Matt Hagee - Taking Care of the Home Team
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Today we choose this theme of sports because there's so many applications that come from it that we can apply to the purpose and the plan that God has for fathers. Today we set aside this service and this moment to encourage some of the most important people on the planet today, dad. I believe that fathers are indeed the most valuable players on the home team. While they're ever more needed: they have never been more under attack. Look at the culture that we live in. Watch the programming that's available on television. Listen to the conversations, and dad is marginalized, and dad is pushed to the back burner, and dad is the big buffoon in the room. He's not the leader that God called him to be. He's not the person that God ordained him to be. He's not the one in to whom God has entrusted the future.
But dad, if you're here today or you're watching by television, I want you to know we need you. Your children need you. Let's read Psalm 127:1 through 5 together. If you're there, say, amen. "Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it. Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he gives his beloved sleep. But children are a heritage from the Lord. The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them. They shall not be ashamed, but shall speak with their enemies in the gate".
Heavenly Father, thank you for your word today. Thank you for the light that it provides on the journey that we walk in this life. Now open our hearts to hear and our minds to receive this truth that when we leave this place, every father in this sanctuary would be encouraged, in the mighty name of Jesus. We all said, praise the Lord.
You may be seated. Dad, I mentioned earlier that you are needed. And I want to tell you very clearly, your sons need you. Your sons need you to show them how a real man of God lives his life. They need you to show them some very basic principles like hard work pays off and how to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, and with all of your strength. Not only do your sons need you, but you're daughters need you. They need you to be able to embrace them so that your arms are a place where they find confidence, and comfort, and strength. They need you to show them that real men love their wives and that real men honor the household. Not only do your children need you, but your church needs you. We need you, as men of God, to make an impact in the community. We need you to make being a godly man the most popular thing in your neighborhood.
Not only does your church need you, but God in heaven needs you. God needs you to cast your cares upon him when the weight of the world is greater than you should bear. You need to know God did not intend for a man to go through this life and carry the load on his own. God wants to carry it for you if you'll trust him with it. We need you to remember that the home team is the important team. Your home team is not the people you work with. Your home team is not the guys you used to play Friday night lights with. Your home team is the wife and the children that God gave you. That's the most important team.
Today I'm wearing the colors of Cornerstone warriors. Why? Because that's where my kids go to school. These are the colors they wear. It's at Cornerstone Christian schools that my children are learning the fundamentals of what it takes to win in life. It's not just at school: it's also at home. But as a father, I thank God for a school that compliments my parenting, does not compete with my parenting. Why? Because my family is my franchise. My kids and my grand kids, they're my dynasty. They're the ones that are going to tell the world whether or not I was an adequate coach in this life. They're the ones that when they leave my house, they're going to engage in the winner-take-all game of life where winners and losers are the ones who understand success and failure.
You need to know, dad, you have a very important role to prepare your family with the fundamentals of what it takes to succeed with the tremendous challenges that they're going to face in this world that is not fair. We do everything we can to try and make everything fair. We don't want any winners or losers. We don't want anybody to be recognized above all of their peers. But that might be something that is in a politically correct culture, but that is not in the real world. It's wonderful to cheer for our favorite teams. Everyone cheers whenever the NBA championship gets to see your home team raise the trophy, when your alma mater's playing in the bowl game. But you need to know, no matter how many hundreds of thousands of people fill the stadium, no matter how many millions watch over television, no matter how many parades they throw in celebration of the victory: very soon that victory is gone, that moment is past and the season is over.
But when it comes to your children, the season of life is never over. And how you trained them when they were yours is how well they're going to play in the future. There is no off season for dad. You've got to train your family to win. You've got to prepare them for the challenges they'll face. You've got to build a team of warriors at home that will be world changers when they leave. And if that's going to happen, you've got to remember where greatness comes from. If you want to build a great family, you've got to know that greatness comes from one source and one source alone, and that is God Almighty. "Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build it". Dad, your life will not win unless God is the foundation of life. Your children will have no basis unless God is the foundation of the home. Your marriage will not overcome challenges unless God is the anchor that you build your marriage upon. Your family has no foundation unless the Lord build the house.
Now listen to the next words, "They labor", say that with me, "They labor..." The point is very clear: in life, you will labor. And that's an important lesson for dad to teach to his family. You cannot get out of life without labor. I know some people are working really hard at hardly working. Dad, if you teach your children anything, teach them that there is something called a work ethic. This world has an overwhelming lack of real work ethic. There is a generation of capable young people, intelligent young people, that are insulted by the idea that they're going to have to put out effort before accomplishment is achieved. Don't wait until your son or your daughter cross the graduation line to introduce them to W-O-R-K. I know it's four letters, but it's not a foul word. Teach them how to take out the trash. Teach them how to do the dishes. Teach them how to make their bed. Teach them how to do the laundry. Teach them how to cut the yard.
In keeping with the theme for the day of sports, I took the time to look through several statistics, and several stories, and several articles about some of the greatest that ever coached or played the game. I looked at professional football. I looked at baseball. I looked at basketball. I looked at golf. I looked at tennis and all of the different things where we would identify great athletes. The thing that made these individuals hall of fame, all pro-capable athletes is the fact that rather than being extraordinarily gifted at one thing: they were extraordinarily diligent at doing the fundamentals. They mastered the basics of their sport and they just executed it over, and over, and over, and over again.
And I got excited when I found that out, because I believe that the fundamentals of fatherhood are something that every individual, who has the privilege of being a dad, can do. I don't believe that there are great dads and not great dads. I believe that there are fathers, who are diligent and fathers who need to be diligent. And the good news is for fathers is that God has some fundamentals that he wants you to accomplish. The first fundamental is you've got to read the play book. You've got to know what this says. You cannot achieve anything well in sports unless you are on the same page as the general manager. And this is the play book for the general manager of the universe.
So there's two basic fundamentals that God wants you to know today, fathers, and God wants you to do. The first fundamental is he wants you to love. Say that word with me, love. And the second fundamental is he wants you to lead. Say that word with me, lead. Let's start with the fundamental of love. The first thing that he wants you to do is love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, with all of your mind, and with all of your strength. Dad, you've got to love the Lord in such an outloud way that your kids will learn to love him too. They've got to see you read the word and apply it to your life. They've got to hear you pray your prayers and give God thanks when they're answered. They've got to watch you come to the house of God and lift your hands and praise the Lord, so that they'll begin to hunger and thirst after righteousness, because the first God that they'll ever know is the one you introduce them to.
God expects every man to lead. The Bible says that the head of the wife is the husband just as Christ is the head of the church. Dad, you need to know that the thing that qualifies you to lead is your ability to follow. If you are following Christ, you're qualified to lead, because every great coach is always coachable. He never stops being a student of the game. And as a father, you will never stop being a student of the game of life. This is why Hebrews tells us, "Looking unto Jesus, the author and the finisher of our faith". That means that we look to him because he is our example.
We are to do what he did. When Jesus was on this earth, the way that he taught his disciples was simply by showing them what to do. He didn't tell them to pray: he showed them to pray. He didn't tell them to minister: he showed them what ministry looked like. And then they went and did what they saw. So the kind of leadership that God wants you to have with your family is the kind of leadership that leads by example. God wants you to lead by the example of guarding your family. He looks at you as the protector. Now that job 50 years ago used to be pretty easy. All you had to do to protect the family 50 years ago was lock the gate and load the gun. Everything was fine.
Now, technology has made protection a lot more difficult. Now, the worldwide web will let all kinds of creatures into your home that you wouldn't let stand on your front porch. But you've still got to be diligent in leading your family by protecting them. That means that you have got to know what the WIFI password is, and you've got to put a lock on the remote. You've got to put spyware on the PC and a GPS in the car. You've got to put a polygraph on the babysitter when she walks through the door and a background check and a private investigator on the boyfriend when he rings the doorbell. Hire a mediator to negotiate the truths regarding what your teenagers are going to wear, and how they're going to do their hair, and the music that they like to listen to.
And remember you were a teenager once too. Fifty years ago, you actually had to have a contract with a television network to be on TV. Now, if you've got a cell phone, you are your own personal television network, which means that, dad, you've got to pay attention to everything your kids are doing so that you can guard them, because that's what it takes to lead them. Not only do you guard them, but you guide them. Guidance requires that you have a presence of direction in their life. There are a lot of dads that choose the role of, I'm just going to let the kids choose for themselves. That's not what's intended. You guide them in their decisions. One of the challenges that happens whenever you hear messages like this is that there's two choices.
Some men look back at the childhood that they had and the father that raised them, and others look forward. Men, I understand that not everybody had a great example for a dad. But that doesn't mean that you can't be one. You have a Heavenly Father, who was a fabulous example. His word is truth. And the truth of his word simply states that all things become new to those who are in Christ Jesus. That means that whatever happened in your life before you came to the cross, it all changed right after that, and you can become the man of God that he called you to be regardless of what yesterday had in it. And you say, "Well, that's easy for you to say, pastor Matt. Look at the dad you had".
Let me tell you, yesterday is something everyone has got to decide to get over. You can shrug your shoulders and say, "Dad didn't hug me, so I don't know how to hug my kids". Or you can hug yours with everything you've got. You can teach your kids that forgiveness is the key that unlocks doors and builds bridges: and that the worst thing that they'll ever do is hold a grudge. Grudges kill families. Grudges dissolve generations of trust. You say, "Well again, that's easy for you to say". I want to show you a picture of some pretty important men in my life. Standing next to this handsome eight year old is obviously my father. And this is my grandfather. That picture of him was in October of 1987, and he passed away a year later in October of 1988.
Now, I didn't have a whole lot of time on this earth with my grandfather. I didn't know him as well as people who knew him all of his life. But the time that I had, I cherished. Most of it, we were fishing, we were hunting, we were at family events. It was great to be around grandpa. He and I had a very common thing that we loved and that was being outdoors on the lake. Whatever we could do to go outside, that's where we were. Now in the time that he's passed, I've gotten to know him better because I had a father who helped fill in the blanks. And what I know about my grandfather is that he did love the Lord with all of his heart. And he loved God's word. And he gave six decades of his life to preaching God's word, winning others to Christ.
But what I didn't know and found out later is that he grew up in such a legalistic Pentecostal denomination that it created such a personal torment for him: that enjoying life was something not easy to do. He grew up in such a Pentecostal religious structure that they had so many rules that there were 101 ways to go to hell, and God was looking to send you there. It was a very graceless, a very hard way to try and build faith. The rules were based on your ability. They were based on your strength. They were not based on God's grace. It was man made religion that left no room for any imperfection in your relationship. You had to do all the work and God was looking for a reason to punish you. You say, that sounds silly. Who would believe such a thing? But that was all that he ever knew.
You say, "Well, how do you know all this: he died when you were nine"? Like I said, "I had a dad who filled in the blanks". While he grew up in that religious structure, it didn't make home life happy life if you were his son. A few years ago, dad and I were taking a trip to the ranch in west Texas. And I was bringing up grandpa. Every time I go to the ranch, I think about my grandfather. And I said, "Dad, it would is sure be nice if grandpa could get a weekend pass from heaven and come down here and go to the ranch with us". And I just thought it was a simple comment. But after a long pause of silence, pastor started to speak up. And he said, "You know there were days and weeks that he wouldn't even say a word, not hello, not good morning, not good night". He said, "Did you know that out of all the games of football that I ever played from the seventh grade all the way through college, he never came and saw one play? The newspaper would have my picture on the front page and he wouldn't read the article"?
The church thought that football was sin, so in order to stay holy, he ignored it. He said, "Did you know that in the eighth grade, I won the American legion award for being the best student in the school district, for being the academic leader, for being the athletic leader, and he never said a word"? And for 30 minutes, dad began to express the pain of that childhood experience where he didn't have the kind of father that I had. And the mood in the truck and the trip started to turn. And for the next 15 minutes, we just rode in silence. And if you know anything about me, sitting in silence for 15 minutes is nearly impossible. And I kind of whispered a prayer. I said, "Lord, give me the words to say".
And then I started talking. And I hoped it was God. And I said, "Well dad, I guess I should write grandpa a thank you letter". And he said, "What"? And I went, "Oh, Lord". And I said, "I guess I should write him a thank you letter". "What for"? I said, "Well," I said, "I can't argue with the things that happened in your childhood". I said, "But if the way he raised you and all of the hurt that you had to endure is what helped you become the dad you are to me". I said, "Then I guess I should write a letter and thank grandpa. He never watched you play a game, but you never missed one of my practices. There's an oak tree at hobby middle school where you stood in the shade, seventh grade, eighth grade, August, September, October, every time we came out of the tunnel, not on game day: just to watch a bunch of middle school kids play chase, you never missed.
He might not have said two words to you and told you he loved you, but there's never been a day you haven't hugged me, and kissed me, and told me how proud you are of me. He might not have paid attention to the articles in the sports page or the accolades and the awards. But dad, you chased me around the backyard with a video camera when I was still in diapers. That might not be much of a highlight reel, but you let me know pretty quick, I was a hero. And you were mine. So I want to thank you for being such a fabulous father". Remain standing. Men, as fathers, it will be what you want it to be, not what it has been, but by God's grace, what it should be. I want every father in this room to raise their hand. I want to pray a prayer of blessing over you. I want your family and your loved ones to extend their hands towards you.
Lord Jesus, you are our example. And you honored your father by the life that you lived. So I am asking you that these men standing here with their hands raised, would decide today that they are going to live their life and honor you by the way that they live. Give them the courage to lead and love their families. Give them the strength, when they're weak, to step forward in faith. Give them hope in the darkest hours of despair, and be the light and the lamp that walks them through paths of righteousness for your name's sake. Every mountain of impossibility, I ask that you remove it: every crooked way. That you would make it straight. Every enemy that rises against them, I pray that they would be defeated, in the mighty name of Jesus: and that you, Heavenly Father, would be the Lord of their life, and their home, and their generations to come from this moment forward. In Jesus' name, we pray and we say, amen.