James 1:12, I Cor. 9:24-27


NCAA tourney this week.  We love to win:  no one sells a giant form figure with two fingers on it. Our capitalistic system depends on competition.  Explain the trophy. 


Invite two people to the stage to play a game. Have them display their frustrations.

How can you win if you don’t know the objective of the game?  Don’t know the rules?


Wouldn’t it be terrible to get to the end of life and discover you played by the wrong rules? You didn’t realize the object of the game of life?  You wasted your life pursuing the wrong goals.


What is the goal of life? To be happy –in secular society that is almost always the number one answer.  All of us want to be happy. Is that the goal of life? 


If you don’t know the goal, how do you know if you’ve won? Many people are building their lives around what is temporary and squeezing in what is eternal.  When you do that, God calls you a fool.  The foundation of our lives should be that which is eternal and then surround it with those things which are temporary.


Both Paul and James help us understand the goal of life:


Paul: I Cor. 9: 24-27  compares life to a race – not everybody wins – we want to run to win. In order to do so, we can’t just hope it will happen, we can’t run aimlessly – we discipline ourselves so we can win. In athletics the goal is to get a temporary crown but the goal of life is to get a crown that lasts forever.

James;  James 1:12   in life we have many obstacles to overcome – the reward for overcoming them is the crown of life. What does that mean? The Bible speaks of many different kinds of crowns.

          Crown of flowers worn at weddings  – joy

          Crown of laurel leaves athletics   - victory

          Crown of gold worn by kings   - royalty

          Crown of righteousness – right standing

II Tim. 4:8


We need not choose one of these options for the Christian life gives us a joy that goes beyond circumstances; a victory through the power of the Holy Spirit; a royalty because we are members of the royal family of God and a right standing before him.  How do we go about receiving this crown of life? The crown of life encompasses all of these definitions.


So if we are going to win in the game of life, we have to know how to keep score.

How do you keep score in the game of life?  

All games involve keeping score.  The score defines he reality of how am I doing?

          School – keep score with grades

          Basketball – how many times did we put the ball in the basket

          Bowling – how many pins did I knock down

          Business keep score by profits

          Politicians keep score by votes

          Movie stars keep score by popularity  

Keeping score can become toxic –it can become obsessive –it can lead to arguments, bitterness, cheating, and lying. 

SF fan who was severely beaten by Dodger fans.  Soccer.


How do we keep score in the game of life?  How did Jesus keep score? He had a funny way of keeping score – while everybody else was trying to climb the ladder, Jesus was descending the ladder – to come down and dwell among us – to be a servant – and eventually to die on a cross so we could win. Going to sacrifice myself so you can win.

So perhaps we need to look at how we keep score.  Illustration of balloon stomp.  Bob Roberts

4th grade class of students  psychologist studying child behavior  developmentally challenged students

What if in the game of life, we didn’t score points against each other but with each other.


What if we kept score by the number of people we encouraged in their journey; Not the number of people who applauded us.  What if we kept score by how much we gave away rather than how much we kept?  By how much we contributed rather than how much we consumed?  What if we kept score by how we ministered to the poor; lifted up the discouraged; brought reconciliation to warring parties; prayed for the needs of others more than our own needs. What would the scorecard of our life look like?


Nah  it will never work – unless – somehow we can grasp the concept of the ultimate goal:  the crown of life that Jesus offers to us. Unless we can trust that this is how God keeps score. What are you going to do today that will make God smile? Not only a new way of keeping score, but a new set of rules.


What are the rules in the game of life?

Every game comes with rules.  Play the ball where it lies; don’t push or shove; stay in bounds; three strikes and your out; no spitballs when the teacher is looking.


Oh how we love to see if we can get away with breaking the rules in games.  Baseball players steal signs, football players take steroids, housewives sneak a new scrabble tile when no one is looking; golfers take six strokes on a hole and write down 5 on the card. Our mantra for breaking the rules is simply:  well as long as no one gets hurt, it doesn’t matter.


Just as in lesser games, people break the rules in the game of life as well:  people cheat on their taxes; lie to their spouses; scam the elderly; teenagers sneak alcohol; repair shops pad their bills and we speed in our cars.  Whether written or implied, we love to break the rules.


The scribes and Pharisees were notorious rule keepers.  Dozens and even hundreds of rules that were to be obeyed to the nth degree.  Constantly searching for rule breakers – did you wash your hands before you ate; did you keep a kosher kitchen; did you observe the Sabbath. It wasn’t necessarily that the rules were bad; they were laboriously – it became more important to keep the letter of the law than the spirit of the law. Jesus says; you obey the rules, but your hearts are far from me. That’s why Paul tells us in II Cor. 3:6 – “the letter of the law kills but the spirit gives life.” 


Finger pointers don’t promote growth; they promote fear. No amount of rules will keep someone with a devious heart from finding a way to break them.  That’s why Jesus says there are really only two main rules:  all the rest can be combined into these two:  Love the Lord; love your neighbor as yourself.


Our society gets pretty tired of people who have Christian slogans on their cars, Christians cd’s on their stereos, Christian books on their shelves, and Christian symbols around their necks and wouldn’t think of breaking one of the 10 commandments but don’t have the love of Jesus in their hearts. Galatians 5:6 which says: “the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”


The journey to integrity begins with the inner desire to do right more than do well.  It requires us to understand that I cannot succeed in what I do and fail in who I am.


So when we play by the rules of life we must ask:  does this reflect my love of God and other people?


How do you know when you have won?

In our search for the meaning of life, it seems like its an itch that can never be satisfied.  We scratch at it with everything we can.  But no one can make an itch go away by scratching it.


Accumulation:  Howard Hughes wanted  wealth – built one of the great companies in history; wanted to be a playboy – seduced dozens of women; wanted adventure – set airspeed records, built one of the world’s most amazing aircrafts.  Listen to how his biographer described the last days of his life.


Love :  Marilyn Monroe was considered one of the most beautiful women of all time; model, movie star, adored by millions of people – she died alone of a drug overdose – whatever she was seeking, it wasn’t enough. to have people love us is important but is that our ultimate goal.


Solomon:  Threw such lavish parties, one day’s food supply would be 30 head of cattle, 100 hundred sheep; five hundred bushels of flour. He constructed a palace to live in that required a construction crew of 150,000 people 13 years to build.  It was a really nice house. He had 700 wives and 300 concubines. 


The book of Ecclesiastes is his journey for the next thing.

He states:  I denied myself nothing my heart desired; I refused no pleasure.” Then he says these words: meaningless, meaningless, all of life is meaningless.

We all want to be loved, we want nice things, we want people to like us but that’s not how God evaluates our lives.

In the game of life, no one gets out alive. Paul recognizes the end is near.  So he gives this evaluation of his life.


II Tim. 4:7 – I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.


We win at the game of life by keeping the faith. Faith is trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, what he had done for us and our devotion to Him as our Lord.

We keep the faith by honoring God and serving others.

So we consistently ask ourselves these two questions when thinking about our attitudes, actions, and our relationships.

Is this honoring to God? 

Am I expecting others to serve me or am I serving others?


The answer to those questions will determine the quality of your life from God’s perspective.


Jeb Stuart – war of Northern Aggression – West point grad – nicknamed the eyes of the Army – ability to gather information on the enemy.  In June of 1862, in defense of the southern capital of Richmond – he rode completely around McClellans troops and provided information to Gen. Lee which led to victory. Time after time, he was applauded for his bravery, cunning, and ability to provide critical information.  With every mission, he would send a report back to Gen. Lee and sign it like this:  yours to count on – Jeb Stuart. 


Can God count on you like Gen. Lee could count on Jeb Stuart?


If you are going to win in the game of life; know how to keep score – we keep score by how our lives affect those around us; know the rules;  love the lord – love your neighbor; keep the faith.