#226 (26/03/06)
Live Life to the Max!

The Message

By: Robert A. Schuller

Special Guest

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over a year since our beloved Johnnie Carl passed and we miss him. And he was one of the greatest musical arrangers the past 25 years and was recognized by great musicians around the world, in fact, mentioning the Pope. When the Pope came to America, it was Johnnie Carl whom they chose to make arrangements for the special music. This is the first CD of the best of Johnnie Carl and it enables us to give up an appropriate percentage of the revenue that this generates to Linda for her and her children.

Special Music

" Joyful, Joyful.. "
" Challenge Us, O God Our Father "
" Praise to the Lord, the Almighty "

" A Mighty Fortress is Our God "
" Song of Peace "

TRUMPET SOLO – JENS LINDEMANN - "The Saint’s Hallelujah"
TOM LEONARD - "Praise the Lord with Drums and Symbols"

The Message

When I think about living life to the max there is one story I want to open up with that will share a life of someone that truly did live a life to the max. There is a common belief that we are a product of our environment. We look at the environment in which we are raised and we live with our parents and siblings and those in our household and from that we can determine the likelihood of success as an adult. The story I have to share with you today counter acts that entire belief.

There was a man raised by a father who was really a scoundrel, he stole his brother's inheritance, and while he was hiding from his brother, because his brother was going to kill him for selling his inheritance, he met his mother. He married her older sister and then he married her and then he had children with two of the servants and his mother died in childbirth. He never really knew his mother; he was raised by these three step mothers in effect.

He lived in a house where his brothers hated him; in fact they hated him so much that once he was into his early teens they actually made plans to kill him. Instead of killing him they found out they could actually sell him to slave traders so they did and the slave traders swept him off to another country where he served as a slave in a household. It wasn't long and he was falsely accused of rape and thrown into prison. The question is what are the odds of someone who has that kind of history and background being a success in life?

The odds are a billion to one that he would do what this man did. This is a true story of a real man who lived 2000 years ago and once he was released from prison he didn't allow that to stop him from attaining the highest position on planet earth available to man at that time and he became the prime minister of the greatest country on the planet. The most powerful country; he was the patriarch we know as Joseph and he became the prime minister of Egypt.

As we look at his life and what he did and how he overcame to live life to the max, I have a message for you that I believe no matter where you've come from, can get inside your head and your mind and your soul and give you the belief and the understanding that you can truly succeed. How did Joseph succeed?

I think Bill Hybels gave us the clue when he preached during my installation as the Senior Pastor of the Crystal Cathedral. These are the words we received from Bill Hybels: "We need to agree to pray together that Robert would lead this ministry with the integrity of Joseph. We read an amazing thing in the Old Testament that Joseph did his entire leadership run without a single serious integrity breach." I believe that is the key to the success of Joseph. I truly believe that.

Joseph was able to live his life without an integrity breach. Just as Bill Hybels asked you to pray, I'm also asking you to pray for me. Pray that I'll be able to extend my leadership and the skills that I have here in this ministry without any serious integrity breach.

Pray that the temptations that come upon many successful leaders in this community and this world will not come upon me and my family but that we will be able to experience and say, "he had his entire leadership ministry without a single integrity breach." I need you to pray for me. At the same time I want you to pray for yourselves and your family members and for the people who are around you and this church that we can say the same thing for our church members. Pray that we can go through life without integrity breaches and as such, live life to the max. That is my hope. That is my prayer and that is my message today.

It's interesting to look at the life of Joseph and realize that no matter where he was, there was a key to helping him maintain that integrity and maintain that level of honesty and loyalty to God. When he was sold into slavery, the words we read in the bible say, "the Lord was with Joseph and he prospered." I find that an amazing statement, the Lord was with Joseph, and Joseph prospered.

Joseph is a slave and God is with him and Joseph prospers. I find that absolutely amazing. If Joseph can prosper as a slave, then we can prosper where we are. We can prosper today just as Joseph did. I think the key is to realize and understand there are certain circumstances and situations where we find ourselves, where we cannot change things. There are circumstances and places where we find ourselves where this is "just the way it is folks."

We need to remember the words of Reinhold Niebuhr in his serenity prayer which says,

God, grant me the serenity to accept
the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardships as a pathway to peace;
taking, as Jesus did, the sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;
trusting that You will make all things right
if I surrender to Your will;
so that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.

There are things we cannot change and in spite of that we have to remember that God is blessing us. When I autograph a book for someone, 99% of the time I will write those words, "God is blessing you," and then I sign my name. I do that intentionally because I believe God is in process every moment of every day blessing us. It is up to us to have the cognitive skills to realize that God is in process of blessing us with everything that takes place in our lives. I don't know a single story that is more relative than the story of Joseph to realize how true this is. God is blessing us, right now in the present tense, God is blessing us. Right now, tomorrow, always and in all things.

The integrity of Joseph continues with the understanding that God's laws are here to give us the freedom to experience the most out of life without getting hurt. God's laws are not here to restrict us and keep us from having fun; but, rather that we might get the maximum out of life and enjoy life to its fullest. When Joseph was arrested and thrown into prison these are the words that we read in the bible: "The Lord was with him, the Lord showed him kindness and granted him favor in prison." (Genesis 39:21) I find that absolutely astonishing, here he is at the lowest point that you could possibly get, he's gone from bad to worse, he's jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire and now instead of being a slave, he is a prisoner and what happens when he is a prisoner, the Lord is blessing him, the Lord was with him, He showed him kindness and granted Him favor. It is a state of mind, it is a cognitive reality of God's presence with us at all times. Our character will continue to strengthen as we follow the guidance God has for us.

Mike Ditka is one of the greatest football coaches of all time having coached the Chicago Bears. One day, during a game they were at half time and they had been losing, and he wanted the team to get tougher, so he had a bucket of water sitting next to him, and he stuck his hand in the bucket, and what nobody knew was that he had a snapping turtle in that bucket. He stuck his hand in that bucket, the snapping turtle snapped at his finger, and he lifted up his hand with this turtle hanging on his hand, and he sat there and he told them how they have to be tough, they have to withstand pain, and you could see the sweat rolling down his brow. He told them even though it hurts, you keep doing what you do, you keep going on and you keep going on, you're tough and you tough it through. He said, "Who wants to be next?" Everyone looked at each other and finally, William Perry, better known as "the refrigerator," 350 pound William Perry said, "Okay coach, I'll go next." So Coach Ditka started to pry the turtle off his finger, and "the refrigerator" said, "No, no, no coach you don't have to take him off your hand, I'll just bite the other one."

The integrity of Joseph sometimes just requires us to hang tough. As a slave, his master's wife recognized the beauty of Joseph and continued over and over again to try to seduce him and he refused to lay down with her and so she made up stories and accused him of rape and he wound up in prison. There are times in our lives where we have to hang tough, we have to do what we know is right even if it is painful and might cost us our life. We do what God has called us to do, but we hang tough and we do the right thing.

Finally, we have to live in grace, because no one is perfect, everyone makes mistakes. As we go through life we have to realize we are saved by grace and not works. In being saved by grace we have to realize that God uses the failures in life for his beauty and for His wonder. Joseph was reunited with his brothers, the same ones who sold him into slavery. How would you feel about your brothers if they sold you into slavery? When Joseph was reunited with them he said, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good." We start to live life to the max when we come to the realization that "All things truly work together for good to those who love God, who are called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)

There is a story of a little bug that lived in a big city museum. This little bug heard that they had the finest rugs in the entire world in this museum. So for the next few days he slowly and laboriously made his way through the museum until one night there he was in the rug room. He found the most beautiful rugs of all and he started to crawl through the rugs. As he walked through a forest of green, he kept looking for something special and beautiful and then he would walk through the forest of red and forest of yellow and the purple and the browns and he never saw anything that was all that spectacular.

That is the way life is for many of us. We cannot see the whole picture, or understand the whole thing, but God, in His majesty and in His wisdom and in His sovereignty, sees the whole rug and sees the whole picture and we are just a thread within that picture. If you remove the thread you remove a beautiful work of art. We have a purpose and that purpose is given to us by God. As we continue to live with the realization that God is blessing us, and with the toughness to know that as we continue to follow His laws and His guidance for our lives, we truly will live life to the max. Life is like a fine watch, open face, busy hands, pure gold, well blemished and full of good works. Today, I want us to remember this prayer. "Grant me the serenity, to accept the things I cannot change. The courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference."

Dear Heavenly Father, we thank You that You are a God of goodness and grace. You are a God of faith and a God who is always with us, no where we are, no matter where we find ourselves, You are there. So we give You thanks, O Lord, for your unending, unfaltering, complete support and love for us, Your children. We love You, Lord. Amen.

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