Everyone seems to have an infamous photo? Maybe it’s not a photo, maybe it’s a video tape. Either way, you know what I’m talking about. It’s that photo that whenever your friends, family, or date come over your parents pull out and proudly show everyone. It’s you stuck in the toilet potty training. Or in the bathtub with your cousin who happened to be of the opposite sex. Maybe it’s from later in life, falling off the ladder or throwing a football through the kitchen window. All those moments splashed on America’s Funniest Videos, YouTube, and MySpace that haunt you the rest of your life. At your 25th high school reunion you’re still referred to as Pee Pee because you accidentally wet yourself in second grade. People tend to remember that one moment in your life’s history over any other achievement. It’s the one missed shot at the homecoming game that would have won it, not your career stats. It’s a Peyton Manning moment.
But there can also be another side to it. There are people like Neil Armstrong; first man on the moon. That’s what you think of when he comes up right? Do you ever stop to think how he got to that point? Maybe it happened like American Idol. I can just picture it. People wrapped around the NASA building waiting to try out to be the first man on the moon. You’ve got three judges sitting there, one British of course, critiquing who’s got the catchiest phrase and the best moon walk. Do you picture them as they land on the moon like when you land at the airport? The rover hasn’t even touched down yet and Neil already has his seatbelt unbuckled and has one foot in the isle to get ahead of the next guy. Have you ever thought of all the man hours and training; all the flights before and after that moment in history that Neil Armstrong went on. You don’t think about it do you? You just see him bouncing across the moon’s surface with the American flag, stating those famous lines “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
In the book of Genesis there’s a similar story of a guy who’s not given a lot of credit for the moments before and after his defining moment. Noah. I bet you could walk through the mall and ask anyone what the first word is that comes to mind when you say “Noah” and their response would be “Ark”. Noah was over 500 years old when God asked him to build the ark. Now you might say that that’s not that big of a deal because everyone lived a long time back then. Well, let’s do a little math. Noah lived to be 950. So, just looking at it, that made him around middle age when he started the ark. Think about that for a moment. Noah’s defining moment came when he was middle aged, but here’s the heavy part. If he hadn’t prepared and led his life well up to that moment, his defining moment would have never come. Stop and think about that for a minute. We don’t even have a mention of Noah in the Bible until he was 500 years old. Genesis actually spends 8 verses describing the state of humankind at the time and one verse on Noah.
Noah was a righteous man, blameless and upright among the people of his time, and he walked with God. Gen. 6:9
That’s all the history we get. But notice, it’s not a single moment that God uses to describe Noah. It’s everything. Even centuries later here’s what it says about him in 2 Peter 2:5
And He spared not the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven other persons, when He brought a flood upon the world of ungodly [people].
God doesn’t refer to Noah as a builder. He’s not a carpenter, mechanic, contractor, whatever. He was a preacher of righteousness, who happened to build a boat and fill it with critters. For God, time doesn’t exist. God doesn’t have moments, He is constant. Therefore, there’s no point in time where he’s going to say “this is who you are”. There’s no definition of who you are to God. The Bible tells of a murderer and adulterer who gained a reputation as the greatest king of the Old Testament, “A man after God’s own heart.” God’s not going to say “David, King of Israel”. That’s not going to be what get’s him into heaven. And look at his defining moments. He killed a Giant. Slept with a married woman then had her husband killed. He had one son try to take over his kingdom and another one rape his sister. And he lied to a priest. That’s half the commandments right there.
The Bible also talks about a church being led by a disciple who cursed and swore that he had never known Jesus. And of a missionary being recruited from the Christian-torturers. Read the book of Acts and you’ll find a person who could torture and kill with the best inquisitor – now an apostle of grace, a servant of Jesus Christ, the greatest missionary history has ever known. If God can love that kind of person, maybe, just maybe he can love the likes of me. God is the God of Grace according to the apostle Peter. And grace means there is nothing I can do to make God love me more and nothing I can do to make God love me less. It means that I, who deserve the opposite, am invited to take my place at the table of God’s family. By instinct I feel I have to do something in order to be accepted by God; to seek that defining moment where God can say “well done my good and faithful servant”. But Gods grace contradicts that.
Every spring I get caught up in the fury of March Madness. I can’t resist trying to watch all sixty-four teams play in the NCAA basketball tournament in the hopes that they will be the one that wins it all. The best games always seem to come down to one player standing on a free-throw line with one second left on the clock and his team down by one. He dribbles nervously. If he misses these two shots, he knows, he will be the goat of his campus, the goat of his state. Twenty years from now he’ll be in therapy, reliving this moment. If he makes these shots, he’ll be a hero. His picture will be on the front page. He could probably run for governor.
For the world, everything depends on what you do in a moment. You have to make that one shot, make that one sale, or pass that one test. Jesus’ kingdom calls us to another way, one that depends not on our performance, but his. We don’t achieve, but merely follow. Christ has already earned God’s acceptance for us. The way we live our life outside of any defining moment reflects that. Mother Theresa is known for a life of giving. Ghandi is known for a life of peace. Noah is known for a life of righteousness. Who you are inside and how you live each day is what matters to God. Your life in Christ outweighs your defining moment.