Reflections on Genesis 25:21–34, Romans 8:1–11, Matthew 13:1–9, 18–23
Sermon "Avoiding Long Term Loss" (Sermon Video)
In 2006, Pixar Studios released the animated movie "Cars". Watching it with my children, there is a line near the beginning of the movie that has stuck with me. When the main character during a NASCAR like race chooses to skip changing tires, the announcer says, "That looks to me like a short term gain for a long term loss". This sums up the story of Esau and Jacob in Genesis. Esau choose the short term gain of a meal over the long term loss of his inheritance. This inheritance include not just the property of Isaac but the promise of the Holy Land. When do we choose the short term gain of the flesh versus the long term loss of eternal salvation in heaven. Every time we follow our desires over God's will, we choose a short term gain for a long term loss.
This tendency to choose the short term gain comes up more times than one would think. The choice to eat unhealthy but tasty meals, to relax rather than exercise, to take a short cut rather than doing it right the first time are all choosing a short term gain with long term consequences. Paul, in Romans, says that even when we know better our desire is to choose short term gratification. We need help and our help comes from Christ through the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit that taps the break on our destructive habits and causes us to pause before choosing that short term gain. The Spirit tells us not to be like Esau and think about what we are giving up. By the power of the Holy Spirit transforming our will and our thinking, our actions slowly begin to change avoiding that long term loss.
This transformation, however, is not instantaneous. Our lives are like a large garden which contains harden paths, rocky soil, and areas with weeds. And like the garden Jesus describes in the parable, it is difficult for the life changing seed of God's word to take root without the Spirit working the soil. When we accept Jesus into our lives, we only give his part of our garden. We carve out time for church, maybe Sunday school, and some prayer and devotional time. When we are moved, we may volunteer to help out at church and in the community doing what we think Jesus would want us to do. We allow God into one area of our lives but the other areas are left fairly unchanged. The hardened paths of tradition, habit, and routine are off limits. We may admit that some areas need to change but we don't dig too deep because we may find a little change soon leads to a lot of changes and our interest in changing quickly fads. Even the time we carved out for God begins to shrink as our time and energy is reallocated for more enjoyable activities like extra sleep, vacation, hunting, and the list goes on. Once again, we soon find ourselves choosing the was of short term gain with long term loss. The Spirit, however, wants to weed out those time wasters, pull out those stones of resistance, and breakup those harden paths of habit and tradition. The Spirit wants to transform our entire life and not just our Sunday mornings. If the life changing message of the Bible which leads to long term gain is to take root, than we must daily be receptive to the work of the Spirit. The only way to avoid long term loss is by the power of the Holy Spirit which enables us to follow Jesus Christ into abundant life.