Playing to the Standard

by Andy Wood on September 27, 2010

in Five LV Laws, Gamblers, Life Currency, Love, LV Alter-egos, LV Cycle, Principle of Eternity, Protecting Your Investment, Time

Halftime, Durham, North Carolina.  The Duke Blue Devils have just scored the first touchdown that top-ranked Alabama has surrendered in two-and-a-half games. 

Not exactly a moment to panic, however.  Alabama leads at the half, 45-13.

Cue the halftime interview with Coach Nick Saban.  “Coach,” Sideline Babe says, “Were you upset about giving up your first touchdown of the season?”

“I don’t care about the touchdown,” Saban replies.  “I’ve just been talking to our guys about playing to a standard.”

Fast-forward one week.  Halftime again.  This time, nobody wearing white and crimson was strutting to the locker room.  The defending national champions are trailing a very strong Arkansas Razorbacks team in Fayetteville 17-7, and it’s no fluke.  These Hogs are good, and Bama’s looking rough.

Somebody… not namin’ names here… but somebody woke somebody up.  Final Score:  Alabama 24, Arkansas 20.

After the game, Coach Nick had this to say:

“I want them to remember what it’s like not playing the way you’re capable of playing, not playing with the intensity and focus you need to have. We have a standard we want to play to, we want to play to it all the time. We certainly didn’t get that done in the first half.”

Another Clock is Counting Down

Football is not the only place where the clock is ticking toward zero.  It’s happening in your life as well.  When was the last time you were handed a rude reminder that life is short?

Here’s the way the Bible phrases it:

“Áll flesh is like grass, and its glory like the flower of it” (1 Peter 1:24).

Tick tock, Doc.  You don’t have all day.

Maybe it’s time we thought about playing to a standard.

A Standard of Excellence for a Short Life

I have no clue what The Standard is for the Crimson Tide football program.  But I do see some hints about the last half of our lives.  Peter is writing to people who have faced incredible adversity.  And yet, if anything, he raises the bar of excellence.

Did you think that your troubles made you less accountable?  Or offered you more excuses for mediocrity? Think again.  Here are six standards of excellence for believers who are backed up against a mean adversary and a ticking clock:

1.  We are accountable:  Live reverently.

“If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth” (1 Peter 1:17).

Just want to remind you, Peter says, that one day every believer will have his date with destiny – his appointment with God.  Unlike nonbelievers, however, when we stand face-to-face with the Father, we have an Advocate who stands on our behalf.  However, that doesn’t change the fact that we will give an account and “receive the things done in the body, good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).

So what does that suggest for us? 

Live in fear.

Not paranoia.  Reverence.  A life of loving worship.  Respect.  Awe.  That’s the standard.

2. We are redeemed:  Live gratefully.

“knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19).

A little-discussed factoid about the human condition.  What makes the curse what it is? It’s the futility of it all.  What makes hell what it is?  The eternal futility of it all.

Definition of futility:  no matter what I do, it’s never good enough.

Here’s the good news about your identity in Christ:  The blood of Jesus Christ has purchased you back from a life of futility.  And there is nothing – nothing – His blood has not purchased.

When Jesus redeemed you, he redeemed all your do-overs.  He bought back all your stupid choices.  He bought back all your painful experiences and shameful secrets.  And He bought a futures contract on you!  He has already redeemed any curse-bound choices you have yet to make.

What does He ask in return?  Remember.  Give thanks.  That’s what communion is all about.  That’s what worship is all about.

That’s the standard.

3.  We are believers:  Live faith-fully.

“For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” (1 Peter 1:20-21).

Before coming to faith in Christ, most of us had some sort of intellectual belief in God.  That and a buck-fifty gets you in line at Starbucks.  “Even the demons believe and shudder,” James said (James 2:19).  Big whoop.

But through Christ, something else transpired.  Through Him, head fakers become grace takers.

Before:  we nodded our heads at God and truly believed in us, or something/someone else.

Now:  through Christ, we are now believers in the truest sense of the word.

So what do you do with that?  Here’s a radical thought:  Try believing.

“Believer” isn’t just code that a Christ follower uses for another Christ follower (as in, “Hey did you see him point to the sky when he scored that touchdown?  I think he’s a believer!”). “Believer” means one who lives like Jesus is real, even when the money is tight and your energy is dry.  Who lives like God is still on the throne, even when life hurts.

More than likely, right now God is at work somehow, calling you out to trust Him.  I wonder what He’s doing in your life… I wonder how you will respond.

Try responding by believing.  That’s the standard.

4.  We are purified:  Live lovingly.

“Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart” (1 Peter 1:22).

Believers in Christ have a changed identity.  We are purified because we obeyed the truth.  So what do you do with that?

Here’s a suggestion about what NOT to do:  Don’t brag about it.  Sometimes sophomore Christians get a hold of a little truth and get stupid with it… and often for some reason, bumper stickers or church signs are involved. (Click here to see the opposite of that.)  But I digress…

How do we respond to having our hearts purified?  By loving one another.  From the heart.  Fervently.

When was the last time you felt like somebody loved you like that?  When was the last time you let yourself go to love someone else like that?

When your heart is pure, you have nothing to hide.  You are free to love.

When your heart is pure, you have no one to judge (imagine that!).  You are free to love.

When you encounter another follower of Jesus, you’re mixing it up with somebody who is as purified as you are.  You are free to love.

And that’s the standard.

5.  We are born again:  Life scripturally.

“for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God”(1 Peter 1:23).

Unless you’re like the Apostle Paul and were miraculously body-slammed before you trusted Christ, all you had to go on was a simple promise – “whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).  From that moment on, the entire foundation of your life changed.  No longer did you live by your senses or your reason.  You stood on the promises of God’s word.

You still should.

The same source of truth – God’s word – is your truth for wisdom today.  And there is no situation, no challenge, no circumstance that is beyond the truth of God’s word to speak wisdom and life into it.

That is the standard.

6.  Life is short:  Live Eternally

“The grass withers, and the flower falls off, But the word of the Lord endures forever” (1 Peter 1:24-25).

Here’s a cheery thought:

Today is the first day…

Of your march to the grave.

 Have a nice day!

Seriously, you’d better have an answer to the fact that one day you will breathe your last.  There will be no more chances to pray.  To love. To forgive.  To serve.  To share Christ.  To make a difference for eternity.  To live for what matters most.

There will be no more chances to accept Christ, either, if that remains your unfinished business.

As I type this, my shoulder and elbow are killing me.  My right hip is not far behind.  I’ve finally started giving in and actually wearing glasses to pay bills at age 51 (may should have started that a bit sooner!).  All just little reminders…

Tick tock, Doc. 

The game is winding down, and you have no guarantees.

You’d better have an eternity answer when you have no more time.

That… that … is the standard.

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