Well my daughter’s Cross Country season is over. I asked if she wanted to participate in Track and Field; however, she said she doesn’t think she will. I asked why because I know she loves to run. She said she isn’t a fast runner. She’s a distance runner. Many of the Cross Country team members were fast and they would start out really well, but then she’d be ahead. Their energy fizzled a bit and she kept a steady pace.
In our Christian walk, we can start out really well and fizzle. I see it time and time again. Some people get this passion for Jesus when they accept Him into their lives. They get a huge Bible. They are highlighting. They are raising hands. They start telling everyone about Jesus and they look to be on fire. But that quick burst suddenly fizzles. In time it looks as if the light has gone out.
Paul told us to press forward on the race that is set out before us. It doesn’t have to be a quick rush forward to surge ahead. Our walk with Christ is a steady one—day by day, moment by moment. We aren’t in a race against each other trying to be the “better Christian” as if there was a thing. Each of us is simply to continue fixing our eyes on Jesus and trying to follow God’s will for our lives. We will stumble. We will mess up. God’s grace is enough. The bottom line is—keep pressing forward.
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” – 1 Corinthians 9:24 [NIV]
“I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” – Philippians 3:14 [NLT]
I love the Parable of the Pearl of Great Value. The parable says, “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (v. 45-26 ESV). He sold ALL HE HAD to buy it. What a great pearl!
The parable speaks of the pearl of great value. So what about the lesser pearls? What about the things in life that are of lesser value? Consider for a moment a person who goes out searching for pearls, finds these lesser pearls, and gives everything away for them.
We want the greater pearl. It should be our goal in life. But there are times when we don’t live like we are going for the greater pearl. We toss it all for the lesser pearls. Today let us pray for the Spirit to reveal these lesser pearls in our life so that we can toss them aside. This merchant was looking for fine pearls but he found one pearl, one pearl of great value. May each of us turn our eyes from fine pearls and seek the one pearl of great value—the only one with eternal value.
“When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!” – Matthew 13:36 [NLT]
On a recent trip I drove from Pennsylvania to North Carolina. The drive did not seem so long except when we were in Virginia. It seemed like Virginia went on forever. When I compared the time we spent in Maryland and West Virginia, it was very apparent that the journey as longer. I started to feel exhausted. I started to doubt if we would ever get out of Virginia and reach our destination. The trip did not look like this on Google Maps.
As we understand our journeys in life, we usually have some sort of perception of what to expect. We use our knowledge, our experiences, and even other experiences to help prepare us for what lies ahead with the current road we are traveling. The problem arises when reality is very different from what we expected. We start to lose momentum, to get exhausted, to even have doubts.
Don’t give up. If God has called you to do something, you will reach the finish line. The road is not always going to be quick or smooth, but He is faithful. Focus on God, not on your expectations of the situation. We cannot know 100% what the situation will bring our way, but we can trust our unchanging God. I eventually made it to North Carolina and you will eventually reach your destination as well. Keep pressing forward. We each have a long road ahead of us, but it promises us a beautiful future.
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” – 1 Corinthians 9:24
Not long ago, a professor and I were having a discussion about having confidence in the Lord rather than in ourselves. We then moved our thoughts to competitions. Within the discussion, the professor challenged me with 1 Corinthians 9:24, where Paul wrote, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win” (NASB). This passage is telling us that running is not the same as winning. We need to win the race. We need to finish the race to win. However, it is not a race where there is only one winner. We each can receive our crowns if we finish the race. It is all about running the race to the finish line. As 2 Timothy 4:7 states, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (ESV). At the end of the race, it’s all about keeping the faith; it’s all about trusting in God to the finish.
The big problem that we have with running our own race is that which deters us and moves us away from our walk with Christ. The writer of Hebrews wrote, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1 NIV). This passage warns us that there are things that will hinder us in this race. In John Bunyan’s book, “The Pilgrim’s Progress,” this man name Christian is on his journey to salvation and the Celestial City, only to meet up with a wide array of people who tell him to turn around or try to give him another way to travel. Each person tries to hinder his race, some more purposeful than others. Paul says this in Galatians, “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?” (5:7 NIV).
You see, this race to the finish is not a race where we are competing against others. We are competing against ourselves and our own sin nature. We are to be running forward, trusting God, running in the way of Christ, obeying the Truth. There are many runners on the course with us, some running right alongside us, others trying to get us to turn around, others falling asleep on the course, and others trying to get us to attempt taking a “short cut” which really isn’t a short cut to the finish line, but a derailment. Then there are those runners who make it a competition in hopes of getting a better position in heaven or to draw attention to themselves here on earth, and these runners have somewhat derailed themselves too.
Philippians 2:6 of the NLT says, “Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless.” Paul encourages us to follow the Word of God, to run the race that is set before us as Christ ran the race, following the Word of God. So keep running. Keep following the course set before us. Many will try to hinder us whether purposely or not, but if we cling to the Word of God and trust in Him who is faithful, we will have victory.
Last night I was watching this television show that just began for what I believe is a week long program. Although I am not much of a television buff, I tuned in to this NBC show because of the title, “Take It All.” The show has contestants selecting unknown prizes from a screen or deciding to “steal” a gift from one of their fellow contestants. Whoever has selected the most valuable of the prizes moves on to the next round of play. The last round has the two final contestants facing off in a last standoff. Each contestant selects one small container which has some cash amount listed inside. Each contestant must make a selection which will determine if they keep the prizes they earned earlier, the cash that is in the container they just selected, and possibly even the other contestant’s prizes.
I sat and watched as the older gentleman the host called “Santa” told his opponent that he could be trusted, that because he believe God placed them both there for a reason and that they both could be blessed, that he would select to “keep mine.” If both contestants selected “keep mine” they would both take home what they had earned. If she decided to select “take it all,” but “Santa” said he would only “keep mine,” she would take it all. The contestant said she didn’t know if she could trust him. Earlier in the game he tried to take items from other contestants. She didn’t trust him. The last move of the game, she picked to “Take it All.” It could have been an issue of greed; however, she again and again said she did not trust this man because of what his actions showed earlier in the game.
I thought about what she said and also what he had proclaimed before the big decision was made by both contestants. He did stick with his word and selected to “keep mine.” And yet, this lady did not trust him because of his actions before, something I think happens with a lot of Christians. Whether we like it or not, as a Christian, we are a representative of Christ. If we spend some time doing things that are not well representing Christ, and then later try to say that we are to be trusted, people may not see the true Christ. I am not saying that this man was falsely representing Christ. What I am talking about here is trust. If we are to be witnessing to people, there is a relationship that is involved. If we show people two different parts of us, the true us and then a different us, how could a person trust us? How can a person be brought to Christ when shown such a difference?
The lady in the show won everything—the money and prizes she had, plus everything that the other man had earned. She truly did “take it all.” Although we are taught to not take everything, to be generous, we are also taught to be truthful, to be faithful, to be like Christ. If we are not real with people, when we finally tell them about Jesus, about what He did for our lives, for how good He is, people may have already decided long before by your actions that you were a dishonest person and your words will have little meaning.
Verses to consider:
“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” – Ephesians 4:25 [ESV]
“They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him.” – Titus 1:16a [NASB]
“Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” – 1 John 3:18 [NIV]
Looks are deceiving. My poor dog was walking along the sidewalk like normal, and then up ahead was a Halloween decoration swaying in the wind. He jumped and then he dropped down in his hunting stance and slowly made his way toward the strange looking mummy figure. As we walked by, his eyes were glued on the mummy to make sure it did not attack. Even after we passed by, Max kept turning his head and looking back, focusing only on this falsity. He believed that the mummy was real and that it would come and attack. As a result, he approached the area slowly and was hesitant to take his eyes off of the decoration.
We often see things swaying in the wind and believe a certain way. Our minds can go wild when we have something before us. We take a fake mummy and turn it into a full on nightmare. I’m sure many adults can relate when they think back to that shirt that was hanging in their closet that they swore was a monster as a child. As we know, monsters do not exist.
The devil likes to use our fears and worries to his advantage. He loves when we think the goal is out of reach, when we feel like something is not going to work out, and when we think things are not going our way. We see something that is not the truth, but it seems like it could be the truth. Or in our minds we imagine what could happen– like the mummy could be real and come and attack us– rather than what is really the truth– that the mummy is just some plastic cut out used for seasonal décor. Like my dog, we then begin to focus on the mummy more than anything else.
When we focus on the mummy instead of focusing on reality, we tend to drop down in our own stance– our stance of fear and doubt. With believing the lies we are told and letting our minds run wild, we lose steam for moving forward with what God has in store for us. We sidestep, we fall back, we consider hiding. When David faced Goliath, he didn’t focus on the size of the giant. Instead he focused on the size of his God. When we have a mummy swaying in our life, remember you have a God bigger than any mummy. The devil is the father of lies, and he wants you to believe otherwise. Keep pressing forward. Through Jesus we have victory.
“Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead. I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
– Philippians 3:12-14 [NASB]
Like everyone, Peter made a heap of mistakes while following Christ. The denial of Christ was something he refused to accept would happen; however, he was left weeping afterward, knowing the depth of his failure. Even so, Peter did not sink down and allow this failure to stop him from pressing forward with the Great Commission Jesus left with the disciples. In the first chapter of Acts we are able to see that Peter got right back up on the horse and began to lead as was his purpose.
In Acts 1:15-26, Peter stood before the remaining Twelve and proposed the need to fill the position of Judas. This concept was not something he devised from his own thinking, but rather, he knew that the vacant spot must be replaced for the Scripture to be fulfilled. He didn’t allow his failures from the past to stand in the way from the plan God had for his life.
I believe that this example of Peter and his willingness to answer the call is something that we should all model in life. Like Peter, we all will make mistakes and be undeserving of the grace we receive from God. Nonetheless, we cannot allow our imperfections to thwart the plan that God has for our lives. By His grace and mercy we are able to stand no longer condemned. Peter constantly reminds me of the need to press forward and not allow anything, including our shortcomings, get in the way of God’s plan.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
– Philippians 3:12-14 [NIV]