I Corinthians 9:24-27 (NLT)
Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.
Who would ever have thought that being a Christian would require such energy? What believer thinks in the beginning that following Jesus Christ is nothing more than mind over matter? Yet in my pursuit of the Lord I have found it to be true that unless I am completely empty, I am never full. If I do not challenge myself and force the issue, my flesh will never give way to His Spirit and allow my relationship to grow. I am much more resolute to settle for the lesser things that do not require such a struggle or lead to hardship. I would rather compromise than commit my body, mind and spirit to more. Yet it is God’s Purpose for my life to culminate into His Perfect Plan with a future and hope. It is God’s Intention that I live a rich and satisfying life but it is my complacency that often hangs on to my comfort zone. At some point, it must become desire to win the race and obtain the prize. I must run to win! It is through careful discipline and training that I make the choice to run with purpose in every step rather than in and out of the darkness and light. When do I decide to stop “shadowboxing” with the enemy and put him under my feet? It requires discipline which is not my strong suit. It takes training which requires my time that is in short supply. But I do not want to be disqualified at the end of my life.
The Lord will not force His Goodness and Grace on you. He does not require you to have His Blessings. His Mercy is available new each morning but only for those who desire it in their life. His Purpose and Plan is in full operation yet freedom allows us to choose our own path. We were created with a measure of faith to produce confident hope and Eternity in our heart to desire His Kingdom but it is not a requirement. Those who desire the Kingdom of God including His Purpose and Plan must strive to obtain it. Not against flesh and blood, but principalities and darkness that are the thief coming to steal, kill and destroy your destiny. The Word of God warns that only those who endure to the end will be saved. Endurance requires training and exercise. My husband and I have a gym date just about every day. We ride there together but after checking in – we head in two very different directions. He is training to develop strength. He works with free weights every single muscle in his body. He studies workout strategies designed to increase his strength. I am on a different training course. I am want endurance. My goal is to run. I want to run a marathon one day. When I began, I could only run about twenty minutes before every muscle in my body screamed to quit and I slowed to a snail’s pace to finish. But over time, I have increased the distance and intensity of my workout now building up to 45 minutes without stopping along the way. Though slightly winded, I am no longer out of breath. Given our very different routines, if my husband comes to do cardio it seems harder for him to go the distance just as if I try to lift weights I cannot lift much more than the bar. It is all about training and discipline. What are you after? Are you willing to discipline yourself in the pursuit? Will you commit the time and energy needed to be successful? Will you lay it all on the line to win? When training, I am competing only against myself. The same can be said in my pursuit of Jesus Christ. God is no respecter of persons. My relationship with Jesus Christ is personal and individual. He does not compare me to other believers but looks inside my heart. He wants to see if I intend to win or just get by. The Lord is looking for passion and desire to obtain Eternity and hang on by faith to confident hope. It is in me, but will I use it to form the bond of righteousness necessary to finish the race and fulfill God’s Purpose for my life.
Even though the fig trees have no blossoms and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
I did not end of the gym due to a physical pursuit but more of a spiritual endeavor. My mind is on overdrive most of the time. I found that exercise helped me clear it and allowed me to organize my thoughts. While I exercise, I listen to praise and worship music which stirs up my Spirit who assists in this process. However, I am a wimp who would not walk in the rain or cold weather so my husband invited me to the gym. My first visit was filled with many distractions. I am a people watcher and there are people to watch all over the place. I hated it and vowed never to go back. But I did and now go on a regular basis. The moment that I step on the machine and out of this world, I have learned to enter my own space and time with the Lord. But what I have found in this time each day is that through modern technology, I can continually challenge my physical being and wear her out. This is so necessary. I forget to worry and stress as I tell my body to keep going. Keep moving. Don’t stop. As we have walked this long road with our son, I envision Abraham heading to the mountain with Isaac. I keep my eyes on my feet which move from plastic pedals to hard, rocky terrain and I see myself walking, then running and sprinting to the top. Who would race to the place of sacrifice? Who would run to meet the unknown? Those who spend time training and becoming disciplined in the Lord will every time because they develop a hunger and thirst for righteousness that develops strong faith and confident hope. When we can look for God’s Goodness in each step rather than fearing the outcome or worrying about the end, we run a great race. We finish. We win!
The fig trees have no blossoms. There is no hope. There are no grapes on the vine. We feel all alone. The olive crop fails. We are in a spiritual drought. The fields lie empty and barren. Where will our help come from? There is famine in our life. The flocks have all died and the barns empty – will you rejoice? Will you be joyful in the God of your salvation? Those who have experienced such emptiness are about to be full if they will only endure and push through to the end. Feeling like giving up? Don’t even consider it. Like the widow who fed Elisha (2 Kings 4:3-7) – you are about to be full. Not kind of full or with just enough, but for those who choose to press on will be a rich and satisfying life that is overflowing. You will not be big enough to contain it and will have no choice but to let it be an outpouring of His Glory and Grace!
Proverbs 1:2-4 (NLT)
Their purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline, to help them understand the insights of the wise. Their purpose is to teach people to live disciplined and successful lives, to help them do what is right, just, and fair. These proverbs will give insight to the simple, knowledge and discernment to the young.
If you knew God’s Purpose for your life, you would want it. If you understood exactly what Jesus Christ is offering you, you would take it. The problem goes back to Hosea 4:6. People are dying due to a lack of knowledge. There is no excuse. God’s Word has been packaged just about every possible way it can be marketed. Not only in written form, but Jesus Christ released His Spirit so we no longer need to be taught but only listen to the voice inside of us. (John 14:26) There is no excuse other than laziness or disinterest. The Word of God including the Book of Proverbs is designed to teach people wisdom and discipline that leads to life. It is to help us understands God’s Insight and Intent for His People. It helps us to do right in a world that has gone way wrong. We are to have discernment that allows us to choose between right and wrong, good and evil and blessing and cursing effectively. Do you know the Word of God? When was the last time you studied it? We should tithe our time to studying God’s Word just as we do to any other thing of interest. It is a valuable investment. Jesus told the woman at the well, “If you knew…” (John 4:10) If people only knew the vast potential of God’s Power given to us through Jesus Christ beginning with the satisfaction of our soul, they would hunger and thirst for nothing else but more of Him. Prosperity is only possible for those with a made up mind and satisfied soul. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied. (Matthew 5:6) It is good to have an appetite for the Lord. It presses us to know Him more. (Proverbs 16:26)
Ecclesiastes 3:14-15 (NLT)
And I know that whatever God does is final. Nothing can be added to it or taken from it. God’s purpose is that people should fear him. What is happening now has happened before, and what will happen in the future has happened before, because God makes the same things happen over and over again.
Every athlete has an objective. For an Olympian, it is to win a gold medal. For an NFL player, it is the Super Bowl. Only those willing to commit all of their time and energy to the sport will win. Athletes begin training most in their childhood. Developing their skill and ability as they grow and mature in the sport of their choice. Some will change to a different arena as their interest changes but they are still after one goal. They want to win. They believe it is a prize worth having. The competitive nature of human beings have driven the supply and demand of professional sports earnings through the roof. But most will still tell you it is all about the glory. They want to be remembered as the best who ever played. This is a recurring theme and repetitive cycle of mankind. Men and women who lay it all on the line to be the best that they can be for the fame and glory that comes with it. Men and women of God are promised Glory. They are promised the Glory of God that surrounds them with satisfaction, favor and love that is all-consuming yet can only be found by faith and confident hope in God’s Plan and His Ability to carry it out. There is no place for human exaltation or self-promotion so many are not interested. Who is willing to lay down their life to win such a race? When the prize seems elusive as it is not seen and cannot be touched with human hands yet overflows inside the heart, who will go the distance for such a thing? The difference between worldly pursuits and Kingdom passion is that long after the world forgets your name, His Glory remains in you forever as you live in His Presence forevermore. Whatever God does is final.
Matthew 5:17-20 (NLT)
“Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. “But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!”
Have you ever thought that there has to be more to life than this? That is Eternity calling inside your heart ready to overflow into your life. It is an invitation to run the race of faith. Hunger for the Bread of Life and to thirst for Living Water. He is asking, “Do you want to be satisfied?” God isn’t emptying you to punish you or overwhelm you but fill you with that rich, satisfying life that Jesus promised you would have. Do not strive in vain to hold on the worthless, petty things of this life when you are going for the win! You want the Eternal Prize of righteousness that requires laying your whole life on the line (or maybe I should say altar). I do not believe that Abraham was focused on the altar on the mountain of God and what would be required. When he took his first step on the rocky terrain, I believe he focused on each step reciting the promises of God for his life. He continued to repeat what he knew as the land grew steep and harsh. He combatted fear with faith. When he made it to that place, full of the Spirit – He demonstrated obedience which God met with His Love. There are many things in our life that we have used to pad our comfort zones and make our life a little easier. But for those who desire to be satisfied the substitutions will have to go creating a void for God to fill with His Goodness. For those who desire to win, there can be no compromise so the gray zone is erased. You don’t have to be a winner. There are many people who go to the gym each night to see or be seen. There are some that go through the motions but exert no energy. There are some that talk to others or on the cellphone the whole time never committing their full attention to exercising their body. There is even a homeless woman who does not workout at all just comes to use the shower each day. The gym still allows them to be members. I don’t want to be a shadow boxer who wastes my time throwing punches at the enemy but never taking him out. I don’t want to run my race in vain, I want the prize. It is going to require my time. It will take a whole lot of energy. But it has become my passion to endure to the end even if it means leaving it all on the line. I must press on to remain in right standing and know Christ more. Jesus is my everything so now I must give Him my all.
Philippians 3:12-14 (NLT)
I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.