Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.  James 4:10 NASB95

I didn’t watch the Olympics. I did, however, watch Pastor Ray Willis preach a sermon recently. Comparing the two – I’m glad that I watched Ray Willis!!

There was a moment at the beginning of Ray’s sermon (he is a huge sports fan) when he asked, “The Olympics have been exciting. How many of you have been watching the Olympics?”

I only saw about eight people in the audience of 200 raise their hands.

Let me introduce Ray Willis.

He works as the Executive Pastor at the church where I served as Senior Pastor for 49 years. Ray loves sports. Ray loves Jesus even more. Of course, he watched the Olympics and as a seasoned speaker, didn’t allow the lack of a response to a question throw him off his preaching track.

Ray was preaching on the Kingdom of God under the title of The Upside-Down Kingdom.

Seeking first the Kingdom of God is the number one topic of Jesus in the Gospels. Earthly kingdoms seek to promote individuals or causes. The Upside-Down Kingdom of God serves to the point of dying for those not deserving.

I’ve been thinking about why I did not watch the Olympics.

I had no desire to even discuss the Olympics and didn’t have to because my friends didn’t watch either. The ratings for the Olympics were off the bottom of the charts. Evidently, those living in America felt going to the beach, standing in lines at waterparks, or watching reruns of Gilmore Girls was a better use of time.

Why?

Let’s consider the kingdoms of this world – about self-promotion, often hypocritical protests, glory at the expense of others, and those who have a lot of wealth, talent, and opportunity preaching to me about what I’m doing wrong in Springfield, Ohio.

While they do the same thing for which they criticize others.

Let me slow down a bit. There were inspirational stories from the Olympics. Most of the athletes worked hard only for accomplishment. My indifference toward the Olympics was in part because of the pontification of athletes from all sports, along with celebrities, and talking-head pundits.

The Olympics were caught in the overspray of my frustration.

I’m glad I listened to Ray Willis.

Ray was a great baseball player. He was an all-star. When choosing a team on the playground you would go with Ray first. While preaching about the Upside-Down Kingdom, Ray told a story of the time that he wasn’t selected to be in a line-up before a game.

Never happened before to Ray.

An important game, with Ray expecting to be the star, and his name wasn’t in the starting line-up. Ray got mad and yelled at the coach. The coach told him, “Ray, this is why you aren’t in the line-up.”

The Upside-Down Kingdom! Earthly kingdoms versus the kingdom of God.

I worked with Ray as his boss for over 15 years. He never yelled at me, though I deserved it a few times. Ray is so athletic as to be physically intimidating – I’m glad that he learned the “n0 yelling” lesson before he began working for me.

Get the point: Ray talked about his inadequacy in front of an audience.

Ray’s message of the Upside-Down Kingdom challenged me more than anything would have at the Olympics this year – authenticity through humility inspires.

In the sandlots of heaven when spirituality along with physicality combines for greatness, Ray Willis will still be chosen first for playground lineups.

That’s the Upside-Down Kingdom. You must squint to see examples in our culture today, but they are there.

In heaven, this glory will be on full display. Play ball!