Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into submission, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
During Biblical times, there was an athletic competition similar to our Olympics. The Isthmian Games where held in the city of Corinth every two years. Athletes would train hard and devote themselves completely to the Games. Then, and only then, they would be allowed to compete in an event. Along with the bragging rights of a true companion, the winner would receive a pine wreath crown. The Apostle Paul likened the life of a Christian to that of a competitor in the Isthmian Games. But instead of bragging rights and a crown of pine, after we have run the race, we receive eternal life with Jesus.
There are certain qualities that an athlete must have in order to perform at the Olympic level. And I thought it would be fun to look at some of these qualities and compare them to what we as Christians can do to perform at a top level in our walk with Christ.
First, we need a Goal.
Every athlete has a goal in mind when they practice and when they compete. Without a goal there wouldn’t be a desire to win or a reason to show up at the competition. That goal is their main focus in life and their eye is always on it. They are always in pursuit of their goal and nothing will stop them from achieving it.
Every Christian has a call from God on their life, and each of us should set our goal on that call. We should be pressing forward or deliberately pursuing that goal. Just as an athlete sets their eyes on the gold medal or a Super Bowl ring, we must set our eyes on Jesus and make sure that He is the main focus of our lives. He is what we are pressing toward. His call on our life is the goal, and nothing will keep us from getting to that goal.Every Christian has a call from God on their life, and each of us should set our goal on that call.Click To Tweet
Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Second, we must work hard and show Discipline.
It takes hard work to get from the goal to the prize. We tend to think that people are born with a natural ability to be a top tier athlete. Either you have it, or you don’t. But an athlete needs discipline to reach the top of the podium. It is everyday practice and discipline that makes them able to train their bodies to perform at such a high level. Discipline makes them get out of bed every day and practice, even when their body is tired or injured. Discipline propels them forward when nothing else will. Discipline is what creates winners.
Just as an athlete needs discipline to go from a goal to the prize, we also need discipline in our daily lives. We should be training ourselves by praying, reading and mediating on God’s Word. These are some of the ways that we can work to put our faith into practice every day. When we do, God promises that we will be rewarded for our efforts and our goal will become closer and closer.
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
1 Corinthians 15:58
Third, we should have endurance and Perseverance.
A track runner is trained to only see the hurdle in front of them, not to look past it for the next one. They jump over the first hurdle, then move on to the next. Eventually they get to the last hurdle and then the finish line is in sight. They show perseverance through each hurdle until the race is over.
That’s how we need to be, focused on what God has put right in front of us. There will always hurdles to overcome in life and many things will distract us from our goal. At times the finish line will seem to be just out of sight. But when we have perseverance and look to Jesus, “the finisher of the faith” we will be able to run with endurance and see the finish line clearly up ahead.
Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
It’s easy to feel weighted down and discouraged. When you don’t see any forward movement the finish line seems so far away. But Jesus has already won the victory for us! And when we set our goal on Him and run the race before us, we will receive everything we need to make it to that goal. We can race to the finish with confidence in our Savior Jesus Christ.
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Picture, Olympic rings made of plasma copyright Filip Susanek used under license of Dreamstime.
This time of year, my thoughts turn to how thankful I am for the independence that I experience as an American. But I also recognize the sacrifices that have been made by so many to ensure this freedom. President Ronald Reagan famously said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” His words have never been more poignant than right now when we are once again facing the possibility of war to secure a freedom that some seek to take away from us. Every day our men and women in uniform put their lives on the line for our liberty and for the values we hold dear as Americans. Independence Day is the time we set aside to support the ongoing efforts of our military and to remember all of the freedoms we enjoy because of their sacrifice.
While I am reflecting on my liberty as an American, I also think about a more important kind of freedom I experience as a Christian. Jesus put His life on the line so that we could have everlasting liberty. He died to set us free, free from sin and free from the trappings of this world. It is only by His sacrifice that we can achieve this liberty.
Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.
The Apostle Paul, tells us how to have liberty in Christ in three parts. So, let’s break it down and examine each one.
#1 Stand Fast…
We cannot lose our salvation in Christ. That is the most basic fact of our Christian faith. Even though we can’t lose our salvation, we are told many times in the Bible to stand fast or to stand firm in our belief. The world is knocking on our door, trying to cause us to back down. They don’t want us to stand up for what we believe. They want us to agree with their misguided thoughts, that they are right and we are wrong. But we can’t back down. We must always be ready to stand fast and stand up for our faith.
#2 the liberty by which Christ has made us free…
Liberty in Christ and freedom from sin comes from accepting Jesus as your Savior. There is no other way. We know this because we have experienced the love and grace of salvation in Christ. But sometimes it slips our mind and we forget that we have been set free. So now is the perfect time to remember all that Christ has done for us and experience the liberty by which we have been made free.
#3 do not be entangled again by the yoke of bondage…
Sin is a burden that we don’t have to bear any longer. Jesus has taken that yoke on Himself so that we can be free from it. We don’t have to become entangled by the things of this world or by the sin that so easily ensnares us (Hebrews 12:1). We can move forward knowing that because of the sacrifice of Jesus, we are able to live a life that is full and free from the bondage of sin and shame.
This Fourth of July, I hope that you will spend time with your family and friends, grill some burgers and hot dogs and watch the amazing fireworks displays. But most of all, I hope you will remember the loving sacrifice of Jesus Christ and that true liberty comes from knowing Him.
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Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for us when He willingly faced the cross. When His work there was finished, our freedom was secure, and our debt paid. Greater love has never been shown than that of our Savior giving Himself for us!
Today, we honor the men and women of our brave armed forces. Their sacrifice gives us a different kind of freedom, one that means a free society to live and flourish in. Thank you for your willingness to give to our great country. You are not forgotten! And Thank you, Lord Jesus, for the spiritual freedom we only find in you!
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I know many of us are praying for revival in our country. We feel that the nation is headed in the wrong direction and we so badly want that to change. It doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s an election year or not, most of us fall into two categories. Either we’re feed up with Washington and all of the gridlock from both sides of the aisle, or we’ve become complacent and think that no matter who’s in office, nothing will ever change. It leaves us wondering…Is there anything that we can do? Can we get back to “one nation under God”? Let’s take a look at what God says we can do to turn our country around.
If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and forgive their sin and heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14
The first words of this verse are the most important part. And I don’t want us to miss it.
If My people who are called by My name…
This is a powerful message directed at Christians! God isn’t talking to the world at large, He is speaking only to those of us who are believers. If we want to see real change in our country, then it’s up to us. God says that we have to be the ones to lead the way!
Many times in the Bible God makes both unconditional and conditional promises to those of us who believe. This verse is an example of one of the “conditional” promises that God has made to us. In order to receive the blessing, we first have to do the things that God asks of us. In this verse God gives us a list of three actions that we need to take in order to see revival in our country, then He promises us that He will do three things in exchange.
Our Actions to Take
#1 humble themselves…
Humbling yourself is hard to do and admitting that you are wrong is equally difficult. But God is asking us to do just that. We need to recognize that our way of doing things doesn’t work and God’s way is the right way. If we want to see real change in our country and in our lives then we have to follow God’s way.
#2 pray and seek My face…
Praying and seeking God’s face is a way of creating an intimate relationship with Him. He wants to spend time with us each day and He wants us to be close to Him! Praying isn’t just about asking God for stuff, it’s seeking God’s will and listening for an answer. How can we have a relationship with someone we never talk to and how can we know God’s way if we don’t listen for His answer?
#3 turn from their wicked ways…
Are we willing to admit that we’re not always right, that we’ve made mistakes? As a nation and as a people? In order to turn our country around, we must repent of our sins and admit that we’ve made bad choices that have lead us away from God and His will. We must turn away from those past decisions and seek God’s way.
When we do these three things God will fulfill His promises to us.
#1 I will hear from heaven…
The ball is in our court. God is listening and waiting for us to do our part.
#2 forgive their sins…
God is always faithful to forgive us of our sins, all we have to do is ask. I think that’s pretty amazing! Don’t you?
#3 heal their land…
When we do our part, God will do His. He will bring revival to our country! He will bless our nation! Because God always keeps His promises!
Are you are frustrated with the direction our country is headed in? As Christians, it’s up to us to recognize that our nation desperately needs revival. And we must be the ones who lead the way back to a relationship with the only One who can give it to us. If we return to God, humble ourselves before Him, seek His face and turn from our sin, then we will see a new revival in our hearts and in our land. If we do our part, God will do His! So let’s get to it. Please join me in in seeking God’s will for our nation and praying for revival in our country. God bless!