Running the Race

This weekend marked the beginning of the Summer Olympic Games held in London, England. Amy and I stayed up to watch the opening ceremonies and have caught some of the coverage so far. We have cheered on the athletes and teams from the United States, sometimes sitting on the edge of our seats. While we watched with bated breath the swim heats, we looked over and our girls were pretending to swim laps across the sofa-going for the gold! It’s amazing to watch the intensity and the level of competition among all the various sporting events. What we don’t see are the hours and hours of dedication and practice to even have the chance to compete on such a high level.

I came across this quote in a book by John Maxwell called The 5 Levels of Leadership: “Nobody achieves anything great by giving the minimum. No teams win championships without making sacrifices and giving their best.

This is so true when it comes to our Christian lives, and our life as a church. The author of Hebrews would write, “Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne” (Hebrews 12:1-2, HCSB).

We will never grow in our Christian faith by giving the minimum required. We will never grow in our marriages and relationships by giving just enough. We will never grow and take the next steps as a church by simply showing up every once in a while.

1.      We must deal seriously with our sin

In this passage we are challenged to throw aside “every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us.” What we don’t realize many times is that the Enemy is a liar. He attempts to tempt us with sins that may seem to satisfy for a moment, but in reality cannot deliver what they promise. In fact, sin is counter-productive because Satan’s desire is not to make you happy, it is to steal, kill, and destroy you. Christian, sin is slowing you down and holding you back. Let’s deal seriously with sin. Let’s confess it, turn from it (and not back to it!). Once we confess our sins, Christ has promised to “forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, HCSB).

2.      We must run with endurance

You honestly do not want to see me run. It is an ugly sight. I’m really happy each time I go out to make it back alive. I’ve encountered everything from wild poodles to unchained pit bulls. I never seem to come up on these rabid animals when I start out-it’s usually once I’m quite winded and don’t have much to offer in terms of speed. Many times in our Christian life we run back to the house just as soon as things get hard or we start to get out of breath. Any good runner will tell you that you have to get over that hump, because once you do it actually does start to get easier. I hope you’re ready to make the sacrifices necessary to take your family and our church family to the next level. It’s not going to happen if we simply sit on the sidelines-we must get into the race!

3.      We must keep our focus on Christ

He is the author and perfecter of our faith. He is the beginning and the end. Sometimes when you’re running it helps to focus on a particular spot ahead in the road. If you can focus on that spot then you can run there. Sometimes you have to push out anything else that may be in your field of vision in order for you to focus on your goal. When we start to get tired, when we start to face conflict or doubts-let’s remember something. Christ suffered and endured the cross on Calvary. He suffered and bled and died so that you and I might live. With His strength and help there is nothing that we cannot overcome in this life or the next. One really cool thing that happens when we keep our focus on Christ is that all the little things sort of just fade away. When we are intensely focused on knowing Christ and making Him known, then the things that trip up most Christians and churches don’t seem all that important-because 99% of the time they aren’t!

As we look forward to a new church year and a new school year, let’s make a commitment not to simply give the minimum. Let’s see how far we can go. Let’s run this race. Are you ready?


Keep Your Vow

When you start reading God’s Word be careful. It is sharper than a two-edged sword and will cut straight to the point sometimes. During my time with God this week I came across this verse:


“When you make a vow to God don’t delay fulfilling it, because He does not delight in fools. Fulfill what you vow.”
Ecclesiastes 5:4 (HCSB)


Ouch! This verse jumped right off the page when I read it. In our day of politically correct speech and platitudes, sometimes Scripture stands so stark in contrast because it speaks with such authority. If you really want to be challenged, ask yourself,  “What have I promised the Lord?” My time? My tithe? Lest I dare to tread here, my holiness?


We are now over halfway through 2012. Think back to January. Did you promise the Lord that this year it would be different? That this year you would spend time daily in His Word and in prayer-that this year you would be more faithful in Sunday School and worship? How have you been doing in keeping your vow?


Maybe you made a promise that you would do better in giving your tithe to the Lord this year. As your pastor I’m praising God that for the first time in over a year we met our budget giving goal! Were God’s people giving their tithe, there would not be a month that went by that we didn’t meet our goal. How have you been doing in keeping your vow?


It’s easy, however, to talk about spending time with God. It’s really easy to talk about giving. It’s really hard when we turn our attention to matters of personal holiness. While we will always battle temptation so long as we live in these fallen vessels Paul liked to call “the flesh,” we have been called to live holy lives. This means that we must strive against sin in our lives. If you have trusted Christ as your Savior, you have been redeemed and empowered by the Holy Spirit to stand. Too many times, however, we run up the white flag of defeat when it comes to sin and let the Enemy win. If you have broken a vow in regards to a matter of personal holiness, confess it, repent, and quit living in defeat.


The best part of this particular verse in Ecclesiastes is that we are challenged to a sense of urgency in keeping our vow to the Lord. Let’s not delay! Let’s fulfill it! Sometimes I’ve gone to the mailbox and found a dreaded bill. I’ve tricked myself before in thinking that as long as I didn’t open it that it wasn’t real. I would let it sit there on the counter. You can live in fear and defeat-but how much better is to pick it up, deal with it, and move on!


My father used to tell me,


“Say what you mean and mean what you say”


While that may sound like a great saying. What did he mean by that? I believe that he meant that we should not just talk a good game when it comes to our faith-but we need to back it up by our actions. When we make a commitment to the Lord we need to keep our commitments. We can do it with the Lord’s strength-may we not delay!