Vacation Bible School
Thursday, August 5, and Sunday, August 8, 2004
This week at Vacation Bible School it’s been a theme of “Ready, Set, Gold!”, an Olympic theme, and with the Olympics right around the corner, it only seemed appropriate that we talk about the Olympics and how athletic events are similar to our faith. So we had five key words at VBS this week, and in your bulletins, you have a colored half-sheet, and you probably have a different one from the people around you. That’s your word, and if your sharing a bulletin, share with person next to you, that’s your word too. I’m going to ask to join me sometimes in shouting out those words, so we’re going to practice right now.
Some of you have the word, say it with me, “Win!” Now let’s hear the people who have “Train!” Next is “Trust!” “Serve!” And the last one is “Celebrate!”
Those are five Olympic words, five words that come from the Olympics. I mean think about it, the athletes want to “Win!” They are getting to Athens, they are going to work as hard as they can, they’re going to compete, and they want to win. They want to do their best at each event.
But the only way an athlete can do that is if they “Train!” You can’t just show up to the Olympics and hope to do very well. Most of those athletes start training from the time that they’re little. And they train over and over again to get ready for that one moment. Sometimes it’s an event that’s only 15 seconds long, and they train all of those years to get ready for that event.
But when they get there, they have to “Trust!” They have to trust that their muscles are ready, their skills are ready. Think about an Olympic swimmer. They look down the pool, and they have to trust that their muscles are going to get them down and back again, down and back again, however many times it’s supposed to be. They have to trust those muscles, trust their coach that has get them practicing, and trust sometimes their teammates, which takes us to the next word.
“Serve!” If you’re on a team, you’ve got to serve the people around you, and I’m not talking about volleyball serving or tennis ball serving. I’m talking about serving, helping one another. You can’t do your own thing and hope to win. Basketball has to be a team. Soccer has to be a team. You have to help one another, serve one another.
And then finally we get to “Celebrate!” That’s the key, right? That’s the image we have of the Olympics, somebody getting the gold medal, somebody celebrating that they did so well, and everybody cheering.
Well, those five words are Olympic words, but they’re also five words about our Olympic faith, the faith that is a gift from God. It’s this huge, great gift that God has given us, and let’s see how those words work with our faith. And that’s what VBS has been about this week.
You see, we “Win!” We win with Jesus Christ. We win with Jesus Christ when He died on the cross and rose again. He give us His victory. But see, that’s the amazing thing, when He died on the cross, it looked like the worst defeat ever. I mean, it was worse than losing in the Olympics. It was like Jesus didn’t even show up for the Olympic trials; He didn’t even try to get on the team; He didn’t fight; He didn’t compete. It looked like the worst defeat when He died on the cross.
But He took that defeat and turned it into a victory, turned it into a win. Because when He died on the cross, He defeated death, and He rose again. And then He said, “I’m gonna share that with all the people, with all My people. They can have that same victory.” Jesus took what just looked like a terrible performance, and He turned it into a gold medal performance. And then He said, “I’m gonna give that gold medal to everyone. I’m gonna let them all win. I’m gonna give them all that gold medal. They can all win. They can all have life after death.” He gives us that salvation, so that we can all win. So again, the “Win!” is ours in Jesus Christ.
But now we also said that you can’t win unless you “Train!” But now I just said that you already won through Jesus Christ, and that’s true. Most of the training Jesus took care of; in fact, He took care of all of it. He trained, so that He lived a perfect life. He trained, so that He would know how to defeat death. He was the One who was prepared to win the event. So winning, or salvation, life after death, it’s not about you training to get good enough or get there yourself. However, God does train us in order to see that we have won through Jesus Christ.
God trains us through His Word, through the Bible, like we’ve been studying all week with the students and like we study all the time. We get trained by His Word, so that we know that we have salvation. So that we know that God loves us. So that we know that He forgives our sins. That’s the kind of training we get. We get “Train!”ed in order to see that the “Win!” is ours through Jesus Christ.
But then it comes to “Trust!” Like that Olympic swimmer who stands up on the block, looking down the pool, and has to trust those muscles, we have to trust that God has given us the faith for salvation. We have to trust that when God says, “You’ll be saved through believing in My Son,” we have to trust that that is true. We have to trust that He has the power to save us. Like looking down the pool and trusting that your muscles are gonna get you there and back again, we have to trust that this faith from God is gonna get us down and back again through life, down and back again through the grave. We trust in God for that. We “Trust!” that God has “Train!”ed us to see that the “Win!” is ours through Jesus Christ.
But then having all of that, we come to “Serve!”, to serve God and to serve others. God gives us all this victory, this great thing, and then He says, “I’m going to let you be a part of My relay team.” A relay team, you can’t be out for yourself if you’re on a relay team and kind of hold onto that baton, and say, “Well, I don’t really want to give it to anybody else today.” In order to be on God’s relay team, it’s the same way. You’ve got to pass on that baton, pass on the faith. God gives us all this love, and He’s calling us to serve others, to share with other people, to tell others about Jesus. And so He calls us to be on His team. We “Serve!” others when we tell them that we “Trust!” that God has “Train!”ed us to see that the “Win!” is ours through Jesus Christ.
One more word and it’s a big word. “Celebrate!” That word is perfect for describing what Jesus has done and for describing what we should do every time we get together. Picture in your mind the Olympics and the gold medalist takes the stand, and they give him or her the gold medal, and flowers, and the national anthem plays from that person’s country. It’s this great moment of celebration.
Well, imagine that moment of celebration even bigger for Jesus. Jesus takes the stand up there, and they put the gold medal around his neck, and they give Him flowers, and I’m not sure what the national anthem would be for Jesus, maybe it’s the “Holy, Holy, Holy” of the angels, but there’s this great moment of celebration for Jesus. He’s the victor! He’s the gold medal winner.
And then Jesus says, “Come on up! Come on up on the medal stand! I want to give you My gold medal. I want to give you this win. I want to share it with you. I know you that you were in the back, you weren’t even paying attention. You weren’t even here, but I want you to be up here with Me,” Jesus says. “I want you to have My gold medal.” That’s the celebration we come together for here. We “Celebrate!” that God wants us on His team. We “Serve!” others when we tell them that we “Trust!” that God has “Train!”ed us to see that the “Win!” is ours through Jesus Christ.
Those are five Olympic words, but five words about our Olympic faith.
Now I want you to flip over your little colored piece of paper, and you’ve got a few passages from Proverbs chapter 3. Proverbs chapter 3, verse 8, “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart,” was one of the memory verses this week at Vacation Bible School. I took a look at the rest of Proverbs chapter 3 and saw how it matches up with our other four words.
The book of Proverbs in the Old Testament is great about having these little statements, these little kernels of truth, these little reminders of who God is and what our faith is. In that same way, these five words are like that. They’re little kernels, they’re little reminders of our faith. Let’s just take a brief look and see where these five words show up in Proverbs chapter 3.
So the first word is “Win!” and that’s in verse 25-26: “Do not be afraid of sudden terror or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught.” In Jesus, we win. You don’t have to be afraid of death; you don’t have to be afraid of what is coming. Jesus says, “You’re not going to get caught by death. I’m going to bring you through the grave, bring you through death. You have the win.” So just like Proverbs chapter 3, this “Win!” is a reminder: do not be afraid; He’s going to bring you through death.
The next word is “Train!”, verses 11 and 12: “My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” That sounds a little complicated, but basically it’s saying, “Don’t get mad at God if He tells you that you’re doing something wrong.” He’s training you. He’s training our minds; He’s training our souls to know that we have salvation through God. And just like a father, a mother, a coach who gets on your case over and over again to help you figure out where you did something wrong and get you back on track again, that’s what God is doing. But God is doing it so that you know, remember, He’s training us so that we will know and we will see that we have the win in Jesus Christ.
Next word, “Trust!”, verses 5-8: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.” I love that last verse, because that’s exactly what we need from trust. If you’re not trusting in God, if you’re anxious, if you’re nervous, if you’re worried about your future, it’s hard. You feel like you are wasting away, your bones are shaking, and you’re scared all of the time. And God is saying, “This is the flip side of that. Trust in Me, and I’m going to bring you through that. You don’t have to be so anxious and worried. Trust in Me, because I’m going to give you the win in Jesus Christ.”
Next word, “Serve!”, verse 28, “Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it’—when you have it with you.” In other words, somebody comes and asks for your help, and you say, “Well, I could help you today, but why don’t you come back tomorrow? I’ll help you then.” God is saying, “Don’t put that off until tomorrow. Help them right now.” Go back to the relay race idea, and it’d be like running in a relay race, you have the baton, you get to the next person, and you say, “Well, I’ll give it to you in a couple of minutes.” In a couple of minutes the race is lost, right? I mean, the race is probably over if you wait that long. In that same way, God is saying, “Don’t wait around if you could help someone today. Serve them right now.” He’s calling us to serve other people and serve Him with our lives.
Finally, the word “Celebrate!”, verses 19-20, “The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens; by his knowledge the deeps broke open, and the clouds drop down the dew.” Proverbs 3 takes us all the way back to the Creation of the world. That’s where our celebration begins. We celebrate that God created the world. We celebrate that God loves us. And even when we went the wrong direction, we celebrate that He forgives us. That’s where our celebration begins. We celebrate, and then we serve God. We trust God. And He has trained us to see that we win with Christ.
Now the interesting thing is that these five words kind of match up with the five words from the National Youth Gathering. 14 youth, 2 other adult leaders, and I got back less than a week ago from Orlando, Florida, where we were with 35,000 other youth and leaders. It was this great big event, and it happened over 5 days, 5 theme words. Let’s look at how they match up with the five words from Vacation Bible School.
Vacation Bible School, the word is “Win!”, but down in Florida, the word was “Power.” It was the power of God, the power of Jesus Christ that made it so that He could defeat death. And He shares that power with us.
Here at VBS it was “Train!”; down in Florida it was “Truth.” There’s no sense in getting trained in something that’s false, trained in a lie. We need to be trained in the truth, trained in God’s Word. And the truth is what gives us life.
Here at VBS it was “Trust!”; down at the National Youth Gathering, the word was “Love.” Not only can we trust God; we can love God. Because He shows us His love, He is worthy of our trust, worthy of our love. And so we turn to Him, and that’s our reaction after we see what He has done for us.
We “Serve!” in VBS, and in Florida, it was to “Live!” You turn around, and you live for God, live for others. And it’s that matching up again of these similar themes.
Finally, our word this week was “Celebrate!”, and down in Florida, it was “Praise.” And down in Florida with 35,000 people, we praised God in so many different ways. There were bands, dancing, banging on drums of all sorts. Even running a race can be praising God. You cross the finish line, raise your arms, and as long as you’re not saying, “I’m the greatest,” as long as you’re saying, “Praise God that He has given me these gifts and abilities,” then that’s a way of praising God. Everything you do in your life can be a way of praising God.
So whether it’s at VBS, Vacation Bible School; or NYG, National Youth Gathering; or RLC, Redeemer Lutheran Church; or ABS, Adult Bible Study; whether it’s at MTWC, Manitowoc, or TR, Two Rivers. Wherever you are, these five words are kernels, reminders of the faith that we have, of the faith that has come to us and given us this taste of victory through Jesus.
I want to try one more thing. I want to try a little chant. We’ll start kind of slow, and then we’ll see if we can keep it going. Win! Train! Trust! Serve! Celebrate! Win! Train! Trust! Serve! Celebrate!….
That’s a way of praising God! And what I want you to remember from those five words is that we “Celebrate!” that God has called us up onto the gold medal stand, that He has invited us to be on His team. We “Serve!” others when we tell them that we “Trust!” that God has “Train!”ed us to see that the “Win!” is ours through Jesus Christ.