Trivial Pursuit – A Life of Purpose

  • Trivial Pursuit – A Life of Purpose
  • Philippians 3:1-11
  • Lyndol Loyd
  • October 8, 2017
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10-8-17 Sermon from LakeRidge UMC on Vimeo.

In the Loyd family, we love to play games, games of all kinds. It seems like a requirement that some sort of new game is part of our Christmas gift exchange and then we spend part of our Christmas vacation playing the game.

 

Over the years, we’ve progressed from Candy Land to Clue to Scategories, from Old Maid to Dutch Blitz. I’m sure your family has some favorite games that you like to play as well.

 

Some people think life is like a game. The only problem is that there is a lot of confusion about the rules. How do you win? Do you get any “do-overs”? What if everyone doesn’t play nice?

 

For the next few weeks, here at LakeRidge, we are going to use some popular games as a jumping off point for looking at what God’s word has to say about how we live our lives. We will be using games like Sorry!, Perfection, Monopoly, and Jenga, to name a few. Today, we kick things off with a game that hit the market and reached wild acclaim back in the early 1980’s – Trivial Pursuit.

 

You remember Trivial Pursuit. Players race around a circular board answering questions in the fields of Science & Nature, Arts & Literature, Geography, Entertainment, Sports & Leisure and History. If you land on a hub and give a right answer, you collect a piece of pie. Once you have all six pieces of pie you race to the center to answer one last trivia question in hopes of winning the game.

 

Any of you really good at Trivial Pursuit? Come on, don’t be shy. Do we have any masters of trivia with us this morning? Well great. I’m going to let you prove it by answering a few random Trivial Pursuit questions:

Science & Nature – Most popular registered dog in U.S.? Labrador Retriever

Arts & Literature – Creator of comic Dennis the Menace? Hank Ketcham

Geography – U.S. state with the least population? Wyoming

Entertainment – Name of Howdy Doody’s stunt double? Double Doody

Sports & Leisure – Most attended sport in the U.S.? Major League Baseball

History – Official song of the U.S. Navy? Anchors Away

 

While the board game is good for a night of entertainment with friends and shows how much minute and relatively insignificant information we have stored away in the recesses of our minds, no one wants to feel that his or her life is a trivial pursuit, but many people seem to struggle with finding true meaning and purpose in life.

 

The search for the purpose of life has puzzled people for thousands of years. That’s because typically we begin at the wrong starting point. We begin with ourselves.

 

We ask lots of self-centered questions like: “What do I want to be?”, “What should I do with my life?” and “What are my dreams? My goals? My ambitions for my future?”

But focusing on ourselves will never reveal our life’s purpose. Looking inward at ourselves ends up being little more than a trivial pursuit.

 

In direct opposition to what you’re going to hear from the world around you, we don’t discover our life’s purpose by looking within. We discover our life’s purpose by living in relationship with God.

 

No one quite understood this truth like the Apostle Paul. He even wrote about it from his jail cell to the church at Philippi in Philippians 3:1-11:

 

1 Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith.

2 Watch out for those dogs, those people who do evil, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved. 3 For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort, 4 though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more!

5 I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. 6 I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault.

7 I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. 8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake, I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9 and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!

 

If any Jew had a right to be boastful about his background and achievements it was Paul. He had a resume and a biography that read like a Who’s Who statement.

 

  1. He was born to Orthodox parents and circumcised at eight days old. From the very start, this was the life of someone who kept the law. Not everyone could say this.
  2. He was a pure-blooded Israelite, more precisely he was an Israelite by race.
  3. He was from the tribe of Benjamin. This was a matter of special pride. Priests had to prove their lineage and the father of any girl who was to marry a priest had to prove their descent back three generations. If you were from this tribe it elevated you culturally.
  4. He was a Pharisee. He was so ardent in his religious practice that he had been blameless in keeping the law. Paul was someone who had done everything by the book. He was a genuine rule keeper.
  5. Finally, he was so zealous a person prior to becoming a Christian that he was known as the chief persecutor of Christians amongst the people of his society. He was well known for his exploits. People feared and revered him.

In our modern day American society this would be like saying someone was born into a high society family, that they had the documentation to prove their family came over on the Mayflower, they are also a direct descendant of George Washington, as well as holding degrees from Princeton, Yale, and Harvard and had been awarded Time magazine’s person of the year honors.

 

You see, everything that Paul was by his birth and everything that he had become because of his convictions and achievement was enough to place him in a level of superiority over those around him.

 

If anyone had a reason to brag about his upbringing, education, and status it was Paul – no questions, hands down, he had all of the qualifications. Paul was someone who had strived for and achieved a great deal by society’s standards of the day.

 

But having stacked up all of his achievements and gains in life, Paul now reflects upon them as trivial pursuits. He calls them meaningless, a loss, worthless.

 

Do me a favor, I want you to say a Greek word from today’s Bible passage for me. It is Skubala. Go ahead let’s say it – Skubala. One more time loudly for good measure – Skubala.

 

Wow. You should really be more careful about the kinds of words you use. I’ve got to tell you that I’m a little bit shocked that some of you would use that kind of language, especially when you are in church.

 

I don’t know what your Momma taught you, but that really isn’t the sort of word that you should use. I’m mean come on, really, would you say something just because Johnny or Susie says it? I guess so. Skubala is the kind of word that just might cause you to get your mouth washed out with soap in certain circles.

 

But for Paul, it was a word that he chose carefully because it made his point clear to the church at Philippi. Make no doubt about it, everyone there would have understood exactly what he was trying to convey.

 

In the New Living Translation Philippians 3:7 says “7 I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless (Skubala) because of what Christ has done.” Skubala is translated worthless.

 

In the New International Version Philippians 3:7 says “7But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss (Skubala) for the sake of Christ.”

 

I’ve got to tell you that to translate Skubala as worthless or loss doesn’t quite hit the mark in conveying with 100% accuracy what Paul was saying here. A better, more accurate translation from the Greek to English for Skubala would be “that which comes out the rear end of a dog” – excrement. (Having heard that definition, some of you can probably come up with some more colorful expressions of the idea.)

 

Paul has achieved it all during his lifetime and now he takes all of those honors, all of his breeding, all of his achievements and he says, “You take all of my gains and add them all up together and they aren’t anything more valuable to me than dog poop, not compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus Christ.”

 

For Paul, it is all about knowing Jesus. This is the core message from this passage of Scripture. This is what really matters. So what exactly does it mean to know Jesus?

 

When Paul talks about knowing Jesus Christ I can assure you that he isn’t talking about having mere head knowledge. Paul was an extremely learned man. He had all kinds of knowledge from his educational pursuits. Paul’s aim isn’t to merely know about Jesus. Paul’s aim was to know him personally.

 

For Paul, this meant to know Jesus and the power of his resurrection. Paul wrote about this in Ephesians 1:19-20, “19 I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.”

 

You see, when we don’t have the power we need in life what we really need is power that is greater than our own. Relationship with Jesus Christ gives us just that. It gives us a power source for life which is greater than anything we can have otherwise.

 

Knowing Jesus means understanding that the same power which raised Christ from the grave on Easter is available to you and me, here and now in this present moment. Paul saw what a relationship with Jesus Christ was capable of producing in his life and the lives of others and instinctively knew nothing else could measure up to that.

 

In American culture, few people are as heralded and uplifted in our society than athletes and sports figures. Those who excel in the field of sports are often met with great acclaim and recognition.  It seems that they have it all but listen to the testimonies of three of sports greats as they testify that the Apostle Paul isn’t alone in his findings. Other great people who have accomplished much in their lives have echoed these same sentiments and experienced this same truth.

 

Tom Landry – the legendary former coach of the Dallas Cowboys quoted “St. Augustine when he wrote, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” Landry went on to reflect, “Well, I discovered that truth at the age of 33. The most disappointing fact in my life, I believe, is that I waited so long before I discovered the fellowship of Jesus Christ. How much more wonderful my life would have been if I had taken this step many years ago.”

 

Laura Wilkinson, Olympic Diving Gold Medalist, “God gave me many victories and I was able to represent the U.S. at the 2000 Olympics. There, in the final rounds, it all became very clear. My prayers were not to win. They were not even to do my best or to reach my highest score. I suddenly found myself praying that, whether I finished first place or fifth place, God would find a way to use me.”

 

Arthur Rhodes, professional baseball player wrote, “I have faith in God that I am loved and forgiven.  And of all the things I have accomplished on the baseball field, and of all the things that I am proud of, the one thing that means the most to me is Jesus’ love for me, and His presence in my life….  Mistakes on the mound can sometimes go flying out of the ballpark.  Mistakes in life are taken care of on a cross, and in an empty tomb.”

 

It is the same song Paul is singing, just the second, third and fourth verses. And to that chorus of testimonies, I hope you are able to add your name. Accomplishments are wonderful.

 

Achievements are grand, but compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus Christ and him crucified they are absolutely nothing. They are mere skubala.