Just Say, "Yes"!

2 Timothy 2:5: "An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules."

Being a Christian means that our lives are governed by two words: "Yes" and "No."
The one, we say to God.
The other, we say to sin.

Every game has rules that must be followed, or else the contestants will be disqualified.
In the 1980 Boston Marathon, the famous winner was Rosie Ruiz,
who set a woman's record of 2:31:56.

She claimed, "I ran the race, I really did."
But she was stripped of her title because she was accused of jumping out of the crowd
and running only at the end of the race.

At the New York Marathon, in which she had finished 23rd among 1,800 women,
officials disqualified her because when they checked their films, they did not see her,
and two witnesses even claimed they had seen her in the subways in her running clothes.
She ran, but apparently not according to the rules, so she failed to get the prize.

As the Bible says, "An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules."
(2 Timothy 2:5)

In 1 Corinthians 9:24, Paul said it like this: "Do you not know that in a race
all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize?
So run that you may obtain it
."

Some people see competition in this verse, but Christians should not be competing.
But the point in the verse is not competition, but dedication and obedience.
A runner must be willing to say, "Yes," to the rules.

This is God's world.
God created this world and everything in it.
God has made the rules, and He expects us to abide by His rules.

There is nothing in all the world as challenging or as thrilling as getting an assignment from God,
and saying, "Yes," and then obeying.
The only way to live the Christian life is to live by the rules.
Jesus said there is no other way.
In John 14:15, Jesus said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments."
If we truly love Jesus, and our love for Him is genuine, then our obedience to Jesus will follow.

Charles Finney once said: "Revival begins with new obedience to God."

Partial obedience is disobedience.
Rosie Ruiz ran part of the race, even the last part, but since she didn't run
the whole marathon, she lost.
You can drive the speed limit regularly, but if you speed past the radar gun,
the rest of your obedience doesn't matter, you will get a ticket.

These efforts doesn't make it:
Cutting back from three packs of cigarettes to one.
Only slipping out a few curse words.
Replacing deliberate lying with modest exaggeration.
Replacing one sin with another is not what Jesus has in mind.

We must recognize the seriousness of sin.
If we could recognize how fowl and perverted that sin is, we wouldn't tolerate
so much of it in our lives.
How do you think it affects the heart of God to hear a Christian ask,
"Can I smoke pot, and still get to heaven."
"Can I go all the way, and still get to heaven."

Christians shouldn't be asking, "How much can I get away with, and still be a Christian?"
A Christian should be saying, "What can I do to be as much like Christ as possible?"
Complete obedience is genuine obedience.

Do it now!
When God speaks, He expects action -- not maybe, not later, not I'll think about it,
but "Yes and now."

The greatest cop-out from doing what we are supposed to do is called procrastination.
We usually don't say an emphatic, "No!"
It is usually, "How about tomorrow for I'm really busy today."

The problem is that we are not talking about the request of a friend, or of a neighbor,
or of a classmate, or even of a boss or a coach, and not even of a parent.
We are talking about the Almighty God.

Jesus says, "… Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation."
(2 Corinthians 6:2)
We can plan on making things right with God sometime in the future,
but some day, it will be too late.
God says, "Today… Now."

When God gives us an assignment, we must say, "Yes, Lord, I will do it right away."

Think about some of these examples.
We live in an age of easy diets, instant physical fitness, and miracle cures,
so we expect easy answers and instant solutions.
Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way.

Much like many of us, the church of Corinth hoped for an easy Christianity.
But Paul popped their bubble.
He said in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27: "Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete,
but only one receives the prize?
So run that you may obtain it.

Every athlete exercises self-control in all things.
They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.
Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air;
but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others
I myself should be disqualified
."

When Paul was saying these things, he was referring to the Isthmian Games,
which were started by Alexander the Great, and held every third year in Corinth, Greece.
In order to compete in these Olympic Games, the athletes had to take an oath
saying they had trained for at least 10 months.

It was not just a casual, easy-going affair.
It was serious business.
Paul made it clear that the Christian life is a serious business.
It takes training and self-control to gut it out.

Those athletes had to follow the rules.
Imagine watching the Olympic Games, and suddenly, out of the pack of runners,
one heads for the stands and begins running all through the isles, hopping over people,
knocking over vendors and little children.
Aimlessly is no way to win a race.
And it is no way to live the Christian life.

Living a Christian life means focusing on the goal, and at times agonizing over it.
Our goal is to be like Jesus.
And we must give ourselves without reserve to meet that goal.

Remember what Paul had suffered in his Christian life.
"On five different occasions, he was whipped 39 times with the cat-o-nine tails.
Three times, he was beaten with rods.
Once, he lived through the popular mode of capital punishment which was stoning.
Frequently, he was hunted like an outlaw or some wild animal.
Often, he gave up food, sleep, and was stripped of all the luxuries of life
."

Paul said, "Yes!" to Jesus.
Paul gave 100% to Jesus.

There are times Christians are sweating blood, losing sleep, and missing meals
in order to follow Jesus.
After all that Jesus did for us, and if, He truly lives in us, we will find ourselves
doing those things, and even more.
There is no such thing as a part-time Christian.

It's not just service, but we are servants.
There is a difference between serving the Lord, and being a servant of the Lord.
Serving is something we do -- it's a verb.
A servant is someone we are -- it's a noun.

Service is something we can accept or reject.
But being a servant means that when God speaks, we are ready to obey.
Service is part-time.
Being a servant is full-time -- 100%.

We are under an obligation to our Lord Jesus Christ.
Sometimes when we do what Jesus asks of us, we feel as if we doing Him a big favor.
That is why we are such lousy servants.
We must be ready to honor our obligations to our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul called himself a debtor, and that sense of debt motivated him
to give 100% of himself to God.
(Romans 1:14)
Knowing that he was already forgiven, he was a debtor to the grace of Jesus.
As he said in 2 Corinthians 5:14: "For the love of Christ controls us…"
The Philips translation says, "The very spring of our actions is the love of Christ."

Every Christian should focus daily on these words of Jesus:
"When a servant comes in from plowing or taking care of sheep, he doesn't
just sit down and eat, but first prepares his master's meal, and serves him his supper
before he eats his own.
And he is not even thanked, for he is merely doing what he is supposed to do.

Just so, if you merely obey me, you should not consider yourselves worthy of praise.
For you have simply done your duty
!" (Luke 17:7-10, TLB)

We must stand for Christ!

It is hard to stand alone.
It is hard to give your first piano recital.
It is hard to catch a pass in the end zone.
It is hard to speak in front of an audience.

When all eyes are focused on you, with expectation, the self-consciousness is enough to kill.
Standing out in a crowd makes many feel awkward.
What if I chicken out?
What if I flunk out?
What if I mess up?

We don't like to stand alone, but there are times, as Christians, that we must.
When God speaks, He speaks to each of us individually.

"Yes" is a word that we say all by ourselves.
And when we say that, we might be the difference to be a blessing to others.

Just one person is significant:
Aaron Burr would have become president if he had received one more vote.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn was a solitary man who stood against the entire Soviet Union
with just a pen.
A single vote made Texas a state.
346 people were killed in France in one of the worst plane crashes of all history
because a single cargo door was not completely shut.
One more vote would have impeached Andrew Johnson.
A lake is made up out of millions of single drops of water.

Ever person whom God calls, He calls as an individual.
That single, individual person is then faced with a decision, "Am I willing to stand alone?
Should I dare to break loose from the crowd and it's acceptable style,
and risk rejection from them by following Jesus?"

Almost every time that God asks us to respond to Him, we face that same decision.
We must stop saying, "Why me, Lord?"
We must not say, "Please, don't ask me to do that?"
We must simply answer, "Yes," to our Lord.

We will stand alone before the throne of God.
Accountability has been defined as "the ability to be counted."
It is saying to Jesus, "You can count on me."

Many have gotten into the bad habit of blaming bad behavior on just about anything
other than the person responsible: "a broken home, financial problems, emotional instability,
or the environment."
We are so prone to make up excuses, and even enjoy rationalizing every one of our problems.

Some years ago, our nation was shocked when John Hinckley, Jr., was declared,
"not guilty by reason of insanity," when every person in the United States
saw him do it dozens of times on instant replay.

What our court system said, was, "It's okay, John, you were not responsible for your own actions."
No wonder after the hearing, Hinckley admitted that his only regret was that he didn't wait
for a split-second longer, so that he could have landed at direct hit on our president, Reagan.

No remorse, no contrition, no repentance, and no evidence of adjusting his behavior.
Do you realize that he was only believing what our society had told him.

Our human courtrooms will never hold us perfectly accountable for our actions, but God does.
God wants us to understand that one day we will stand before His throne, all alone,
to give an account of every deed and every idle word.

There will be no friends to hide behind.
There will be no parents to hold your hands.
There will be no crowds to share the blame.
There will be no defense attorney to plead your case, except Jesus,
if you know Him as your Lord and Savior.

Life is best lived knowing that someday that we will stand all alone before the throne of God.
When I look at it that way, it's much easier to say to our Lord today,
"Yes, dear Jesus, you can count on me."

"Ye that are men, now serve Him
Against unnumbered foes;
Let courage rise with danger.
And strength to strength oppose.

Stand up! stand up for Jesus!
Stand in His strength alone;
The arm of flesh will fail you;
Ye dare not trust your own.

Put on the Gospel armor,
And, watching unto prayer,
Where duty calls, or danger,
Be never wanting there.

Stand up! stand up for Jesus!
The strife will not be long:
This day the noise of battle,
The next the victor's song.

To him that overcometh
A crown of life shall be;
He, with the King of glory,
Shall reign eternally
."

Sermon adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L. White