are bountiful, so incredible, so other-worldly.
An attitude of gratitude, thanksgiving, is a sign of spiritual maturity. If you have a hard time complementing others, thanking others, thanking God, you need to do inventory in your spirit. I’ve been around people, now and then, and they just can’t give a compliment. They just can’t thank others for a job well done, for closing the deal, for making this thing or that thing really happen. It’s like they’re going to choke on their words. They just can’t do it. If you don’t have one, ask God to develop in you an attitude of gratitude. I want to become like a thank you letter. Who do you need to thank in your life? Who do you need to appreciate in your life?
Number two: make your life a river. This past week, I was in the Northwest, and I saw one of the most beautiful rivers in North America. I talked to a guy who boats down the river about a hundred days a year. He pointed out to me a phenomenon in the river. He said, “Ed, see that swirling water in the middle of the current behind that rock?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “Ed, that’s called an eddy.” I thought, “That’s very funny: ‘Ed’, ‘Eddy’, swirling water.” We’re to be like a river. Everything God gives us—I’m talking about resources, I’m talking about money, I’m talking about talents, I’m talking about everything—should flow like that river. It should flow to others. It should flow to God’s church. It should flow to service. Far too often, though, we get caught in an eddy. We don’t become a river. We become an eddy, and we just go round and round and round. And when we get caught in an eddy, we begin to have a bad attitude. We forget to appreciate things. We think it’s all about us. We forget that God is the source of it all. Make your life like a river.
Also, make your life like a serve. Have you been watching the Olympics lately? Seen the tennis? A serve. The table tennis? A serve. Volleyball? A serve. The Christian life is all about service. I say, “Jesus, how do I become great? What’s the ultimate in a life of faith?” Do you know what Jesus says, “downward mobility.” He says, “Do you want to become great? Become a servant.” Become a servant—an others-centered, others-focused person. Whenever I am getting selfish, whenever I’m feeling that cricket in my hair, nine times out of ten, I’m selfish and I’m not appreciative and I’m not serving others.
Your life will work if you have this attitude, this joy unspeakable, when you download this stuff. But if you’re not a believer, you can never have joy. You can’t. I hate to tell you that in such a direct way, but it’s not going to happen for you. It’s a pipe dream. Once you bow the knee to Christ and ask Him to infiltrate your life, then you’ve got it.
Let me take you back one more time to the football game and the girl with the long brown hair and the cricket clinging to her hair. It stayed there for a long, long time, because the twins were too embarrassed to say anything to her. Finally, her date, as the cricket crawled close to her cheek, saw it and flicked it away.
I pray that this message has done the same with our attitudes, with those crickets in our hair. The question is: U Got Game? To have game you’ve got to have an attitude of outrageous, contagious joy that only comes from Christ.