Almost all of my life I have played competitive sports or been involved in some type of athletic endeavor. Even now that I am 50, I go to the gym at least four times a week to stay in shape. In athletics, you are always trying to push yourself to improve. Even when a team wins the World Series, Super Bowl or NBA championship, the talks quickly turns to next year. I remember a a professional surfer, Joey Buran, talking about seeing his dream come true as he won the Pipleline Masters on the North Shore of Oahu in 1984. He stood on the stand and was given his trophy and his check. Pictures were taken and the crowd was cheering. Then a storm rolled in and before he could even soak in his victory, the beach was empty except for the guys breaking down the winner's stand. There was no time to stop and celebrate. It was there one moment and in a blink of an eye, it was gone.
I remember being chosen to play basketball for Athletes In Action in 1987. I was going to go on a tour of the Philippines and Korea, playing with a group of college basketball players. I had never even played on my high school basketball team but had played tons of basketball all of my life. To prepare, I spent two hours every morning in the gym working on my shot and preparing my body to play at this level. I was in the best shape of my life, but I was in over my head. Everyone on the team was a better player than I was. I could look at my game and see the many ways I needed to improve. During our tour, I worked on those parts of my game and to this day, I still try to improve as a basketball player. There never was a time when I stopped and thought to myself, "I have finally arrived as a basketball player". There was always a way to improve. I have included a picture of that team. See if you can find me in the picture and win a prize.
As followers of Christ, we seek to meet a standard we can never meet. We want to live like Jesus lived, even though we know we will never be able to do that. We always see ways we can improve. We know our sins. We know where we fall short. So we rarely ever stop and celebrate the steps we have already made. Unfortunately, we become driven by what we can "do" rather than remembering to celebrate what Christ is doing in us. We don't stop and affirm what we see in the growth of others or ourselves. This is sad but true and can often make Christians look neurotic and maybe even become obsessive or guild-ridden.
So I want to take a moment in this week's Sip to celebrate. Our church set a goal of $2,012 for our Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. For those of you not versed in Southern Baptist lore, Lottie Moon was a missionary to China who gave her life on this field. We have an annual missions offering which helps finance the work of our missionaries all over the world. Hillcrest is not a large church with only about 80 people on a Sunday morning. Last year, our giving to Lottie Moon was a little over $1,300. Understanding the terrible financial situation of the Bay Area meant that this goal was HUGE for our church. Yet today, we surpassed that goal by over $1,000! I am blown away by the generosity of our church. The only way we reached this goal was by members sacrificially giving. This has probably affected how much our members can spend on their own Christmas celebrations. But this will impact lives all over the world. Every now and then, we need to stop and say "Well Done". To the Hillcrest family, I want to tell you how proud I am of you and how honored I am to be in ministry with you. You have done a fantastic job. Certainly, we are not where we need to be, but you have shown faith and generosity.
Paul wrote to the church at Philippi in Philippians 4:15-16, "Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the Gospel, when I set our from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again". The church at Philippi was financial poor, but rich in generosity. Hillcrest family, this describes you. Thank you for making a difference in the lives of so many in our world. May you have a blessed Advent. May this Sip refresh you as you stop and celebrate your dedication to Christ. Well done, good and faithful servants.