Watching the Olympics this past week, I can’t help but be reminded of the Apostle Paul’s words, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it” (1 Corinthians 9:24). In other words, run to win. Don’t live a passionless life. Are you running in such a way to obtain it? What are you passionate about? What do you want to do? What is God’s plan for your life? Paul is reminding us to take the temporary triumphs and struggles of the Olympic games to a whole new level of spiritual life and eternal principals.
As a church, we have a specific goal we want to accomplish. We exist to make disciples who love God, love His church, and show His love to the world. That’s our passion. We start there. But it takes more than passion.
It takes purpose. Paul puts it this way “So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air” (1 Corinthians 9:26). In other words, we have a target for what we do. We have objectives. We are not just playing around and shadow boxing. Many people never really get serious about their faith. They just coast through life. But if you are coasting, you’re going downhill. Like Paul, we should be “…forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13b-14). I’m pressing forward. I have an upward call from God that is being accomplished in my life. It’s direction. It’s focus. It’s purpose.
As a church we understand this, so we’ve asked the question, “What must we do repeatedly in order to accomplish our passion and purpose? We need to focus. Our ‘Central Ministry Focus’ is to intentionally and relationally help people take the next step in their journey with God.
What’s your next step? Is it getting baptized? Is it plugging into the church through community groups? Is it through getting involved in serving the church through our many ministries? Is it getting involved in community outreach or missions? It takes a goal, a purpose. It takes a renewed passion for God. But it also takes something else.
It takes persistence. Paul says that, “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable” (1 Corinthians 9:25). A couple verses later he says, “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27). Persistence takes self-control and discipline.
Michael Phelps has more gold medals than any Olympic athlete in history. Here is a part of his workout routine: six hours a day, six days a week starts with a normal stretching schedule, followed by one hour thrice weekly strength training. His training is centered on his muscle endurance, flexibility and enhancing his buoyancy in the water. Michael also does hours of swim training to achieve precise technique and timing. His swim training is equivalent to approximately eight miles of swimming every day. After that comes his cardiovascular routine. An Olympic athlete is willing to pay the price and do the habits that many will never do. It takes persistence. Sadly, our culture wants beautiful bodies without exercise, wealth without work, and spiritual maturity without service or sacrifice.
Some people have passion; others even have purpose. But they lack the persistence to keep going, to develop the habits, and to pay the price. It’s being able to say, I will never give up. I’m going to keep going. I’m going to press on. I’m going to “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and…run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Is there a weight that is holding you back from the life God wants for you? Is it a memory from the past? It is a hurt from some so-called Christian? Is it a habit that is clinging to you? Lay it aside. Press on. Don’t give up. Look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of your faith.
Paul did. He laid aside all that sin in the past and God gave him a renewed passion for life and a purpose for living. And when he knew that his work was done, and that his life was near to an end, he was able to say with confidence, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).
The award that is waiting for us is far more than some gold medal that can be auctioned off on Ebay. Do we even remember the Olympic winners from four years ago? The Christian race ends with something far more significant – an imperishable prize that lasts for eternity! “They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable” (1 Corinthians 9:25b).
Are you ready for what God has in store for you? He is “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). Just don’t forget the passion, purpose and persistence that will go along with your Olympic faith!
Related Links: I Am Second – Shawn Johnson