Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Sunday Sermon Notes - 02.01.09

Listen to Advice.

Not a popular sermon title. But it's one that needs to be given nonetheless.

Most people like to give advice, not many people like to receive advice. Especially when its not asked for. And especially when it is given with an air of superiority or "know-it-allness". Not all advice is good advice either, obviously. The big qualification for the advice we ought to listen to is this: wisdom.

Listen to advice and accept discipline,
and at the end you will be counted among the wise.

[Proverbs 19v20]

With all the decisions that have to be made in life, with all of the ups and downs, twists and turns, it's definitely not easy knowing what to do next. Well, when it comes to moral issues, the decision is kind of easy: if it's sinful, don't do it; if it is righteous, do it. Where we need advice is on the issues where we're not sure what the correct way to is, what the best way is, what the smart way is. Sometimes we do need advice, though, on moral issues - encouragement to do the right thing and to give up the wrong thing.

With the Super Bowl coming up, stories are emerging about the Arizona Cardinals quarterback, Kurt Warner. His story is amazing, one of ups and downs, twists and turns, and when the details emerge, you discover a man who sought out advice, who listened to advice, and who in the end is counted among the winners and the wise.

When in high school, Warner was a standout athlete in more than one sport. He received awards, recognition, and lots of praise. So when he went to the University of Northern Iowa to play football, be assigned to back-up to the back-up quarterback wasn't what he planned on. He got some good advice: work hard, listen to the coaches, do what they say, keep at it. His senior year, Warner was the starting quarterback and named offensive player of the year for his NCAA I conference. Listening to wise advice paid off.

With a great senior year under his belt, Warner was signed by the Green Bay Packers in 1994 as an undrafted free agent. They ended up letting him go before the preseason was over. Again, not what Warner wanted. But he got some good advice and found a job to pay the bills; he ended up working as a night stocker in a grocery store as well as becoming assistant coach to his alma mater's football team.

He decided not to give up on his football goals, so he joined the local arena football team, as well as playing in European leagues for three years. In 1997 he arranged for a tryout with the Chicago Bears, but due to an elbow injury, didn't make the tryout. Persevering, he contacted the St. Louis Rams for a tryout, and by a thin margin was selected to be the back-up to the back-up quarterback. His persistence paid off: he was in the NFL - he just had to keep on listening to the good advice being given to him.

He ended up being a back-up quarterback for the 1998 season and that's how he started off the 1999 season. Until the starting quarterback, Trent Green got injured during a preseason game. Warner stepped in and threw three-touchdowns in each of his first three games, making NFL history. Listening to advice paid off. Warner and the Rams would go on to win the Super Bowl that year - the most unlikely of teams. Two years later, the Rams would return to the Super Bowl, only to be defeated by a game-ending field goal, courtesy of the Patriot's Adam Vinateri.

It's a good story of how listening to wise advice and accepting correction leads to the right kind of success. For Kurt Warner, it wasn't just about success on the field, but also with his family. Warner is a man of character and ought to be counted among the wise. In 1992, while yet a senior in college, he met a woman named Brenda in a country bar. Warner was a popular boy on campus, having a great year as the all-star quarterback, but the woman four years his elder still made a point to inform him she had a three-year old toddler at home with brain damage and partial blindness, as well as a year old little girl. So what did Warner do? He showed up at her home the next morning with a bouquet of flowers and introduced himself to the children.

It would be another five years before they were married. In the meantime Brenda, a former Marine, had to put herself through nursing school, while raising her two little ones as she lived with her parents. During this time Warner was playing football around the country and the world, working to get back into the NFL. It was also in this time that Brenda's parents were killed by a deadly tornado that ripped through the neighborhood, destroying the home her parents had just retired to down South. Through this tragedy, Kurt Warner committed his life to Christ. The next year Kurt and Brenda were married, and within the next year he had adopted her two children, as well as begun to have their own children: they currently have seven in their family.

The reason why Warner failed his tryout with the Bears in 1997? On his honeymoon he was bitten by a venomous spider on the elbow. He didn't let this huge disappointment sour his marriage or dampen his efforts to get in the NFL. He tried again, and the Rams took him in. Following the great three years at St. Louis where Warner was named NFL MVP twice, life as a quarterback took a twist and a turn downward: 2002 and 2003 were a bust due to injuries and lack of focus. The Rams let him go and the NY Giants picked him up in 2004. He went 5-4 with them till the coach benched him for the rookie Eli Manning (who went 1-6).

Things got worse: the Arizona Cardinals, one of the worst teams in the league, picked him up in 2005. He started, only to be replaced by the much younger quarterback who Warner had replaced. 2006 the Cardinals draft sensational rookie Matt Leinart, who didn't turn out so well. So Warner and the rookie go back and forth, being benched. So goes the 2007 season till Leinart gets hurt and Warner finishes the season strong. 2008, Leinart is named the starting quarterback, but if Warner proves himself, he can have the job. What does Warner do? He listens to the coaches, he does everything they tell him to do, and he does it with extra hard work.

The payoff? Warner gets the starting job, and he takes his team to the their first Super Bowl in 68 years.

The way of fools seems right to them,
but the wise listen to advice.

[Proverbs 12v15]

Maybe your job or career isn't working out. Maybe your marriage is mired in frustration. Maybe things are strained between you and your children (or your parents). Maybe you are feeling depressed, unhealthy, worried, angry, etc. Don't do what seems right in the moment. When life takes an unwanted twist, when you're feeling down, look up for some wise advice, and then do it. Do the next right thing; seek out wisdom when the way seems unclear. Which is why we pray - not to whine but to get the Spirit's direction on what to do next. Which is also why we read Scripture - to uncover what God has already directed people to do in situations similar to ours. Which is why gathering on Sundays with your friends is so crucial - sometimes you just need to get out and with others who will help you do the next right thing.

Get Wisdom.

Listen to Advice.

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