9/18/05, P-18-A

“Falling Forward”
Philippians 1: 21-30

y famous Asheboro High School Blue Comets football coach used to instruct the running backs to “fall forward.” In other words, as you are falling down to the turf always try to stretch out your body so that when you hit the ground with the ball you would have picked up a couple of extra yards and if every ball carrier gained an extra yard by falling forward our team would gain an extra 50 yards during the game.

Notice that all football players nowadays stretch out falling forward on nearly every play. Coach Lee J. Stone possibly invented that. I wish he had drilled this practice into me, for even though I was a pretty good pulling and trapping guard I fell hard on the one chance I had to carry the ball. I caught an onside kick and at first was so surprised I stood still for a second, when I ran fast to the left for five yards, then swiftly to the right, and fell straight down without making any forward, or lateral, progress at all. Beloved Coach Stone kind of smiled during the films, several not so beloved teammates laughed out loud, but our line coach, Sal Gero, defended me by pointing out that at least I did not fumble the ball.

Many pundits have said that all of life's lessons can be found in football. So, perhaps the moral of this story is that, we are all going to fall so we need to try to fall forward. Our text uses words like: striving, struggling, making progress, and there is that famous verse 21, “For me, living is Christ and dying is gain.” It seems almost as if Paul wanted to fall forward as he fell for the last time.

John C. Maxwell, former pastor and current author of best selling motivational books including The 24 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership , and more recently, Falling Forward , says that it is absolutely impossible to succeed in life without falling and getting back up. He says that the most important quality for success is not just education, family money, good fortune or even high morals but it is the ability to turn around failure in order to survive. Failure in something happens to everyone. It's not the failure that destroys us but our response to failure, adversity and pain that can tear us down.

Unresolved failures can be some of the heavy baggage that many of us carry throughout life. The process of psychoanalysis can assist in remembering painful experiences of failure and understanding the effect that those experiences have had on our lives.

We who follow Jesus sometimes find sweet release from our suppressed failures when we are in private prayer, worship, preaching and hymn singing. Yet, even the Saints of God sometimes harbor bad memories. We need to allow the Spirit of God to release us from these heavy burdens.

Of course, the first aspect of our Christian Faith that frees us from bad memories, and sinful situations from our past, is Redemption. God sent his Son to redeem His lost creation. Therefore, looking back on the price that Jesus paid for our forgiveness and cleansing, we realize that God Almighty has paved a way for us to find a new fulfilling and forgiven life. The Good News to us from the Cross is, “All's Forgiven!”

David Seamands, a member of our North Georgia United Methodist Conference and a longtime Professor of Pastoral Care at Asbury Theological Seminary, wrote a well received and much needed book entitled Memory Healing . Seamands emphasized that we need to claim the fact that our past is forgiven whenever we ask God to forgive us and that all we have to do is ask, and believe that He has washed away our sense of guilt and shame.

Seamands points out that it's possible to know that our sins are cancelled and still allow guilt to have power over us. People can accept Christ, be on their way to heaven, and yet there's hurt and sin in the past that has power over them.

There is really no reason for the believer who has accepted Christ as Savior to still feel burdened down by past sin. Many just do not realize that God eradicates our past sin and wants us to let them go too. However, the process of letting go sometimes takes a lot of conversation or psychotherapy. It can be a long road.

Yet, occasionally it can be so easy. I was discussing a friend's dilemma with his new job where he was required to make a few sales calls for the first time. He would simply freeze up and have a panic attack whenever he found himself in the role of salesman. I asked if he had any memories of bad work experiences with direct sales, and he said none. I then said did you ever fail at selling anything? He responded with a smile, “O yes, as a kid I really failed at selling candy door to door for our Cub Scouts”—and a light went on. Do you suppose that is it? He asked. “Well, how did you feel when that mean man stormed out at you and ran you out of his yard?” “O No he responded it feels the same as I feel today when I have to go to a person's office and ask for their business.”

Have we not all had our anxieties, fears and memories cleansed, during our personal prayer and meditation time? To reiterate the point of all of this: We are all going to face crises; it's a part of coping with life and nature; but we can take charge as we attempt to always fall forward. To turn snow into snow cones, and lemons into lemonade. Or, as Paul said to his flock, “I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith.” (25)

If I had known this then I probably could have run that kickoff for a touchdown, or at least, have fallen forward.

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor
9/18/05, P-18-A