Robert Jeffress - Prepare For The Grand Finale
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Anyone who wants a comfortable retirement appreciates the wisdom of an aggressive savings plan. We store away money in 401(k)'s, mutual funds and stocks in an effort to prepare for our sunset years. Well, the fact is our future extends much farther than our time here on earth. So what should we be doing right now to prepare for eternity? That's the question I'll address today as we conclude our series, Second Chance, Second Act. My message is titled, "Prepare for the Grand Finale" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
Once upon a time there was a poor old man who owned a beautiful white horse that was the envy of everyone in the small village where the man lived. One day the old man discovered that the horse was gone from the stable. The townspeople said to him, "You're a stupid old man. We told you someone would steal your horse. You have been cursed". The old man replied, "You have judged too quickly. Don't say that my horse has been stolen and that I have been cursed. Instead, simply say that the horse is gone. That is all you can say, the rest is a judgment". "You make us out to be fools," the people protested. "It is obvious to everyone that your horse has been stolen and that you are cursed".
After two weeks, the horse returned. He had run away and now he came back with a dozen wild horses with him. The village people gathered in front of his house and said, "Forgive us, old man, we were wrong. Obviously, you are not cursed, you are blessed because you have 13 beautiful, white horses". The old man replied, "Once again you have made a judgment you're not prepared to make. All you can say is that the horse returned with 12 others. Whether this is a blessing or a curse, only God knows".
The old man had one son who worked at taming the wild horses. One day he fell from one of the horses and broke both his legs. The townspeople once again offered their insight. "You were right and we were wrong. We thought the horses were a blessing, but we judged too quickly. Obviously, they were a curse since your only son has broken both his legs and now there is no one to help you in your old age". The old man could not believe what he was hearing. "Why are you so intent on judging? All you can say with certainty is that my son broke both his legs. Who knows whether it is a blessing or a curse"?
A few weeks later war broke out in the adjacent country. All of the young men were drafted into service, but the old man's son was exempted because of his injury. The people in the village once again came to visit the old man. "You were right and we were wrong. Our sons are going into battle to be slaughtered, but your son's accident turned out to be a blessing". The old man sighed, "When will you ever learn? All you can say with certainty is that your son went to battle and my son stayed home. Whether it is a blessing or a curse, only God knows".
You know, we live in a culture that celebrates the ability to make snap judgments. Commentators on television want to instantly decide whether a candidate has won or lost a political debate. News anchors are very quick wanting to be first rather than be right when a natural disaster occurs. Even best-selling business books like "Blink" tells us that really effective executives know how to size up a situation in just a few minutes. But our propensity to make quick judgments can lead to the wrong conclusion, especially when it comes to judging the failures in our life. To allow one lapse of judgment, one wrong choice, one squandered opportunity to become the defining event in our life, well, it's just as shortsighted as the townspeople in the parable I just read. As the old man said, life is so vast, yet you judge all of life with one page or one word. All you really have is a fragment.
Throughout this series, Second Chance, Second Act, we've been comparing our life to a performance. God has given us 70 or 80 years here on life's stage, the world stage, to live out the role that he's assigned to us. And during our performance, during our life, occasionally we may miss a line, we may blow a clue. But fortunately the divine director doesn't bring the curtain down. There is a possibility for a second act in our life, if we follow the five biblical principles we've been looking at. How do you turn incredible messes into great successes in your life? Remember what those principles are. We said first of all you've got to fess up to your mess up. That is, you have to confess your mistake before you can be forgiven of it. Secondly, we said don't mess up for free.
Yes, failure is inevitable, and we're gonna pay a price for that failure, but we need to learn from our failure instead of repeating those failures. And then thirdly we said enjoy your intermission. When we slip up, mess up, or screw up, many times God is going to say, "You know what, there needs to be a pause," an intermission, a time between your past failure and the future God has for you. But those waiting times don't have to be wasted times. And then we saw last time eventually God says, "It's time to begin your second act now". We need to be careful to know how to discern when God is telling us it is time to begin our second act.
And now today we're ready to look at the fifth principle. It's on your outline there, it's in your bulletin. I encourage you to follow along with us as we talk about preparing for the grand finale. Preparing for the grand finale. Now, you know this whole idea, this metaphor of our life being a performance is not something original with me. The first person I know that came up with it actually was the apostle Paul. In 1 Corinthians 4:9, listen to what Paul says about some of the difficulties he and the other apostles had endured for their faith. He said, "For I think God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death, because we have become a spectacle," underline that word, "A spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men".
That word spectacle is the Greek word theatron. Theatron, what does that word sound like to you? It's the word theater. Our lives have become a theater to the world, both to angels and to men. Eugene Peterson in his paraphrase The Message captures the meaning of the word when he paraphrases this verse. "God has put us who bear his message on stage in a theater in which no one wants to buy a ticket". We are all in a theater, we are on life's stage. What I'm saying to you is, ladies and gentlemen, you will never be able to understand the whole of your life, including your failures, until you understand that your life story is part of a larger epic drama that has been going on since the beginning of time.
This is a drama that actually began in heaven many, many years ago when Lucifer rebelled against God. And this epic drama of which you and are simply a part, this epic drama is going to answer three major questions. Number one, who will ultimately prevail in the battle between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan? Secondly, who is the most worthy ruler of the universe? Is it God or is it Satan? And number three, will Satan be successful in turning God's creatures like you and me against their Creator?
You say, "Well, who's watching this drama"? Well, it's being played out on a number of different levels. First of all, there is a visible audience right now who's watching how you play out the role God has assigned to you. But that's not the only audience. There's an invisible audience also watching this drama on earth, God in heaven and his angels. But not only them, also on earth, Satan and his demons, and even those under the earth, those demons who have been temporarily confined, everyone is watching this epic drama and the part we are playing. And there are three aspects of this drama we're going to talk about today. First of all, the duration of this drama. Secondly, your role in this drama. And finally, the reward, the payoff, for playing your part well.
Let's look first of all at the duration of this drama you and I are in. It's longer than you suppose. You know, investment advisors talk about somebody's time horizon. They say, if you're in your 20s, you can afford to make risky investments, because if they turn out badly, well, you've got time to recover. But if you're in your 60s and make that kind of investment or you're close to retirement, it can spell real trouble. That same idea applies to mistakes we all make in life. It's one thing to make a mistake in your 20s about a relationship or about a wrong career choice or a financial decision. You've got time to recover. But when you get into your 60s and you make a tremendous mistake in your life, it seems like there is no time to recover. Or at least it seems that way.
Today, if you've made a mistake in your life, I want to share with you the most liberating truth I've ever discovered about failure. I've waited until this last message to share it with you. Your time horizon for recovering from your mistake is not 10 years or 20 years, it is eternity. God has given us an eternal time horizon. In John 10:28 Jesus said, "I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish".
My friend Bruce Wilkinson uses this illustration I've put on your chart about the dot and the line. He encourages people to take a pen and put a dot right in the middle of the piece of paper and then draw a line all the way to the end of the page. He says that dot represents the 70 or 80 years God has given us here on earth. The line represents our existence after we die that goes on and on and on and on. He said most Christians make the mistake of only living for those 70 or 80 years, the dot, rather than thinking about eternity.
You say, "How does that apply to my failure"? Here's how it applies, let's say like Moses you make a big mistake when you're 40 years old. Maybe up to that time you've made some pretty good choices but you make a horrible choice that really you think is going to be the defining event in your life and you wonder, do I have time to recover from that? Maybe it happens when you're 50, or maybe when you're 60. What I what you to understand is the timeline, the time horizon for your second act is not 10 years, 20 years or 30 years, it is eternity. It goes on forever and ever and ever.
You see, the duration of our role is much longer than we suppose. Secondly, we need to understand not only the duration of the drama but our role in the drama. It's different than you think it is. The role God has assigned you and me to play in this epic drama is much different than we think it is. Kenneth Ulmar tells a story about being in college and taking a criminology class. He said he cut that class every which way but loose, never attended once. But then he got word from a friend attending the class that the professor had assigned a final research paper. And so Kenneth thought, "This is my time to redeem myself. So I would write the best paper I could and hope it would make up for my absences". So he worked and worked and worked on that paper. He was so proud of it, he handed it in.
A few days later he got it back from the professor. The professor had written the words, "Good paper, great content, great research". And then he put a big F on it and circled it with this word of explanation. "But this wasn't the assignment I gave the class". Ken Ulmar says that day he learned a very important life lesson, it does not matter how well you do what you do, if you do not do what you're supposed to do. Now that's profound. It doesn't matter how well you do what you do, if you do not do what you're supposed to do. That comes to the assignment God has given us.
Many people don't understand what God has placed us here to do. The executive who attains the title of CEO, the worker who accumulates several million dollars in his retirement plan, the pastor who builds a thriving, successful church, may be surprised when he gets to heaven and hears God say, "That's very good, but that wasn't the assignment I gave you". What is the assignment that God has given us? It's found in John 17:4. This is the prayer Jesus prayed before he was crucified. He said, "I glorified thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which thou hast given me to do". Jesus said, "My role here on earth was to glorify you, Father, and that's what I did".
And that's the same assignment, ladies and gentlemen, God has given each one of us, to glorify God. What does that mean? That word glorify simply means to make God look bigger and better to the world around us. That's why we're here, to point people toward God. One way you could paraphrase John 17:4 would be, God, I played the part you assigned me to play. I made you look good while I was here on earth. You may say, "What does all of this have to do with failing in life"? It has everything to do with it. Our mistakes provide some of the best opportunities to glorify God. Think about this, a spotlight can only shine in one direction at a time.
Now, when we're succeeding and doing well, the spotlight's on us. People say oh, isn't she gifted, isn't he shrewd, aren't they a wonderful couple? In our successes, the spotlight is on us. But when we fail, there's an opportunity to shine the spotlight on God and say look at God's ability to forgive that person. Look at God's power to restore that person to a new beginning. And that's what our purpose in life is, it's to make God look better, and our failures provide some of the best opportunities to do that. Isn't that what Paul said to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 12? You remember he talked about it's not in our strength but in our weaknesses that the power of God is displayed.
"And he said to me, my grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weaknesses. Most gladly therefore I will rather boast about my weaknesses that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses, and with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake, for when I am weak, then I am strong". Whatever mistake you've made in your life, a divorce, a bankruptcy, a lapse in judgment, a moral transgression, God can actually use that to bring glory to himself, if you allow him to do so. What I'm saying to you is, God can use your failure to help you execute the real role you've been assigned. Not to be the star of the drama yourself, but to point people to God.
Some people would say, "I'm not sure I like that role. I want to be the star of the production. I don't want to be a bit player who simply turns people to God". Well, before you reject that role that God has given to you, you need to understand, third, your reward for playing your part well. It is greater than you could ever imagine. Now, something I want to clear up here. Please don't misunderstand. God doesn't reward us for making mistakes. We don't get to heaven one day and God says to us, oh, you lost all your money investing in silver futures? Wonderful, I'm going to put you in charge of eternal riches. What I'm saying is, when your heart attitude is to take even your failures and connect them to the glory of God and point people to God, God does reward that attitude. He did with his own Son Jesus Christ.
Now, Jesus never made any mistakes, but listen to the reward he received for wanting to glorify God. In Philippians 2:9 Paul says, "Therefor, because Christ humbled himself and made himself obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross, therefore also God highly exalted him and bestowed upon him the name which is above every name". And God will do the same for us. In 2 Timothy 2:12, Paul says, "If we endure, we also shall reign with him, if we deny him, he will also deny us". There is no prize for failing, but when we ask God not only to forgive us but to use our mistake for his eternal purpose, the reward is unimaginable and unending.
In the final book in the series "The Chronicles of Narnia," C.S. Lewis illustrates how this life is really just a prelude to a second act that goes on and on and on. You'll remember that earlier in the book the children were involved in a train wreck that dispatches them to the magical world of Narnia, which is a picture of heaven. When their adventure is over, the children are fearful that they're going to be sent back to earth. But the great lion Aslan, who is a type of Jesus Christ, shares with them the good news about their future. He says, "There was a real railroad accident. Your father and mother and all of you are, as you used to call it in the shadow-lands, dead. The term is over, the holidays have begun. The dream has ended, this is the morning".
And as Aslan spoke, he no longer looked at them like a lion, but the things that began to happen after that were so great and so beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us, this is the end of all the stories, and we can say most truly that they lived happily ever after. But for them, it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures had only been the cover and the title page.
Now at last they were beginning chapter one of the great story which no one on earth has read, a story which goes on forever in which every chapter is better than the one before. Jesus said, "I give eternal life to them. I give eternal life to you, and you shall never perish". Your failure, no matter how terrible it was, doesn't have to be the grand finale of your life story. Even your physical death doesn't bring down the curtain of your existence. Everything you've experienced in your life so far, including your failures, is only a prelude to a second act that can begin right now and go on forever and ever and ever. Hallelujah, isn't that a great, great truth? God be praised.