Live Like It Matters
Lessons Every Child Should Learn & No Adult Should Forget
Sunday, September 29, 2013
One of the favorite local eateries in my hometown when I was growing up was a little hamburger spot just off the town square called Nesmith’s. In those days, it was the place at lunchtime, for students right after school ended, or, for a quick bite on Saturday afternoon. Even now, when we are home visiting family in Alabama and lunch rolls around, it is not uncommon for someone to suggest that we make a run to Nesmith’s for a sack of hamburgers.
Why was Nesmith’s so popular? For the same reason that your favorite childhood restaurant or current top place to dine is special to you—because they took an ordinary item and they made it special. There is nothing particularly unique or rare about a hamburger. You can order one on almost any menu, in any restaurant, in any town across our country. But, there was and remains something unique to me about a Nesmith’s burger. They had their own smell and their own special taste. I have had lots of great burgers in my day and I love them. But, if you blindfolded me and put 100 burgers in front of me, I am absolutely convinced that I could pick the one that came from Nesmith’s every time. They made the common, uncommonly good.
I feel confident that we can all relate to this idea whether we are talking about a favorite hotel, place to shop or a favorite dining spot. Our favorite destinations hold special places in our lives because they perform their craft, offer their product or present their specialties in ways that go above and beyond the norm or what is expected. As I said a moment ago, they do common things uncommonly well.
When I think about Paul and Silas, it seems to me that they choose to live with a similar sentiment at the center of their approach to life. And, at the same time, they added a spiritual dimension as well. What I mean is that they seem to have looked at life and approached every moment and every experience with a desire to live uncommonly well, and, at the same time, to live as if every moment of each day had potential to be significant to the expansion of the Kingdom of God.
Think about it for a moment. Paul and Silas, time after time in our text for today, seem to have made decisions that were based on their belief that each moment in front of them could be a kingdom moment. Let me give a few examples. First, Paul and Silas were in Philippi. By and large, beyond the small fledging church there, no one would have cared how Paul and Silas acted or behaved after being thrown in jail on exaggerated charges. But, in a bad spot, rather than complain or whine when no one was paying attention or looking, Paul and Silas sang hymns and seemed to want to take a high road even in a middle jail cell.
Second, Paul and Silas, as we discussed last week, also, choose to put the Philippian jailer before themselves. Offered the chance to escape jail when the earthquake came, the two missionaries stayed put because they did not want to put their captor’s life at risk. Shaped by their faith, they seemed to see the moment as important and critical and so they stayed right where they were. They saved his life through their decision not to use their get out of jail free card.
Their behavior in both making the best of a bad situation and then choosing to think more of the jailer than themselves, led to another critical moment in the passage. It is the point at which the jailer, moved by their behavior, began to ask questions about their faith. The remarkable conclusion came when once more Paul and Silas were unwilling to dismiss or ignore the moment before them as they shared faith with their captor. In the end, because of their uncommon approach to common moments, the jailer and his entire family came to know Jesus too.
The point I am driving at this morning and the lesson that I think is so critical for our children to learn when they are young and for us to remember no matter how old we become is that there really are no insignificant moments, decisions or actions in our lives. Instead every day, we really do have a chance to make a difference for the kingdom of God. We do have a chance to take the common moments before us and do uncommon things. We really do have the opportunity through God’s spirit to live out every day experiences in such a way that they become critical components of the expansion of the kingdom of God. Said in a simplistic way that we can all understand—in our words, deeds and decisions each day, it really does always matter and it even matters to the kingdom of God.
In light of this, let me quickly suggest two basic ideas that should guide us and that can serve as guiding principles for our children as we all seek to live at all times aware that it always matters. First, let me challenge us to always be attentive to the life principle that there really are no small actions—all behavior, even the smallest of decisions and the most minor moments are important. In fact, I would suggest that at times, our faithfulness in the small moments of everyday life can actually be more critical over the long haul than our decisions in those major life moments when we feel like every eye and spotlight are on us.
Do you remember the old story from American Airlines? Back in the 1980s, their CEO was a man by the name of Robert Crandall. Crandall was trying to find simple and easy ways to save the airline money. One of his measures was to remove one olive from each salad served to passengers. In sounded silly. But, it actuality, it led to a savings for the airline of $100,000 per year!
American however wasn’t the only one who has learned a similar lesson. At the American Standard plant in Tyler, Texas the decision was made to vacuum their doormats at each entrance rather than having them regularly sent out to be professionally cleaned. The difference? $70,000 a year. And, my personal favorite is from Xerox who created an adopt a plant program at their facilities as they asked employees to volunteer to water their plants rather than having an outside service come in and take care of them. That one move has saved Xerox $200,000 a year. (Business Penny Pinching Adds Up, Andrew E. Serwer, January 6, 2006, abcnews.com)
It all sounds trivial doesn’t it? One olive, vacuuming rugs, water plants—how could such simple, basic, every day acts really matter? Think about it for a moment. Those three trivial acts saved their companies a combined $370,000 a year. It does matter.
Second, let me challenge all of us to do our best at all times to pay attention to the life principle that suggests that all moments have implications for the Kingdom of God. Again, think about Paul and Silas for a moment—it was how they handled a bad situation of being thrown in jail and it was what they did when the earthquake gave them a chance to escape that led the jailer to want to ask them about their faith. Their uncommon behavior in life’s common moments had Kingdom value as the jailer watched them closely and then wanted to know what it was that motivated and guided their behavior.
Mike Terry is the first Sunday School teacher that I remember. He was in his late twenties or early thirties when he agreed to lead the 4th grade boys Sunday School class at our home church. For all intensive purposes, Mike felt like a failure as a teacher and he even occasionally apologized to us—the young boys in his care—for his inadequacies as a teacher. But, I loved him and he remains my favorite Sunday School teacher of all time. Why? Because one Saturday, he spent the whole day with us. Mike took us to a family pond, helped us learn to bait hooks, catch fish and cooked burgers for us. And, I loved him for it and I became interested in Jesus precisely because of that experience with him.
In turn, much of my belief about the critical connection between ministry, spiritual formation and building relationship is because of him. I didn’t come to many of my beliefs from dense books or seminary classes. I came to them as a result of a 4th grade Sunday School teacher who took us fishing. That one Saturday afternoon mattered. And it didn’t just matter in general—it matter to the kingdom of God that was unfolding in each of our young lives.
Oh that we would seize and embrace the wondrous work that God wants to do in and through each of us every moment of every day. Who knows even today, how the common moments yet before us can become the uncommon work of God’s kingdom? Amen.