The other day a friend of mine from Ohio said to me “Eric, NEVER stop writing!” I send him the blogs I write for Aspen Ridge Church and he enjoys reading them. His declaration to me really touched my heart that day and gave me a big boost of encouragement. “Ok, I promise.” I replied. “What should be the subject and title of my next article?” Writers are always looking for inspiration.
“Miracle in Cleveland” was his quick response. “Because if the Browns win tonight, it will be a miracle!” I laughed at his comment as I readied myself to watch the first football playoff game for the Brownies in 18 years as any good Cleveland sports fan does. Fantastic food with a hefty side of self-pity. There would be no Heinz ketchup on my plate that night though as the Cleveland Browns prepared to take on their rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, at Heinz Field Stadium that has served up main dishes of heartburn to the Browns faithful for many years. Hunt’s ketchup tastes better anyway, especially in Cleveland.
If you are a Steelers fan, don’t be offended and please do read on. Two of the people I loved most on this earth, my grandma and grandpa Menke, were Steelers fans. I was once a Steelers fan as well. Browns fans, please forgive me and read on. When I was young, my grandparents dressed me in Steelers gear, and I cheered on the black and gold. Then, the Browns got good in the 80s and this boy born and raised in Cleveland switched to the brown and orange. I’m tempted to wish I remained a Steelers fan though because their success over the last 50 years has been amazing! Tempted, but I won’t give in.
As you football fans know, the Browns went on to win that game to the joy of every Cleveland fan around the globe. And while this blog will not detail that first playoff game win for the Browns since 1994, it was a glorious game with what some might even call some miraculous football! If you saw the first snap of that game and know the history of the rivalry, you know what I’m talking about.
The rest of this article is a tribute to all sports fans and athletes along with everyone else who has the courageous mindset of NEVER STOP. Although I’ll be talking about that principle now in terms of your eternal existence instead of earthly entertainment.
It has been said that genuine Christianity is the only world religion or belief system that is all about “done” rather than “do.” Every other belief system revolves around working and striving toward something. If you don’t work, you don’t get paid. If you don’t do enough good, you don’t please God or a higher power with no afterlife for you. Even those who don’t believe in a higher power know this principle well in their schools, homes, and/or workplaces. It’s a quid pro quo (this for that) world. It’s the way the world works. Except for the Biblical world.
The Biblical world view says it has already been done. God sent his only son Jesus to pay the ultimate price on the cross for our recklessness so that you can’t do anything to earn or deserve it. You just need to believe, and the work has been done for you for eternal life with the God of the universe.
So, if Christianity and its claim of eternal life with God is not works based, why do so many Christians work so hard to spread this good news and serve others? Why do we “do, do, do” until our time on this earth is done? Why do we never stop in our professions and spiritual life? Shouldn’t we just believe and then relax on a beach watching Jim Brown and Bernie Kosar highlights for the rest of our lives?
Many historians say that everything from the inception of modern health care to science were launched by the innovations and hard work of followers of Christ. Part of the reason for this and the answer to the questions I pose above comes in Ephesians 2:10 (NLT): “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” God changes us so that we can do good works, but he must change our heart—will, mind, and emotions—to get there. New hearts produce new desires. The good works and hard work come out of celebrating God rather than trying to appease him or earn our salvation. After all, it’s already been “done” through Jesus Christ. There is nothing we can do to make him love us more or love us less. Christians desire to work hard serving others and sharing our faith because he “creates us anew” to have this deep desire.
Sam Logan said, “Success is finding out what God wants you to do and doing it.” That is the other part of the answer to the questions here. Once you discover the meaning of life and figure out what you are supposed to do, you work with everything you have because this is the definition of Christian success. The world’s definition of success—money, power, things, control, etc.—never truly satisfies. You can never get enough to feel full.
How about you? Have you figured out what God wants you to do and have you started doing it? If you have, you know the deep satisfaction and results it brings even amongst frustrations and failures. You have likely seen other people’s lives change for the better right before your eyes. Keep at it!
Perhaps you are a Christian, yet you don’t feel like you know what God wants you to do yet. He calls all of us to share the Gospel with others and serve them even if they are our perceived enemies. For more specific answers, ask Him in prayer until you get an answer. The answer could come in a day, a month, or take several years. It could come in a variety of forms including an invitation from someone else to do something or even in a dream you just can’t shake.
At Aspen Ridge Church, we are exploring spiritual gifts in our current sermon series called Gifts from Above. Taking a spiritual gifts test and meeting with a ministry placement consultant may point you to what God wants you to do. When we use the gifts God graciously gives us, we live more joyful lives of obedience to Him.
Maybe you aren’t a Christian so how can you find out what work God wants you to do when you don’t even believe in God or any higher power? Great question and the answer is more detailed and nuanced than I have room for here. I will say that one of the most widely quoted Bible verses is John 3:16 and there is no doubt you have seen a fan holding such sign at a Browns game or other sporting event. It reads “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” The first step in finding out the meaning of life and what you should be doing is to simply believe in Jesus and what he accomplished on the cross right here on earth. He will then guide your every play and be right there with you for the wins, losses, and ties of life.
I realize it seems a little odd and a contradiction for me to invite you believe in God to know the meaning of life and what work you should do when you firmly believe there is no God or that there is no way to know. Some of the kindest, smartest and/or hardest working people I personally know are atheists or agnostics that I deeply love and respect. These next sentences are for you. The great C.S. Lewis was an atheist before he wasn’t. You’ve likely read one of his books or watched a movie based on one. One of my favorite contemporary authors took a challenge from a friend to reach out to God to ask Him to reveal himself. He recounts how awkward it was to pray and ask a God he didn’t believe in to reveal himself. Yet he did it because he felt like something was missing in his life and he wanted answers to the meaning of it all. God did reveal himself to him and he became a believer who now has meaning and some answers to this mysterious life. Will you take this challenge?
I am so grateful that God showed me what he wanted me to do and gave me the opportunity to do it with my small group work here at Aspen Ridge Church. The work is a joy that, among other duties, allows me to develop new small groups and leaders, support existing leaders, and plug unconnected people into small group community.
From time to time, I also get to write these blogs which I absolutely love doing. And as long as I have a keyboard with the ability from God to do it, I will never stop. I am grateful for my fellow Cleveland Browns fan for reminding me of this and giving me the encouragement to keep doing it. I have no idea whether the recent Browns playoff win over the Steelers was a miracle or not. I do know that miracles happen in Cleveland, Colorado, and all over the world each time God changes someone’s heart and then give them a job. Once you discover that good work, or He reveals it to you, do it and NEVER STOP.
Director of Small Groups