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Playing For Keeps

Playing For Keeps

I wish I could have unlimited time. There’s so much I want to do. There are so many people I want to spend time with. There are so many places I want to go to. If I just had more time, I’m sure this message would be better than it is. Since I don’t have unlimited time, I really need to be strategic about how I invest my limited time.

I wish I could have unlimited gifts. Wouldn’t it be fun if you were good at everything? Can you imagine how much impact you would make in the world if you only had every gift and talent possible? You could sing well, play professional sports, create culinary masterpieces as a chef, make art that would be applauded in the most famous museums, and you would have so much to contribute to the world. Since you don’t have unlimited gifts, you really want to be wise with how you invest your limited gifts.

I wish I could have unlimited wealth. I could buy a home here and in my favorite vacation destination. I could pay cash for all four of my kids’ college tuition. I could eat out every single night at a Michelin-star restaurant. I could sit on the front row for every major sporting event, instead of only being able to sit on the front row when I’m at church. But I don’t have unlimited wealth. Since I don’t have unlimited wealth, I should be really thoughtful about where I invest my limited wealth.

When something precious is limited, it’s value goes way up.

One of my sons is passionate about collecting sports cards. And when he’s explaining to me why a particular card is so valuable, it usually has something to do with how rare the card is. Some of you collect art or cars and you understand this principle too. There’s often a correlation between how limited something is and what it’s value is.

Your time is limited.

Your gifts are limited.

Your money is limited.

And here’s the big one: Your life is limited.

I’m calling this message “Playing For Keeps”. What we’re talking about today could put an unnecessary pressure on us and cause us to obsess over every moment in our lives, but that’s not the point. My hope is that what we’re talking about today can be seen as an invitation and here’s what we’re being invited to consider today:

We want to make our one precious life count for what matters the most and lasts the longest.

Rather than think about how we spend our time, spend our gifts, and spend our money – let’s think about how we invest our time, invest our gifts, and invest our money. One commentator wrote this:

Since life is so brief, we cannot afford merely to “spend our lives”; and we certainly don’t want to “waste our lives.” We must invest our lives in those things that are eternal.

How will we invest our lives into what will last forever?

James 4:14 Why, you don’t even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

When you hear that your life is a mist that appears for a little while, it can be easy to obsess over how long you will live. But the point is not to obsess over how long you will live, but to focus rather on how you will live.

What would you do with your time if you were given 30 hours a day or 8 days every week? I wonder if we would just do more of the kinds of things we’re already doing. Do you ever think God got it wrong when he limited our day to 24 hours and our week to 7 days? I mean sure, maybe that was enough before the invention of electricity or the internet or AI. But God, we need more time to live in this modern world with all of its options and opportunities.

“Each of us has the time to do the WHOLE will of God for our lives.” J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership

Do you believe this? Do I believe this?

Psalm 90:12 Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

I love this perspective from Moses. Teach us to number our days, not so we’ll be paralyzed by how short they are, but so that we’ll have the wisdom to know how to live them well.

Ephesians 5:15-17 Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

There it is again – the link between time and wisdom. If we aren’t careful, we’ll waste our time or we’ll give our most significant time to those things that just aren’t that significant.

Time Wasters: too much social media, too much news, too much tv or movies, too much time worrying about what people think of you or trying to make everyone happy, or trying to keep up with too many people’s lives.

What are you giving your time to that isn’t a wise use of your time?

Me – checking in on things more frequently than I need to: financial investments, permits for 414 Brannan, or attendance trends at Epic.

Using our time well does not mean we always have to be producing something. Being wise with our time includes resting well, feasting with friends, enjoying recreation that replenishes your body, your heart, and your mind. It means getting sufficient sleep. It means date nights with your spouse, 1 on 1 time with your kids, and weekend getaways with friends.

But it also includes using your time to influence people towards the things that matter most and will last the longest. Many of you know I have a life plan that is meant to guide how I spend my time, my energy, my gifts, and my money. But what you may not know is that my life plan begins with a eulogy. I write it as if my life is over and as though I lived into the full will of God for my life. Start with that vision and then consider what the best use of your time will be.

Here’s a helpful exercise from Arthur Brooks in his book, From Strength to Strength:

“In short, imagine it’s your last year of life, as well as of work. On the Sunday afternoon before the first day of each month, contemplate these questions: If I had one year left in my career and my life, how would I structure this coming month? What would be on my to-do list? What would I choose to not worry about? I am willing to guess that ‘taking an extra work trip at the expense of seeing my spouse’ and ‘staying late to impress the boss’ are not items that will be on your schedule. More likely, ‘take a weekend away’ and ‘call my friend’ will show up instead.” Arthur Brooks, From Strength to Strength

That’s how we should invest our time. But what should we do with the gifts we’ve been given?

1 Peter 4:10-11 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Do you know your God-given gifts? If not, go on a mission to discover them. If so, use them. Stop comparing your gifts to someone else’s. Stop wishing that God had made you different.

“It really is a question of what I will do with what I have rather than what I might be able to do if I were different.” Ken Costa, Know Your Why

I could spend my time wishing I could write songs like Seth or do video like Brenda or carry out projects from start to finish like Lindsey does. OR I can leverage the gifts God has given me to make the greatest impact possible.

You and I have not been given our gifts only for ourselves. There’s meant to be a divine flow when it comes to gifts. Peter addresses this in verse 10 – “Each of you should use whatever gifts you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace.” Flow: we receive gifts from God; we give our gifts to others. While we typically think about money when discussing stewardship, to be a steward means we manage whatever God has given to us.

Let’s talk about one more thing that’s limited. Your money will not last forever. And living in San Francisco means you might run out of it even sooner. No matter how much wealth you have, it’s temporary.

Is there a practice that will help us leverage what is temporary for the sake of what is eternal?

1 Timothy 6:17-19 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

This is going to sound crazy, but here’s what God keeps telling us over and over:

In God’s kingdom, we somehow get to keep what we give.

Proverbs 11:24-25 One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.

“What we hold on to always diminishes. What we give away always multiplies.” Henri Nouwen, Following Jesus

Generosity on earth stores up treasure in heaven.

Life is Short.

Be strategic with how you invest your time, gifts, and wealth.

Play for Keeps. Invest in what mattes most and lasts the longest.

Please take time this week to make a plan. How will you invest your time? What will you do more of, less of, or no more of…in light of what you heard today? What do you need to do with your gifts – take time to discover them, start deploying them, or seek to grow even stronger in them? How will you invest the financial resources God has given to you?

Prayer/Response Time:

-Your life is a mist while you’re here on earth, but you are eternal. Have you received the eternal life Jesus came to give you?

-Pray about aligning your time/gifts/money with the priorities of the kingdom of God.

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