Mark 10: 17-31

More for less

The Sydney 2000 Olympic games have drawn to a close. My family and I were fortunate to see part of the Olympic games on TV while we were away on vacation. I hope you enjoyed them as much as we did. At the games athletes strained to beat world records and win medals. Some succeeded while many had to come to terms with their disappointments and loss.

After a short vacation many athletes will be right back into it again, training and practising for the next Olympic games in Athens. The games are every four years but for many athletes training is much longer than that. They practice every day building up their strength and stamina to become better at what they do, until they are the best.

We can easily see from this elite group of people, the importance of training and practising in order to achieve their goals. Practice makes perfect, and that formula wins gold. There is another aspect of practising that we need to consider. Practice develops habit. For example, many people in New Zealand take their shoes off before entering a house. They have done it so many times it has become automatic before they enter a house. People don’t think about it anymore. There’s a front door, off come the shoes. Another example is hand writing, most people no longer think about how to form the letters of the alphabet when writing. They have done it so many times it has become automatic. The hand has its own memory and just forms the letters leaving us free to think about what we are going to write. What’s 1+1=? Did you have to think about that problem?
When we sit down and think about our habits, people have developed many habits, good and bad. All are from practising what we do, and of course some people are better at it than others.

There is one activity that is common to all of us, rich and poor alike. And that is the activity of seeking the kingdom of God, seeking eternal life, seeking happiness. They are all the same. Some people are better at it than others. Some succeed and many fail, but we all practise doing it.

Some athletes train and succeed because they train at the right sport academy and have the best trainers. God, who is our Father in heaven, is concerned for our well being. He desires that we also train and practice at the right place and receive the best coaching so that we may enter the kingdom of God and receive all blessing and happiness.

But where and how are we currently training and practising so that we can achieve all happiness? When we look around, it is plain to see what we all do. We are good at grabbing things for ourselves. It doesn’t matter whether we are rich or poor we all do it, we all practice at obtaining wealth. Our western society has mastered this game better than other cultures.

We all wrongly believe that happiness comes from having things. How many times have you heard on the News how a person who had everything committed suicide? They had everything, the skiing lessons, music lessons, numerous holidays overseas, large houses, garages full of expensive cars, fine clothes, and the best food. They had all things imaginable and yet they felt that their life was so painful that they had to end it. Wealth and the things we grab do not bring happiness. It is true though that they do bring a temporary, a fleeting happiness, but never a lasting happiness that we all seek. Athletes strain and train for years and years for a moment of glory and happiness when they receive their victory medal. God can give us joy and happiness that lasts.

We all wrongly believe that happiness comes from having things. We so much believe in it that we practise this activity everyday. We have become good at it, and it has become a habit. For example, from our very first birthday we are given presents, to make us happy of course! And that idea is re-enforced every birthday that having things will make us happy. Between the birthdays, people are busy buying new clothes, new cars, eating out, snacking on chocolate bars all because they will make us feel better for a while. All of this is further re-enforced by the advertising agents who well know our desires and weaknesses. They have marketed products with the caption, ‘more for less’. My favourite is when in the supermarket I buy a cereal box, or chocolate bar that is labelled 20% more than usual. That makes me happy. See what I mean? We grab for it because we want more and we do it automatically, out of habit.

We should all be labelled consumer athletes, because we practice it so well that it has become habit, a habit too difficult to break. No wonder the disciples cried out to Jesus, “Then who can be saved.” They felt the same anguish as we do which is basically saying to Jesus, who can enter the kingdom of God, receive eternal life, everlasting happiness?
Jesus’ response acknowledges our human condition living in a physical world. He says, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.” Jesus recognises that our desire for lasting happiness cannot be met in the way we currently behave and do things.

God loves us and desires our well being now and forever. He is calling us all to enter into his training schedule. God is our new coach our new trainer who will change our practices and habits. He is the one who can give us that everlasting happiness in the kingdom of God.

God is calling us all into his presence not just once, but many times. God is calling us to practice and practice and practice like an athlete. Keep coming into his presence. It is when we are in God’s presence that he is able to bless us, to train us in the way to go. You can be in God’s presence by going to church on Sunday mornings, by reading the Bible or other books and journals that contain God’s word or wherever God’s word is heard. You can be in God’s presence when you pray to him at any time and in any place. Practice these all so that they become a good habit and God will bless you in his presence.

You have entered into God’s training academy when you have come into his presence. There, God will really teach you how to get ‘more for less’. He will train us to open our hands. Our hands are usually closed when we grab for things with our fingers tightly around the object we desire. God can work the impossible in us. He can enable us to open our hands and give to others.

It is when we practice at opening our hands and giving to others that we receive much more than we gave. When we give of ourselves in every way, our time, our wealth, our presence, our gifts and talents, our prayers, we will receive everlasting joy and happiness. It is not by grabbing that we receive lasting happiness but by giving. The joy of eternal life, of everlasting happiness is more than receiving a hundred houses, lands in abundance, kingdoms at our feet, or seven Olympic gold medals.

Opening our hands to give is a hard thing to do. But when we practice coming into God’s presence and practice opening our hands then God will bless us and work a miracle in our life. God promises to give ‘more for less’.  Amen.

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