Waynedale United Methodist Church
Thursday, November 23, 2017
Making Disciples of Jesus for the Transformation of the World!
   

July 23, 2017 Sermon

“NASCAR and Jesus: Strategy”
Matthew 6:25 – 34
Ted Jansen  July 23, 2017  Waynedale UMC
 
1.)        Can you name a few of the race tracks that NASCAR runs on?  (Have people share).  I want to ask you a few NASCAR track questions.  What track has a 33 degree banking on its roadway, the steepest of all tracks?  (Talladega Speedway in Alabama).  What track has the largest capability to host fans?  (Indianapolis Speedway can host 300,000 fans).  What two tracks opened in 2001?  (Kansas and Chicagoland Speedways)
 
2.)        Each track is different with its own unique design, size, length and history.  Each race, on the different tracks, is approached with the same goal of winning the race.  The focus of winning begins days, weeks, or months before the race.  Planning is essential.  Yet a victory can be achieved with a split second decision made in the midst of the race.    
            I invite you to think of a steering wheel as we focus on the topic of strategy.  Your car moves in the direction you turn the steering wheel.  So, let the steering wheel represent the strategy involved in racing.  I want to share a few thoughts about strategy. 
 
3.)        a.)  The fastest car doesn’t always win. 
Speed is an important part of racing but there is more to do to be a winner than just being fast.  A drag race is about speed, with races only lasting a few seconds.  Tim Marsh can tell us about drag racing and its specifics.  When you race for hours you need to be prepared for all sorts of things.    
            Along with the individual races that drivers can win there are points you earn for your standings and those add up to the season championship.  You are rewarded for being the most consistent in your driving in different places.    
 
b.)  Driving smart puts you in a position for victory. 
When it comes to strategy you have to be concerned about a variety of things, like drafting, timing of pit stops, position on the track, your own physical condition, etc.  When you are smart and understand things you can be ready for victory.       
            There was a race in 1976 when the crew chief put two tires up on the wall like his driver was going to get gas and two tires.  This made the others think they had time to put on two tires as well. The driver came in and got gas only and with the time he saved by not putting on tires like the other drivers did he took the lead and won the race.  (This was how Joe Milikan won the Daytona 300 with Petty Enterprises with this tactic.)
 
c.)  You have to adapt your strategy to what’s happening on the track. 
            Here is a quote from the Unauthorized NASCAR Fan Guide.  (page 125, 126)
“Generally, race-day strategy evolves as driver and crew chief answer their own questions.  The track and car “speak” to them, asking for one adjustment after another. 
Fuel mileage is calculated, tire wear studied.  Almost invariably, weather conditions become a player, forcing more decisions…
The questions come in rapid succession, leaving little time for detailed analysis….You have to know what your car and driver can do, but you also have to know what the other cars and drivers are probably going to do.  It sometimes works out that your strategy is dictated by what somebody else does.”
Let’s talk about strategy and Jesus. Let us look this steering wheel as a symbol for your life strategy.  What direction are you steering your life?         
 
4.)        Jesus was speaking one day to a group of people about the direction of their life, their “strategy for living.”  The Sermon on the Mount was shared by Jesus to offer  insights and instructions on how life works best.  The sermon is found in Matthew 5, 6, 7.  Jesus shared some specific things in the passage from Matthew 6:25 – 34.
He spoke to the people and told them not to worry about food and clothes.  He said that some people give too much of their time and energy pursuing food and clothes.  In doing this they miss what is most important, which is trusting God. 
            Jesus reminds them that their heavenly father who provides food for the birds and clothes the flowers with beauty cares for them more than these.  Jesus wants them to understand that they are more important to God than the birds and the grass. 
            When we understand and receive the love of the Father we can be confident that we would want to steer our lives in God’s direction.  We need to know that we are loved. 
 
5.)        If we are not sure God loves us we might fear God.  If we only listen to God out of fear we might change our direction for a moment but when fear subsides we go back to the direction we were moving in before we experienced fear.
            How many of us check the speedometer when we notice a police car parked at the side of the road?  How many of us usually slow down?  This is because of fear.  We are afraid that we will get caught. 
How many of us pick up our speed a few miles down the road?  Fear steers our lives only for a season.  Love shapes us for life.     
 
6.)        If we know that we are loved then Matthew 6:33 can be a verse that gives us the direction that we need.  “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”    
            I like how the Good News Bible translates this verse.  “More than anything else, put God’s work first…”
            You only have one life to live.  Why not steer it in the direction that the Lord desires.  It is either the Lord’s direction or your own selfish direction.  When we steer our lives in the direction of the Lord we experience a life filled with joy, peace, and love.  When we steer in our own direction we only have temporary happiness, or brokenness.    
 
7.)        As we consider NASCAR and strategy let’s look at the three insights from racing and connect them to our strategy for living. 
 
*The winner in life is not the one that is the fastest, biggest, strongest, wealthiest, etc.  
            Have you ever hear the quote that says, “The one with the most toys at the end wins.”  That is not true, but some live that way. 
            Jesus said, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul…The greatest among you will be your servant.”  (Matthew 16:26, 23:11) 
            This strategy says don’t invest your primary life’s energy to attaining more clothes, better food, a … (fill in the blank with things that are temporary).  What are the things that people are driven to achieve and receive?  It might be any number of things.
            In The Message translation, by Eugene Petersen, here is how Matthew 6:33 is translated.  “What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving.”
            God’s giving to us is what we need to focus on.  A winner receives God’s grace!     
 
*Living with a smart strategy can position you for victory
            You win in life when you line up your life with the Lord and his kingdom as your priority.  We seek His Kingdom by using the time, talents, and money for His purposes first.  This creates victory in our lives.      
                       
*You must adapt your strategy based on what’s happening in the world around you.    
            What happens to you when things outside of your control are experienced?  Are you stressed, are you ok, are you able to adapt.  We all have to be flexible with our life and things that happen.  We need to be firm and focused on the important things, the key things, the first things, the essential things.  But we need to be willing to flex when life is  rearranged for you.  This is easy to say but harder to live through.        
 
8.)        Richard Swenson is a medical doctor who has studied our current culture.  He has focused on the idea of progress and how much margin we have in our lives.  Margin is the ability to handle stress.  Without margin we have overload and burnout.  He shares these words that apply to direction in life.   
            “Stretch yourself, with my blessing.  Dream large.  Break records.  Accomplish new goals.  Perfect your discipline.  But always remember that the race is not a race for records but a race for love.  Hear me.  You do not wish to come to the finish line and discover you were in the wrong race.”  (A Minute of Margin, Reflection #3)
            This race for love is what Jesus spoke about! Let us steer in that direction. 
              
9.)        “This homework assignment is going to be interesting,” I told my tenth-grade English class.  “Write a journal entry listing three things you would want people to find in your pocket.”  We’d just finished reading, “The Contents of a Dead Man’s Pocket,” a story about a man who learns that people are more important than money.  We talked about the idea that what we hold on to-or keep in our pockets-reveal who we truly are.
            That November tragedy struck.  One of my students, Anna Conway, died in a car accident.  We wanted to find a way to honor Anna’s memory.
            Her parents found my homework assignment.  “If I were to die tomorrow, I’d want people to find a picture of my family.  They are a big part of who I am,” she wrote.  “Second, a receipt from a charity so people would know I don’t just think about myself.  Finally a cross to symbolize my faith.”
            I asked everyone to help fulfill Anna’s second wish.  Anna’s parents donated money in her name to help build schools in India.  Her classmates gave as well.  Now Anna will be remembered for the person she truly was.  (Natalie Whittle, Statesboro GA in Guideposts Magazine, August 2004, page 11, 12)
 
10.)      If you were to die today, what would be the three things in your pocket?  Have you been steering in the direction of things not important, or of the Kingdom of God?
            We all have concerns and things that detour our lives.  Our Heavenly Father knows all about our needs. Steer your life in the direction to achieve God’s victory!