Between Thanksgiving and Christmas life seems like a rat race. Life in general is so fast and with each passing year it speeds up. I have a nice page-a-day calender at home. Some times I get so far behind that I find myself tearing off a whole week or two in order to get caught back up with the cascade of days that whirl by.
Today our focus is How to survive the rat race without becoming a Rat! When you live surrounded with packs of rats it is hard to rise above it. A fisherman said that one never needs a lid for his crab basket. If one of the crabs starts to climb up the sides of the basket, the other crabs will reach up and pull it back down. Modern life has made us like crabs. Sin seems to pull us downward with a strong tug. But the Christian is called to rise above the muck of life and shine for God. If you lie down with the dogs, you will stink in the morning. We live here in this discombobulated age of dog eat dog. But we must not be dog-like. Jesus said:
John 17:15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. John 17:16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Each of us live out here on the oval race track where all the rats race. We can’t help where we live. But we don’t have to be like all the other rats racing around the chase. Jesus said we are called to be above all that.
John 17:17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18–As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world 19 – For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
Jesus wants to sanctify us. To lift us up out of the grind and muck of life to a higher plain.
1. Run away from the Rats
Proverbs 4:14 Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men.
15 – Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away.
Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
2. Remove yourself from the Rat Race
Luke 5:16 Jesus withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed. The way we Hustle and bustle about you would think we are pros in the rat race. But Jesus withdrew from the flurry of activity. He made time to pray. Avoid the race. Slow down. Pare away extracurricular worldly nonessentials. Delegate things others could do. If you burn the candle at both ends you are not very bright. Blow one end of the candle out when you are burning your candle at both ends.
Without proper punctuation, sentences can be meaningless. Look at the 16 words at the bottom of your bulletin (page 2). “THAT THAT IS IS THAT THAT IS NOT IS NOT IS NOT THAT IT IT IS.” Allow me to punctuate them and they read:
That THAT is, Is.
That THAT is not, is not!
Is not that it?
The significance of the 16 unpunctuated words is not what they say but what they don’t say. They say nothing because they are not punctuated. Life is that way. Unpunctuated, life is monotonous and meaningless. It takes Exclamation points, Question marks and dashes to make life rich and meaningful. Make time to punctuate your life with prayer, meditation, study, Zestful exercise, witnessing and unselfish companionship.
3. Replace Rat-like traits with Christlikeness
Psalm 90:15 Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery! Replace the evil years with good. NLT
A great Cathedral hired famous artists to make its stained glass windows. They did allow one apprentice to do a window in a low traffic area. He had a low budget and had to use small bits of left-over glass that had been thrown away as worthless refuse by the renowned artists. His window turned out to be the most beautiful of all.
You can build a beautiful character for yourself in spite of all the hurts and injuries inflicted on you by others. You can do it with the fragments of broken hopes, lost joys and defeats that lie strewn about your feet. No matter how badly others have hurt you, they can’t prevent you from building a beautiful character of your life. You can replace the evil years with beautiful years.
Christians are not differentiated from other people by country, language or customs. They don’t drive unique cars. Their houses look like anybody else’s. They marry and have children just like every one else; but they do not kill unwanted babies. They offer a shared table, but not a shared bed. They are "in the flesh" but they do not live "according to the flesh". They are passing their days on earth, but are citizens of heaven. They obey the appointed laws, but go beyond the law in honest living. They pay their bills on time. These former rats are daily metamorphosing into Christlikeness. When others lie they tell the truth. Christians are in the world but not of the world. Adapted From a letter to Diognetus, from the second century.
We live in and among the rat race but we are not rat-like. A true Christian lives with some smelly skunks but does not add to the stink. Jesus children spread a sweet smelling aroma wherever they go.
2 Cor 2:14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.
2 Cor 2:15 For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.
2 Cor 2:16 To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?
The rat race is a race you do not want to win. True Christians are in a different race; a race for eternity. We must develop noble upstanding qualities. Let’s talk about some of those unique qualities. One of those is that of a venerable Character.
History is the record of a crisis of Character.
Amos 8:4 Listen to this, you who rob the poor and trample the needy!
Amos 8:5 You can't wait for the Sabbath day to be over and the religious festivals to end so you can get back to cheating the helpless. You measure out your grain in false measures and weigh it out on dishonest scales.
Amos 8:6 And you mix the wheat you sell with chaff swept from the floor! - NLT
A family commissioned a professional biographer to write a family history book for them. However they warned the researcher about their Uncle George - the black sheep of their family. He had been executed in the electric chair for murder. “Leave him out” they said. “No need to do that”, said the biographer. “I can include him with no embarrassment to your family.” He wrote: Uncle George occupied a chair of applied electronics at an important government institution. He was attached to his position by the strongest ties. His sudden death came as a real shock.
How would a biographer write about your life? Would the real truth have to be disguised? YSI. Let’s be so strongly attached to Jesus that His holy character is seen in all that we do and say and think. Character is the quality of the inner fiber of a mature soul.
2– There is a crisis in Integrity.
Prov 10:9 The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.
Your crooked life will catch up with you. You will slip and fall. Sin will destroy you if you let it. Picture yourself as a man who walks securely because of his integrity. To walk securely means to walk in safety, peace and confidence.
Prov 20:7 The righteous man walks in his integrity; His children are blessed after him. NKJV
Don’t ask for a reason for your children’s awful behavior until you have first examined your own Integrity. At age five, little Aaron attended his first football game with his father. Beforehand, his dad gave him careful instructions about behavior at the game. He said, "You will have to stay seated, be respectable, and act like an adult." Not long after kickoff Aaron noticed lots of people jumping up and down, screaming, and shaking their fists in the air. He turned to his dad and asked, "Are these adults?"
Prov 11:3 (NIV) The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.
3– There is a crisis of Honesty. Proverbs 11:5 (NLT) The godly are directed by their honesty; the wicked fall beneath their load of sin.
A young boy asked his dad, "What does 'ethics' mean?" The father was a rather prosperous businessman and valued his son's question, so he gave it considerable thought. After contemplation he said, "Well, you know your uncle Billy and I are in business together. Suppose a customer comes in and buys something worth $10 but mistakenly gives me a $20 bill and leaves without his change. It's ethics if I split the extra $10 with Uncle Billy. * Laugh, Feb. 1994
Let’s be 100% ethical! Be Truthful.
"Kings take pleasure in honest lips; they value a man who speaks the truth" (Proverbs 16:13).
Isa 59:14 So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. In the modern rat race honesty is non existent. Someone said: To get ahead in this life you have to be dishonest. Honesty is so rare today. Christians must be and in fact are totally honest.
Jeremiah 5:3 LORD, you are searching for honesty.- NLT
Psalm 32:2 (NLT) What joy for those...whose lives are lived in complete honesty!
You have all read the epic Greek poem called the Odyssey. King Odysseus was blown off course on his way home from the Trojan wars. He had to fight the one eyed monsters known as Cyclops. Odysseus almost did not make it home. His great ship had to pass the Island of Sirens. This island was inhabited by beautiful women (Sirens) who sing out to sailors on the sea enticing them to sail over where they would be destroyed on the jagged reefs surrounding the island.
Their songs could be heard for many miles. As Odysseus sailed home he heard the songs of the sirens. He was aware of his vulnerability to these seductresses. His solution was to lash himself to the mast of the ship so he could not respond to their temptation. He remained lashed to the mast until his ship made it safely past the island.
We sail the sea of life where we encounter enticements that will take us off course and destroy us. We will hear the songs of our tempter. Our safety depends on our being lashed to the mast – the cross of Jesus. We can’t help being in the world, but we are not of the world. We must never allow its seductive power to undermine our integrity. Tie yourself to the church. To other Christians. Bind yourself to the Word of God. These steps will help you to survive the rat race of our modern life. YSI
Prayer: Lord, if you need to, place a few speed bumps along the highway of our life. Slow us down so we can take the time to see your face and share your love.
Closing Hymn — 625 Higher Ground
Lord Lift Me Up, and I Shall Stand
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