“What I am anxious to see in Christian believers is a beautiful paradox. I want to see in them the joy of finding God while at the same time they are blessedly pursuing Him. I want to see in them the great joy of having God yet always wanting Him.” A. W. Tozer

Sermon #90: Raise the Bar



I remember it well; I can visualise it clearly enough

But back then, I thought it was just a game that children played.

There was this game that we used to play while herding cattle and goats down in Njanja, Zimbabwe. I was about nine years old then and had two friends, both roughly my age. We would agree to play a game to entertain ourselves, because watching cattle and goats grazing was to us never an attractive undertaking.

Our options included swimming in the river, playing soccer, bull fighting and high jump. We often preferred high jump.

We would cut three long sticks and find ourselves a sandy place, which normally was close to the small stream that ran through our village. We chose sandy places to protect ourselves from injury, for after jumping, one would need a soft landing, so to say.

We would stick two of the sticks into the sand, about two metres apart and use the third as the crossbar, which we tied to the vertical sticks using string made from the bark of the mutondo tree.

We would then tie the crossbar initially at about half a metre from the ground. Then we would take turns to jump, each contestant evidently eager to emerge the champion.

If we all managed to jump the initial height, we would raise the crossbar a little. We would again take turns to jump. We would continue like this until we reached a level at which only one of us could jump, and that person became the champion, much to the disappointment of the other contestants. Who doesn't want to be the champion?

I noted that those who failed to become champions, me included sometimes, would be greatly disturbed by their failure and would be engulfed by a strong sense of inferiority. The matter would become worse whenever the champion used our failure to tease us. We would also wonder what it was that made the other boy superior. We would then put extra effort in our practice, with a view to eventually dispossessing the defending champion of the crown.

We were never satisfied with the comfort zone; we were always eager to go beyond it. We never kept the crossbar at the same height. Instead, we continued to raise it until we got to a level that was beyond us. Even when we got to this level, we never took that to be the end of the road. We would continue to focus on the game, putting more effort in our practice and competing more and more.

That’s how some people break a world record and then after breaking it they go on to break it again. It’s called 'breaking one’s own record.'

I write today to urge you to keep raising your crossbar; and I am not referring to just one area of your life, because I believe that personal growth needs to be whole and balanced. In every area of your life, in every noble endeavor, you need to keep pushing the boundaries; you need to keep enlarging your territory.

I am never excited by the position called ‘best’. Instead, I respect more the position called ‘better’, because after a ‘best’ there should be a ‘better’. ‘Better’ is always better than ‘best’. That’s how I look at life. People need to keep moving forward. Your life, your speech, your performance, your conduct in general,  should all exhibit continuous progress.

Look at this: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me” [1 Corinthians 13:11, NIV]. I am always inspired by this kind of talk.

What catches my attention most is the fact that Paul spoke in the past tense. He said, “I was a child”. When he was still a child, Paul thought, talked and reasoned like a child. That’s normal. But here is the exciting part: “When I became a man…” Glory to God! I appreciate the substance of it!

Paul said something like, “I was a child at one point, but never remained one; I graduated into a man”. Do you catch this? He said when he became a man, he put childish things away. God help us!

As a child, Paul thought, reasoned and spoke like one. But when he became a man, he pushed all childish things away. But today we have so many men and women who still think, talk and reason like children, causing others much concern. Talking should never be taken to mean the emission of any kind of sound. Rather, the sound ought to be structured, well thought-out and deliberately helpful, otherwise the result would be indigestible.

I often hear people say, “Mungatevedzere zvababa Moyo here?” [Meaning “You should never take Mr. Moyo seriously.”] This is so because even though Mr. Moyo is 50 years old, he still thinks, talks and reasons like an 8-year old.

You need to put childish things away; all of them! Start thinking, reasoning and talking like an adult. This is critical. You either grow up or lose credibility; no two ways to it.

What does the Word of God teach on these issues? It says, “Grow…” [2 Peter 3:18]. Praise God! This is a clear instruction. The Word of God also says, “Set an example...” [1Timothy 4:12]. But if one is living a roundabout kind of life, how could they set an example for others?

When God exhorts you to set an example, His desire would be to see you transformed into a light that shows others the way; a good example.

This teaching should be construed in the context of one’s Christian life, career, education, marriage, family relations, social relations, business, etc. In all the facets of your life, you ought to ever raise your crossbar. Go to a higher level. Seek what’s better and go for it!

I once had the opportunity to listen to the speech of one man who was filled to capacity with divine observation. Here is one of his statements (a rebuke, actually): “In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!” [Heb 5:12-13, NIV].

This is a serious indictment! The writer was of the view that his audience should have transformed into teachers, but they, unfortunately, were still struggling with elementary issues. What a disappointment it would be for you to awaken to the fact that the person who is supposed to teach you is herself still struggling with vowels (a, e, i, o, u); my goodness!

Back then, I thought high jump was just a game that children played. I have now discovered that the game pointed to fundamental principles of life.