Levi Lusko - How to Have a Winning Mindset
All right, you can be seated. Grab your Bibles. We're going to be in 1 Corinthians chapter 9 today. I've got a message I want to bring to you called how to have a winning mindset, how to have a winning mindset, 1 Corinthians chapter 9. We have been in this series talking about the largest ladder ever built. About this time of the year, I'm always thinking about ladders. I'm seeing ladders everywhere, as y'all are putting your Christmas lights up, as you and I are feeling conviction over how many leaves we know are in our rain gutters, and all of the things that you need ladders for. And as I see my neighbors and people around the city as I drive around on ladders precariously perched on ladders, how many of you have, in the last month, you would say, honestly, in church, been in a, what you would say, unlawful position on a ladder? Anybody? I'm just right there with you.
We always in our head think, I know it says in 900 stickers don't stand on this, but I'm standing on this. That was me this past week, standing on a ladder. I was spotted. A couple people saw it. I was like, no, but I'm good. I'm all right, because as long as someone else is watching, it's going to be OK. And the things that we think we can do on ladders, but I always am reminded of how dangerous ladders are. Every year, 500,000 Americans are taken to the emergency room after injuries sustained falling from ladders. And shockingly, there are over 300 ladder involved deaths every single year. And the majority of those, the great majority of those, are under 10-foot-tall ladders they have fallen from.
And I only ever really knew that and knew to look into the statistics because, when I was in Bible college, I had a roommate whose dad had died after falling off a 6-foot-tall ladder. It always impacted me to see him, and to know how much he carried that grief, and to realize what a rather small thing, most of us would say that's not that big of a deal, a 6-foot-tall ladder. We are far less careful perhaps than we should be. When I stand on a set of train tracks, when I stand and look at the railroad ties going off into the distance, you can see it here, I cannot help but see a ladder. It's just so visible. And ladders help you get to places you couldn't get to otherwise, help you to, the reason we stand on them, the reason we do the dangerous thing is because we want to reach that hard-to-reach place. We need to be able to put that star on top of the tree. We can't do it without the ladder's help.
And the train tracks do the same thing. The train tracks are all about connection. The building of the transcontinental railroad, as symbolized by the laying of the final golden spike, which was put into that final ceremonial tie there outside of Salt Lake City in 1869, it symbolized the nation completing a gargantuan project. Until the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914, the same year that World War I started, by the way, which, after all the work building the Panama Canal, almost nobody paid attention to it, because this little thing called the First World War was starting. But until the Panama Canal was finished, it was by far the transcontinental railroad, the biggest thing that America had ever undertaken. And for a project so big, the two most perhaps astounding details to me about it, and my head is full of astounding ridiculous details about the transcontinental railroad, as you could probably imagine, the two most amazing details to me is that it came in both ahead of schedule and under budget.
Now, that's just stupid. OK? No construction project costs less than you think it would, and I have never been a part of one that has been finished before it was estimated. They only used up half of the time that President Lincoln allotted to get this thing done. If the companies weren't finished by the end, they would lose all money that they were being given to do it, and they finished ahead of schedule and under budget. But, here's our big idea today, the golden spike was not the only spike. The golden spike's amazing to think about, to think about that final spike going into the wood, but the golden spike, big idea today, was not the only spike. And that's literally true. There were four ceremonial spikes. There was two golden ones from California, and one of those being the last one, the one that we'll talk about that had connectivity attached to it in the final week of the series on December 5. But there was also a silver spike that came from Nevada and a spike that was made of both gold and silver that came from the great state of Arizona.
The golden spike was not the only spike. And with that in your mind, gold and silver, and wanting gold, and not silver, let's bring our attention and our focus to 1 Corinthians chapter 9, as we begin here in verse 24, a section in my Bible that is labeled striving for a crown. Paul says, "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore, I run thus, not with uncertainty. Thus I fight, not as one who beats the air, but I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified".
And so Father, we ask that You would speak to us through these words as Paul unpacks how to have a winner's mindset. And we thank You that we not only are safe to say that we are meant to be winners, but we are meant to begin by seeing ourselves as more than conquerors. Thank you for Your love. Thank you for Your power. Thank you for Your favor upon each and every single person who's hearing the sound of my voice. Now would You, through Your Spirit, do what only You can do? Help me, this man, to communicate these eternal amazing truths that you have been showing me and lighting my heart up with all week long. Drive it home like a nail, exactly where it should go. Thank You, Jesus. In Your name we pray. Amen.
Come on, be thankful for God's Word, even just a reading of God's Word. One of the things that becomes immediately clear when you read the New Testament is just how much Paul the Apostle loved sports. And if you love sports, I'm just telling you something, when you read the Bible, you're like, I'm OK for loving sports, OK? Because here in this, we just read verse 24, 25, four verses out of all that he wrote. This cat wrote 13 books of the New Testament, and he has both told us he loves watching races being run and he loves watching boxing matches being fought. So y'all, where are my people who love sports? Let's just give God thanks for sports, because there is something inside of us it touches to see people in athletic competition.
And Paul certainly had his pick of sports to watch, as in his neck of the woods there was both the Olympic sports that would take place every four years as well as something that he's referring to, that he knew the Corinthians were particularly enamored with, and that is called the Isthmian Games. That is a particularly hard word to say, the Isthmian Games. They took place on this isthmus, and so they called them the Isthmian Games. And they took place every two years. And then, of course, every local city would have its various amounts, its equivalent of the local events that you could go to watch, and the fights that weren't sanctioned, and then the fights that were really not sanctioned, and then the fights that's in the back dark alley. Paul probably liked that too. This dude was scrappy. OK?
One of his favorite things to do was to look at a soldier or to look at an athlete and to pull out similarities to how he approached following Jesus. And I love that, because I think so often we can kind of think of faith in this ethereal like om. Ommm. Ommm. This real like soft, I'm a person of faith, it's really this soft thing, this really passive thing. But Paul took the collision of linebackers and the sacking of a quarterback. Paul saw someone just running and giving it their all, going for the tape after the starter pistol. Paul said, that's how I follow Jesus. That's what I'm talking about. Paul saw someone being knocked out with that insane uppercut that was not being expected, and their guard dropped, and then the person hits the mat a bloody mess, and someone, champion with their, Rocky Balboa, up in the air.
Paul watched the Rocky movies every year, and each time he did, he wanted to give his TV an offering because he was so encouraged in his spiritual journey. I mean, this is a cat who would watch Black Hawk Down and be in tears. He's like, yes, Lord, do it again. Do it in my heart. Do it in my life. Paul felt like that there was something of that warrior spirit, that the eye of the tiger that he believes should be activated as we follow God. What I'm trying to say is that, if you want to have a winning mindset, you're going to need first a five takeaway truths. Ambition, is that not what's in someone's heart when they say, I'm going to try out for the team? That's ambition. I'm going to go out for it. I'm going to try it. I'm going to go for Olympic gold. It takes ambition. It takes drive. It takes moxie. It takes a little bit of hubris in a good way, a little bit of that bravado. I don't know anybody who's ever done something great in this world, or especially in the world of sports, without some of that ambition.
And a big test of it along the way is, how do you respond when you're told what you want to do or what you have it in your spirit to do won't work or isn't needed? For me, one of the greatest moments in my life as an author was the day that some wet blankets were put on my publishing dreams. I had this dream of a book. It was not the book that I wanted to write. It was the book that I wished I could read, because when Jennie and I's second-born daughter went home to be with Jesus in Heaven, I searched the shelves of the digital world and the physical world to find any book that would not just tell me it's going to be OK, because I found a lot of books that were like, it's going to be OK, it's going to be OK, which is, there's a place for that. But I didn't want to hug. I wanted a war cry. And I didn't want a manual for grieving. I wanted to read a manifesto for a brand new kind of Holy Ghost living in the midst of my grief. I'm telling you, that's what I wanted.
And so that's what I was going to write. But several different key moments along the way, some people discouraged me. And one of the most brutal, hard conversations I had was with a man who told me, bro, I don't mean this the wrong way, but every single person who's ever had their child die thinks they're the next Joni Eareckson Tada, and most people can't, but here's the thing about that. As harsh as that was, it was exactly what I needed to hear. I needed to go to God and know this was from him, and not just something that rises up in the heart of every single person who's ever gone through something hard. And so it can be a thing where you can find if there is that strength, if there is that pluck, if there is that, what do they call it in Yiddish, that chutzpah right there in the midst of. And I believe, for you to have the winning mentality that God wants you to have, there needs to be ambition. That certainly was at play when men and women took it upon themselves to build a railroad not just across a country, but realize it was across a whole continent, for America represents not just a country, but also this massive continent. It's huge. It's all these states.
And with the Louisiana Purchase, and with the Oregon territories, and with California becoming a state, it was bigger than ever. And after we finished, it would not be for 32 years that any other continents got it together. With the trans-Siberian railroad, there finally was in the world another going across a continent. And one showed up then in Canada thereafter, slightly longer than the American one, but we did it first, y'all. We did it first. Many people doubted it could be done. If you weren't here last week, we said that many said, why don't we just build a railroad to the moon? But newsflash, 100 years after we got the railroad across the continent, man stepped foot on the moon. So it was a big part of creating the country that we know and love today. It wasn't just congressmen saying, there's no way it can be done.
There was also doctors saying, it shouldn't be done, for there was in that day common medical theory that the human body could not survive prolonged exposure to speeds in excess of 60 miles per hour, which is what would happen as the railroad would bring cars back and forth across the country. There was some doctors saying the human body couldn't do it. And by the way, when NASA was getting off to a start, there were flight surgeons who said human bodies cannot handle space travel. Human bodies cannot handle space walking. If we get out into the vacuum of space, even in a spacesuit, mankind's organs are going to liquefy, and the lungs are going to come out the ears, and it's going to be like a bad Alien or predator Movie. And then, of course, when we went out there and did it, the Mercury missions, the Gemini missions, the surgeons were like, oh, well, I guess never mind, because none of that stuff happened.
Stephen Ambrose likes to point out how young our country was when the golden spike was laid. He wrote, the United States was the youngest of countries. It had proclaimed its independence in 1776; won it in 1783; bought the Louisiana Purchase, through which much of the Union Pacific ran, in 1803, that's pretty short period of time right there; added California, and Nevada, and Utah, through which the Central Pacific ran to the Union in 1848; and completed the linking of the continents in 1869. We weren't even 100 as a country when we insured the empire of liberty running from sea to shining sea. There's some ambition in that. And here's what I want to say to you, that what was called, and perhaps way too bombastically, the greatest enterprise under God, that's how they referred to the transcontinental railroad in its time.
We today are doing something as we follow God. As we serve Him in the Kingdom, as you show up at work and show up in your home serving God, you are extending the greatest enterprise under God, truly, the Kingdom of God which is inside our hearts as we seek to live for Him. And I want to tell you, contrary to what you've perhaps heard before, that you should have ambition. You should have drive. There should be chutzpah. There should be that sense of taking a step of faith, like an athletic competition, like someone who's swinging for the fences, because I believe that ambition has gotten a bad rap. In fact, the reason I think it has is because of a Bible verse. It does show up negatively in the Bible, but notice, it's Philippians 2:3. Do nothing, Paul says, out of, say it with me, selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility, consider others better than yourselves.
So listen to me. It's not selfish to have ambition. It's just selfish when the ambition is there to bring glory to yourself, but you can actually bring glory to God by having an ambition to do everything He had in His heart for you when he dreamed you up. And it's not wrong to be ambitious. It's not wrong to have big dreams. In fact, I would say it does no honor to God to ignore the greatness that He put inside of you. Nor is Paul selfish when he says, look, there's gold and silver, and I want to win gold. I don't want to win silver. As I follow God, y'all can sit around having a bronze medal or having a wooden medal, but he said, I got one life, homie, and I'm going to give every last breath to get that gold. I want the golden crown. Paul said, I, I'm not going to mess around when I'm fighting. I'm not shadow boxing, man. I'm going to go for that knockout punch. I have a killer left hook, he's saying, so to want to win, to want to do these great things.
What it comes down, though, to in the end is a matter of motivation and whether or not you see something eternal, I think eternity is the key, whether you see something eternal happening through your efforts or not. Look at 1 Corinthians 9:25 again, but out of a different translation, and see if you can't see that as being a key. "All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You're after one that's gold eternally". What we do that only has value in the 70, or 80, or 90, or 30 years that we live on this Earth, that's a perishable crown.
Now, they literally, in the Isthmian Games, give out crowns made of leaves. So gold medal in that day was a crown that the moment it was placed onto your brow, it began to wilt. It began to wither. It began to fade. What did I say a moment ago? The golden spike isn't the only spike. Even when the actual golden spike was late and they did the thing they wanted to do, what happened? As time passed, it began to fade. Not only did Russia do it, not only did Canada get a railroad longer than our railroads so it's bumped down and demoted from the top spot, but I would say to you that the luster and the shine of the train that once was the glory of this great machine has, in our day, rather unceremoniously been demoted. I mean, it's just as vital. The train is just as vital. Take the trains away from our country and you will watch this nation collapse.
We already are seeing this infrastructure problem with all the ships stacked up off the coast of California, and not enough semis to be able to even get them, and just the shortage, and the way prices and the way things get, and a big solution, by the way, is that they're bringing in more trains to take more stuff out to Utah to alleviate what semi after semi after semi can't keep up with. So trains are just as vital. They're just not as appreciated. Their gold spike has faded. Their gold crown has faded. At one point it was the highest pinnacle of luxury to own your own train car. Now only the ultra-wealthy, ultra-elite could have their own train car and get it attached to a convoy of trains, and off they go down the track in their private train car. And it was just this ultra, ultra, ultra, ultra symbol of privilege and wealth to have this. But for everybody, the train, the train, the train, it's still somewhat ingrained in us, even though it got beat. It got beat as the fastest. It's not the fastest anymore.
When the train showed up, 60 miles per hour, because what was the competition? How about a photo? This was the competition, the covered wagon. Of course the train was the hero. Of course the train got gold. The covered wagon is what the train was replacing. So that's an image to have in your mind. But what beat the train? Hi, it rhymes with train. It's called the plane. We oftentimes do not try to get it's amazing, you can get coast to coast in six days. Right? Are you kidding me? I can get coast to coast in four hours. You can get you can get halfway to Europe in six hours. So it just sped up, didn't it? This long six-month voyage in a covered wagon, the gold medal goes to the train. But it got taken away. There's a new winner, isn't there? Because now there's the plane. And even the plane's luster in the last year, because why do I even have to go? I can just get on Zoom and all of a sudden be there.
And so now the internet killed the plane star, and the plane killed the train star, the train killed the covered wagon star. And who even watches MTV anymore, right? The gold of MTV, that one point was, child of the '80s, MTV, who even knows if there is even an MTV anymore? The point is the same thing can happen when your prestige, or your value, or your identity comes from anything just on this Earth. There's always something better. There's always someone more, no matter what you achieved. What's coming next? Something faster, something better, so the limited glory of anything on this Earth is impartial. But when we think about a bigger glory, when we think about a golden spike that comes from an unknown perishable crown, we come from, that comes from faith, faith without which, Hebrews 11 says, "it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him".
So what do we do? We don't turn down our ambitions. We turn them up all the way, but we ask God to receive glory through the thing that He put into our heart. And we say, with this one life, what time is there to waste? I want to do everything that God has called me to do, so I'm going to, whether I'm an athlete, or I'm an actor, or I'm an insurance broker, or I'm a scientist, or a police officer, or a teacher, I want to do everything God called me to do. Whether I eat or drink, I want to do all in the name of Jesus. I want to bring Him fame and bring Him glory, not by doing shoddy work. I'm not going for silver. I'm going for gold. But I'm not just looking at gold in this world. I'm looking for gold for when I stand before God and He says to me the best thing He could say, well done, good and faithful servant, that you took your talents, and your talent could be talent on the ice, your talent can be talent on the baseball field, your talent could be talent when it comes to singing or when it comes to leading, but that you said, with the talents I received, I did my best, well done in this life.
With my eyes on God's glory, when my, with my eyes on His Kingdom, I'm serving for a crown that does not perish, ambition. Secondly, there's only five, we're moving along, like a train down the tracks, number two, competition, having a winning mindset comes from knowing there's competition. There's something healthy about competition. There's been much said about run in your own lane, and there's been much said about the evils of comparison, but let me show you now the upside of competition, the upside of there being a little bit of a rivalry. It has been well-documented that, in Lincoln's mind, he knew that without competition it would never get done or get done like he knew it could, quickly and affordably, reasonably so, right, without there being that sense of competition.
So there wasn't just one company that was going to build this thing. The way he spelled it out, there was going to be a company coming from the west, the Central Pacific, and a company, the Union Pacific, that would be formed starting from the east. And they both would meet in the middle. And here's what was so brilliant about the way Lincoln set things into motion. He said, I'm going to pay you by the mile of track that you lay, $16,000 for a mile of flat track, $32,000 for a mile of hilly track, and $48,000 for a mile of mountainous track. So get as much done as you can. May the best company win. So off they went. They had an incentive. If it was just one company getting paid by the hour, just, we'll stretch this thing out for 100 years. What does it matter? We'll just keep going and keep going. And there was a lot of corruption, especially on the Union Pacific side. There was the whole Credit Mobilier scandal, and there was the awarding of contracts to companies that they had ownership stake in.
And Doc Durant, the head of the Union Pacific, was famous for being angry and outraged whenever a section of track was too straight. He said, make a little more curves. Make it a little more curvy. Make it a little more curvy. I like curves in my railroad tracks, he said, because he knew he would add in, it would pad the accounts. A straight mile was going to be less distance, and if he curved, it would actually take up more distance. But they were incentivized to get the show on the road, because if they dillied and dallied, what was going to happen? The other company was going to speed up and get more billable miles in the end. So Lincoln was so smart at unleashing the power of competition at work in these people. They had a reason to hurry. There was also competition among themselves. They didn't want to be the weak link. And what was happening? There was a competition between the guys who were laying the railroad ties and the guys who were building the telegram poles, because these were happening simultaneously. They were putting the telegram poles in just ahead of the track, and the telegram pole guys and gals were just so excited to always stay ahead.
That was kind of their thing, like, we're always just one step ahead of those lazy track layers. And so then the wire would get attached to that day's work, and they would be able to report back to both coasts simultaneously how much you get done today, 2 mile day, 4 mile day, 5 mile day. And nothing ever before had ever been followed like this. There was the reporters who were assigned to be with both, embedded in both companies, as they worked both from west to the east, and east to the west, reporting back to everybody at home, like, how much, who's ahead? Who's doing more? Who's going faster? Who's better? They were just devoted. The whole country was watching this thing as a spectacle and paying attention to these live updates and end of track reports. It became very much like a sport that we would watch today.
And similarly, as all of us seek to do the things that God has called us to do, and we as a church community and a community of people watching online a part of this thing, Fresh Life family online, we should realize there should be, in a sense, a spiritual competition spurring us on, spurring us to do, like Mordecai told Esther. When she had this opportunity of a lifetime to go in front of her husband, the king, and to believe for what, a golden scepter, what was she told? Honey, you don't have to do it. If you don't, God will get His work done by what? Someone else, help will come from another place. What was he saying? Hey, if the Sierra Nevadas are too big and scary, that's OK. The Union Pacific will come in across the Platte Valley and make the bad man stop eventually, right? He was saying, they'll just get that done if you can't. He said, if you won't do, if you don't have the moxie, if you don't have the pluck, if you don't have the chutzpah to just put yourself out there and to step out in faith and say, with all that God's done for me, here's how I'm going to show Him what I believe I want to and could see Him do in this world, if you don't have the faith to let God use you, God will get his work done and receive his glory from someone else. You'll just miss out on the privilege of being a part of the story.
What's that, if it's not competition, if there's not a little sense of rivalry? Am I going to leave that opportunity on the table? The clock is ticking. Life is a vapor. Someone's going to reach the youth of this country. God's going to raise up someone to touch those young people. Why not you and why not me? I say, here and now we've put the gauntlet down. Someone's going to feed the hungry. God's going to raise up someone to touch the sick. God's going to fight for the imprisoned in the prison in your life and beyond. I say, why not us? Why not us? I'm going for gold. I've got that winning mentality. I've got the eye of the tiger. Paul knew there was something inside of human nature that was like, that bristles at the thought of someone else doing what was dreamed up for you. Right? I say to you the same thing.
As we approach this year end moment of offering, I believe God is going to get this work done. The question is, will he use us? When Paul was getting the church at Corinth ready for an offering that was going to be received that was above and beyond normal tithe to normal giving, he wanted them to be ready, and so he wrote them, when he wrote the book of 2 Corinthians, a lot of instructions. And he was just kind of giving them a pep talk before this offering came. And notice what he says. Tell me if you don't see a little bit of the competitive spirit being unleashed when he says to them, "Now I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters", in Corinth, "what God and his kindness has done through churches in Macedonia".
So before you get ready your check for the offering, I just want you to know what other people did. And then, just FYI, they are being tested by many troubles, and they're very poor. But they also are filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity. For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will. They actually begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem. There was a lot of outreach, benevolence that was going to happen with this offering, a lot of dreams that God wanted it to do specifically touching people in Jerusalem, which, let me just pause right here and say one of my favorite initiatives attached to the golden spike offering is to fund a ministry that is actively preaching the Gospel in Jerusalem, in Israel.
I believe that God cares very much for people living in Israel, Jews by natural descent. And God put it specifically on my heart that a part of this golden spike would be to fund the preaching of the gospel of his Son, Jesus Christ in Jerusalem in Israel. And that was a part of this offering too. He's talking to the Corinthians, but he's not talking about the Corinthians. He's just hyping the Macedonians and just letting the Corinthians know, who have so much more resource and so much more money, and are suffering far less than the church in Macedonia, because that's what we all think about, how it'd be hard for me to give because of how hard is right now and how the tight the budget is. And he's like, all right, I know you're thinking that. Just know the Macedonians are poorer than you are, and they were beating down the door to give me a bigger offering than you guys did last time.
So it's awesome. I'm not going to put how much Billings gave last year and how much Whitefish gave last year on the screen, but I do believe there's a sense in which it's like, hey, come on. What's going to happen? You're sitting in someone else's sacrifice, people who gave before you came. What are you going to do now to expand the reach? What are you going to do now? You in Kalispell, we got, you built that ability. What about Whitefish? What about Salt Lake City? What about Portland? What about the dorms for our Leadership College? There's a sense in which there should be a, not on my watch, not my opportunity. No one else is going to take this privilege from me. They begged us for the privilege of it.
Verse 5, he's not done. They did even more than we hoped, for their first action was to give themselves to the Lord and to us just as God wanted them to do. So we've urged Titus, who encouraged your giving in the first place, to return to you and encourage you to finish this ministry of giving. He says, you guys excel in so many ways. You have amazing faith. You have gifted speakers. You have knowledge. You have enthusiasm, and your love as well. I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving. He was saying in many ways, your following God is amazing in every way, except the financial way. He's saying, you're doing good here, you're doing good here, but I want you to turn it up when it comes to giving. And he encourages them with this competitive spirit that comes from thinking about being spurred along by what someone else is doing. We not only are encouraged by that, by the fact that it's a limited window and God will get it done somehow by others who are doing great things for God, but then past saints. If you, from where we read, just flip one verse on to verse 1 of chapter 10, notice that says this.
We read 1 Corinthians 9. The next verse says, "I don't want you to forget, dear brothers and sisters, about our ancestors in the wilderness long ago". And then he talks about them for a while and gets to verse 11, and says, these things all happened as an example for who? For who? For who? For us, they were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age. What is he saying? He's saying, as you think about how you give and what you do, as you think about how you approach your winning mentality to life in God's Kingdom with the talents that He's given to you, you should think about, man, look what God did through Old Testament saints. Look what God did through people in the Bible who gave to Him, and learn from their lesson. And that's why the author of the Book of Hebrews said, as you run, remember the race is surrounded by many people cheering you on who have come before you. And let them urge you on. Let that competitive spirit of knowing you're going to stand before God and Heaven telling the story to Abraham, and to Esther, and to Ruth, and to Jonah, and to others. And let that urge you on.
Oliver Jensen, a historian, once said, speaking of the transcontinental railroad, to travel the route at the beginning of the 21st century, this century we live in, is to wonder whether we are today the equals of men who with their bare hands laid those long ribbons of metal over a century ago. He's saying, to think about what a great thing could be accomplished, without machines without modern communication abilities, without modern understanding of demolition is to say, what is our excuse? What's wrong with us that they could do that then, where's the transcontinental railroad of our day? And I would say his name is Elon Musk in answer to old Oliver. But not that any of this is meant to make us feel bad by looking at what someone else has done or by looking at what someone else has called to you, this is a really important distinction that I want to make for you, because we're not, I'm not looking at you to gauge whether I'm doing good or bad, because if I look at you, and perhaps you're doing a lot more than I could do, I'm like, well, that's, why even try? But I might not have been given as many talents as you have.
The reality is, if I look at someone who, on the other hand of it, is doing far less than I would say that I could do, in whatever regard, then I might feel like I'm doing really good, because I'm doing what I would say is so much more than that person. But the mistake would be to not realize it's always measured against capacity. It's always measured against what you have that you did what you did. For example, Jesus one time stood in the temple and watched people give. And His disciples saw some very wealthy people. They gave some very large gifts, and the disciples were like, woo. Did you see that? Oh my gosh, wow, what a big gift. And Jesus said, eh, yeah. Whoa, then He said, look at that, though. Look at that over there. And He saw this old widow put in what was a very tiny gift.
The disciples never even would have noticed it before. It wouldn't even be worth mentioning, but Jesus almost fell out of His chair, was pushing them into the bushes with excitement watching how she gave. Whenever we pass the containers and come around our time of giving, I always think about this story, because Jesus stood watching how people gave in what they put in, because He still does the same today. And He is not impressed by a gift that is not a sacrifice. And He knew what you and I need to remember, and that is that to give a big gift doesn't necessarily move Heaven if it's not even something that you're even going to feel, because in your budget, it represents a relatively small percentage of all that you've been entrusted. So to those who would say, well, God's not going to use my gift, I haven't been given a lot, God might be putting yours face-up on the jumbotron in Heaven when you give your gift for the very fact that it is small compared to the large percentage of what you have been entrusted. So you just have to remember you're being inspired on hopefully by the thought of people doing what God has called them to do, and you doing everything that God has called you to do. I wrote this down.
The danger any time we have this winner's mentality is always that we won't do what we can do, not that we won't do what someone else can do. So let's not let ourselves off the hook. God is calling us to do what we can do with all of our heart, to go for our personal gold, because ultimately the competition, yes, it's good to be spurred on by those running to the lane at our left and lane at our right, and those who have gone before us, but ultimately, there is only one gold medal we should be looking for, the one that God has laid out for me, the one that God has laid up for you. And the thought Paul said at the end is that I wouldn't get the gold that God has been planning for me. He said, I want to get the gold medal for myself. It's not like there's one gold medal and we're all in a race to get it. Every one of us have a gold medal of what it looks like to be found faithful in His hands, to hear Him say, well done, your race.
Well done with all your challenges, with what you had to face, with what you were given, with the dream I put in your heart, with the ability to network, with the ability to lead with those gifts and that particular calling on your life, because you could run someone else's race in a gold level manner and get a wood reward for your efforts, if it wasn't what He called you to do. So are you doing what God called you to do? That's the question. We need ambition to be a winner. We need competition. Thirdly, we need to have some discipline. Discipline is where we say no. Discipline is where we say no. Paul said, I discipline my body, because an athlete is disciplined in all things. At the highest level of sport, that's someone who has said no a lot of times. That's someone who realizes that their muscles need recovery, their muscles need rest, their muscles need the right amount of fuel. I love listening to interviews with even just singers talking about how they take care of their voices, what they do getting ready for concerts.
Like Hugh Jackman, this is Wolverine. And he was asked, what do you do? How do you, night after night on Broadway, all these performances, five in a row, matinees? And what he carries when he, you've seen they amazed, you watch this amazing performance, and he's like, I say no all the time. I don't go out to parties. I don't go out to dinners. I don't go with people. The interviewer said, what do you do after a performance? He goes, I go home and I do a puzzle. That's Wolverine. He's sitting there doing a puzzle. That's how he unwinds, and that's how he protects and preserves his voice and his bandwidth for the next performance. So this image that you would have of what it's like to be him, it's him saying no a lot. Why? Because he has a yes in mind. So you need discipline to do what God has called you. To have the winning mentality means you don't just say yes to everything. You don't just say yes to everybody. You just don't go everywhere you're invited to go.
You got to realize there's going to have to be some sacrifice along the way. There's going to be some nos. Put that photo of the covered wagon and the locomotive back up on the screen for a moment. I was thinking about the difference between a covered wagon and a locomotive, and how a covered wagon, if I could speak on its behalf to the train, taunting it, I would say, I can go anywhere I want to go. You're limited to right there. Then, if I'm the train, I would say back, that's why I'm so fast. Because you go everywhere you feel like going, that's why you're so slow. But because I have been willing to reduce myself to exactly this track, and there are places I can't go, and there are places that I won't touch, it's because I am limited that I'm free to go fast. And I believe that God wants you to see discipline as an asset, discipline as a strength, discipline as a superpower.
I was thinking about how last year, Jennie and I, there were some things we wanted to do with some researchers.As we felt God's Holy Spirit speaking to us about some particular callings on our life, both when it came to schedule and when it came to giving, and how we last year came around the Spitfire Fund and the idea of expansion, there was some nos that we had to make to say yes to what God was putting into our heart. And as I look at my life, every single time I've listened to the Holy Spirit and said no, even though my flesh would rather say yes, I have been grateful on the back end, by being limited to places I might like to go otherwise, when I got going up to full speed and I saw the plan of God pushing me on in His Spirit on the tracks that He has laid for me. Paul said the same thing. Let's look at it again. Verse 27, "I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that, after preaching to others, I myself might be disqualified", meaning I'm spinning my wheels all over the land, but not going far and fast, and bringing people, and bringing ideas, and bringing products where I'm meant to bring them.
I couldn't do what I have been called to do, if I said yes to everything. So if you grow your no, you will allow God's Holy Spirit to bless your yes. All right, number four, we're getting close to the end. We need cooperation to have a winning mentality. Athletes know this. Athletes understand the power of team. When you listen to post-game interviews, especially the ones that you get the right spirit from, where you just sense that spirit, there's a sense of, we did it, our team, and the management, and the coaches, and the whole staff, this is a whole army that made this possible. Many were included. We think, of course, about the men swinging the hammers, and there's a few names that we know when it comes to the railroad, but did there were surveyors who went ahead and had to map out the route? Did you know that there were graders who had to grade and make this 18-inch-tall, 2-foot-tall, 12-foot-wide section of dirt that was level for the track to go along? Did you know that there was, of course, those who had to lay the ties, those who had to actually come along with a gauger?
This is a machine that measured that the track rails were the right width apart, 4 feet, 8 and 1/2 inches, as Abraham Lincoln determined. Otherwise, the train's not going to be able to run smoothly on them. And once it was determined by the gaugers it was the right distance apart, the spikers came in. The ballast workers put ballast underneath the ties. There was walking bosses, cooks, doctors, bartenders, blacksmiths, project managers. There was riflemen. Buffalo Bill Cody got his start because they ran out of beef at one of the points along the Union Pacific, and so he said, I can go kill some buffalo. Someone handed him a rifle, and he walked out, and with 12 bullets, killed 11 buffalo. And the men had meat to eat for a week. There was lots of people attached, not just, not all for good, outlaws, scoundrels, hoodlums, gamblers, ladies of the night. It attracted all kinds of people.
And I'm telling you something. I pray that God would attract all kind of people to the Church, because the Kingdom is not just built of a certain kind of people. There was all kind of nations involved, and the Union Pacific was primarily those of Irish descent and veterans of the Civil War. The Central Pacific, we'll talk more about it by the end, was 90% built of people who came from China. There was people who worked in project management, who did nothing but make sure that the locomotives were sent six months before they were needed around South America to get to California. Every single mile of track required 40 carloads full of materials. There are people on the Union Pacific going out scavenging for trees to build into these rough ties that were put on the Union Pacific side. On the Central Pacific side, they took the time to build mills so their ties were polished, and nice, and pretty. It's amazing to see them going out from different directions looking of a different quality.
If you would have stood there listening as the railroad was being built, every 30 seconds you would have heard someone cry out down, down, because every 30 seconds, one of the rails, 500 to 700 pounds in weight, were set down almost always without having to be moved, in the exact precise spot by the four to five people that carried them. It was called by one newspaper reporter, who watched it all happen with clock like precision, a grand anvil chorus. A grand anvil chorus, those sturdy sledges are playing across the plains. It is in triple time, three strokes to the spike, 10 spikes to a rail, 400 rails to a mile, 1,800 miles to San Francisco. 21 million times are those sledges to be swung before the great work of modern America is complete. It moved along, they said, about as fast as a man could walk. With all the things that needed to be done, they did it all with such precision, every 30 seconds, down, another set of rails were laid. And all of the army did their part, and they all did it with such a tempo and such a time that it sounded like music, the grand anvil chorus. 7 million spikes were put down. Or as I said at the beginning, the golden spike was not the only spike.
And I want you to know, as you play the part, you might feel unseen in your home. You might feel unseen in your city. You might feel unhome because of your circumstances, or your skin color, or the dream that God has put in your heart. I'm telling you, you are seen by God. He watches what you're doing in secret, and you, little spike, will be rewarded openly, for what is done in the shadows will be shouted from the rooftops. Heaven sees and Heaven cares. If the whole body were an eye, Paul said where would be the hearing? If the whole body was an ear, how would you hear? If the whole body was an ear, how would you smell? But God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. It takes, to do what God has dreamed up, the cooperation of so many people faithfully playing their part, every single part of the Fresh Life family, every single one of us, to make the dream a reality. And we'll end with this. Having a winning mentality takes prioritization.
The priority for the Union and the Central Pacific was getting the railway done. The key here was not the highest quality. The key was just the quantity of getting it done, getting it done, getting it done, getting it done. Why? Because once it was done, it would be much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much easier to fix it, to improve it, because they would have the benefit of the trains going back and forth, bringing new materials, tweaking sections, tweaking sections, altering this, improving this. And it could and it would be altered. And we can make it go over here. We can add this line over there, and this can go over here, but we just got to get this done. They had their one priority in mind. That priority was connect the country sea to sea. The big thing, the story that would not be buried for them was get her done. And to that end, they did some sketchy stuff.
I want to show you two examples. They, at times, had to get across big canyons, and so the need was some trestle bridges. Thank you, Leonardo da Vinci, who gave us the idea for a trestle bridge. Here's one bridge in Wyoming they built, 650 feet across, 150 feet tall. It was said, when you stood on it, you felt like it was built with toothpicks. Another one just outside Promontory Summit in Utah was called the Big Fill Bridge. How would you like to ride across that? Look at those guys, just standing on the flat car. It was said that these two bridges were both a wonder of the age and an absolute terror to cross. They just got them done, got them done. They worked ahead of the rails and the crews to get this done so, when they got there, they could just go right across it. The big thing was get it done. And then, of course, it could be improved, and made sturdy, and made to withstand floods, and tornadoes, and all the rest eventually, but we just got to keep, the main thing, first thing comes first.
We're not going to spend 10 years building the perfect bridge. We're just going to get this done right here, right now. The point is they kept their mission in mind. Do you? Stephen Covey, I'll never forget the first time I saw it, is the one who gives us this tremendous analogy of how many of us make the mistake of allowing the tyranny of the urgent, the emails we got to write, and the social media we got to look at, of course you do, and the Netflix you got to watch, and the dry cleaning, and the taxes, and fill all the things you got to do your kids school, all this stuff, this is the urgent stuff of life ends up getting put into the container first and filling up our days, filling up our time. So then, when it comes to the actual important stuff, like our kids, and our own work, and that really important stuff we really need to do, we barely have any space, because in the analogy, he says you can't go above this. So a lot of us feel like we're already at threshold. We're already at a breaking point.
And so when we actually think about taking a vacation, it's like, take a vacation, yeah, that'd be lovely. That'd be nice, but there's barely any room left for any of that. There's almost no margin for it. And so he says we end up so full with the urgent, and then the important, and if I may make my own take on it, we have no room left for God and for what God's called us to do. How can I ever put that in? I can't fit this into my life. And some of us, as we talk about a God dream, you're like, Levi, that'd be lovely, but I have absolutely no room or bandwidth. And that's because, if I may be so bold, you're doing it wrong. Jesus said, seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness. And He didn't give any qualification to that, said put Me first. Put Me to the test. And if we would say, God, regardless of anything else in my life, I'm going to honor You, I want gold for me, is well done, good and faithful servant.
So having my kids raised in the Church, beginning the day in Scripture, getting paid, and giving the first and the best, above and beyond offering to expand the Kingdom, that, for me, matters more than anything else. I want your Kingdom, if I want anything. And yes, that's going to make me better as a mom. That's going to make me better at work. And as I do that, I have the strength of all of those things on Him, and they're being supported by Him. And then the beautiful thing is that you find, I did it wrong, we'll get it all in there, you find amazingly, somehow, how can God do it? Through His Spirit, if you seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, all these things shall be added unto you, with room to spare. I don't know how God does it, but I know, when I put Him first, and then I approach all the other things, when I put in stone, when I put in cement, when I prioritize worshipping Him each week, when I have prioritize tithing, when I prioritize His dreams for my life, His dreams for my marriage, somehow, some way it all fits in a way I cannot explain. And I want that for you.
Priority, Andy Stanley once said, alters and unlocks capacity. This can hold more because of the priority of the bottom stone being in first. It unlocks capacity and makes room for other things that could not have fit otherwise. This is why Elijah said to the woman who was like, but I got to make this, and I got to do this, and I got to do this, he said, that's OK. Do all the things you have said, 1 Kings 17, but make me a small cake first and bring it to me, and afterwards you will have left over for yourself and your son.
Now, I got to be honest with you as we come to the end of this message. I misled you a little bit, because as we started the sermon talking about ladders, I showed you this photo talking about ladders, but when I talk about the longest ladder ever built, I'm not speaking about the railroad. I'm speaking about Jesus. We are talking in this series about the longest ladder ever built, the largest ladder ever built. As impressive as it is to get across Russia, or America, or Canada, I'm telling you, it is a whole lot further to bridge the chasm between Heaven and Earth. And that is what God's Son Jesus Christ has done. And that is what He intends His Church to play a part in. This is Genesis chapter 28. You know it well if you've been a part of this church, because this text grips my heart, and I've preached on it so many times. Jacob dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the Earth. Its top reached to Heaven, and there were the angels of God ascending and descending on it.
And he was afraid. And he said, how awesome is this place? This is none other than the House of God, and this ladder is how you get to Heaven. This ladder is the gate of Heaven. He thought he had to make a tower up, but he realized, when the window opened and the ladder descended, the ladder came down. And that's what Jesus did, and that's what He wants us to play a part, in helping people see the ladder. We're not the ladder. We didn't build the ladder. Jesus is the ladder, but we get to point people to the ladder. We get to draw attention to the ladder. We get to do everything we can to go out in front of the train tracks, and to build the grade, and to make straight the way of the Lord. That's the heartbeat of the golden spike. Come on, let's make straight the way of the Lord.
Father, we thank you for letting us play a part in drawing attention to Your Son, the ladder, the longest ladder ever built. Thank you. That is a cross You, with one hand took, hand of sinful man, and with the other hand, You took the hand of Your Father, and you reconnected us, east to west, sea to sea. Thank You for Your love.
As we're praying in this moment, you would say, if you would be honest enough to say:
I've got some priority issues in my heart, I need to rearrange how I approach things, where there's some sense in which you aren't running for the gold God wants you to, could I just ask that you would let God know that by raising up a hand? Just some part of this message that touched you, you're saying, God, I hear you, want to act on this. I don't want to hear Your Word and be deceived. I want to put it into application, into practice. Thank you, Jesus. Bless these as they respond. Thank You for what you're doing in Fresh Life Church, in Your Church.
You can put your hands down. I want to pray now for anybody who's come in today and you don't have a relationship with God. You're trying to build your own ladder, get your own way up there, but you don't need to. And quite frankly, it's impossible. That's why God sent Jesus down. If you let Him, He'll forgive you, save you, heal you, give you the hope of Heaven, and set you at loose in His Kingdom to be an agent of change in this world before He returns. If that's you I'm describing, and you would say, I want to give my heart to Jesus. See, what do I need to do, I'm going to pray a prayer, and I want you to pray it out loud after me. Mean in your heart, but say it to Him. He'll hear you. Church family, say this with us.
Dear God, I know I'm a sinner. I can't fix myself, but I believe You can. Please come into my heart. I give it to You. In Jesus's name, amen.