Thursday, September 2, 2010

Ready, Set, LIVE! - Point 3: Your Coach Has Already Won!

Here is the last chapter in my little mini-series:

My last question about life being a "race" was, "OK! So I am called to spend every minute of every day of my life doing my absolute best and giving it all I've got. But what about when I have nothing left? What happens when life is just too hard and I can't do it anymore?"

Thankfully, I don't have to go far for the answer. It's found in God's word! Even better, it's already lined up perfectly with the race analogy! Better yet, since God has an infinitely better way of saying things than I do, I'll let you read for yourself his answer.

Hebrews 12:

1Therefore, 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.

Great! That's what point 2 was all about. Running with perseverance, throwing aside that stuff that gets in the way, and going all out! Verse two tells us how to do that:

2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Now HERE is the key:

3
Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

When you run out of steam, you can get your strength from the one who's already won the race. Not only that, but it was a lot tougher for him than it will ever be for you and me. Think about it. ANY problem you're facing, Jesus has been there:

Pain: Obviously, Jesus experienced more pain in one day than most of us will ever face in our entire lives. It was SO terrible, there was actually a new word invented to describe it. "Excruciating" comes from the word "cross." Yet even that word doesn't do justice to the pain Jesus endured. And he did it willingly, for us. He feels your pain.

Hunger:
I'm guessing most people reading this have never gone hungry, and if so, probably not very often or for very long. Jesus fasted for 40 days! Most people these days can't even fathom what that would be like. The longest I've ever gone without food is less than two days. Even that was tough. But Jesus knows what it's like.

Temptation: We all wrestle with it at times. But Jesus was tempted by Satan himself! And yet, he still did not sin. Take a look at what Hebrews 4 says: " 14Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens,e]">[e] Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. 16Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." We are promised in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that we CAN overcome any temptation that comes our way. If you are fighting or struggling with a bad habit, a sin, or an addiction, remember that he made a way out for you. You CAN do it, through HIS strength, not your own.

Guilt: This one's tough. Have you ever felt a sense of guilt so strong it made you sick? So terrible you couldn't eat for fear of vomiting? So dark and sinister that you couldn't hide it, no matter how much you tried? Some of the darkest days of my life were those during which the guilt of past decisions suddenly broke through a wall and flooded my mind. I had believed the lie that I was "basically good." But suddenly, I realized just how sinful and terrible I really was. But then I realized something else. That terrible, horrible feeling I had -- the one that kept me from sleeping and eating for days -- Jesus could relate to that too. You see, he took upon himself willingly all of the guilt and shame -- the exact things that I would have done anything to get rid of. He did it for me, to give me freedom! That just makes me realize what a wonderful, beautiful Savior he is!

Loss: The shortest verse in the Bible contains a lot of power: "Jesus Wept." (John 11:35) Jesus' close friend, Lazarus, died, and Jesus felt the pain of that loss and empathized with Mary and Martha's grieving. He also had to face the death of his earthly father, Joseph. Not only did Jesus experience loss while he was on Earth, but think about the eternal loss he has to suffer when one of the people he created turns their back on him and rejects his free gift of love. I can't imagine that kind of loss. Dearest friends, Jesus knows what it is to lose a loved one, and he weeps with you.

Rejection and loneliness: Need I say much about this? Jesus was rejected by crowds that had sung his praises only a week previous. He was rejected by the religious leaders. He was betrayed by one of his best friends. He was abandoned by everyone. Peter denied he even knew Jesus. He understands the pain of rejection. He knows what it's like to be betrayed by someone you love. Yet he forgave even those who nailed him to the cross. No matter how hurt or alone you may be, you will never have to face rejection by everyone. Jesus promised, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." (Hebrews 13)

The list could go on. But I promise you. Whatever your troubles or your problem, Jesus is the only one who can truly say "I understand." So whether you've lost it all and feel like you have no reason to go on, or you're just having a bad day, don't give up! He is holding out his arms and longs to enfold you in his wonderful love. Fix your eyes on Him, and rest in his promises.

I pray that this blessed and encouraged you as you read it! :)
With love from the bottom of my heart,

~Joy~

More on this topic:

Matthew 11:28-30
28"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Addison Road: Fight Another Day Note: This is a GOOD song, and an amazing group!

Facing the Giants: The Deathcrawl scene. Note: This is an incredible movie! Please watch it if you haven't seen it yet!

"Be still and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10) Remember: Sometimes, living to the fullest and running your race means you have to take that time alone with God, or that quiet rest time to just sit and reflect and enjoy his blessings. An overactive Christian is bound to be a burnt out Christian. Our service isn't measured by quantity (how many activities we do) it's measured by the quality of our service, and the attitudes of our hearts.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ready, Set, LIVE! - Part 2: Leave it All on the Track

Point #2
Give it your ALL in EVERY moment!

One of my biggest questions while pondering the "race of life" was, "How in the world can I run to win if I don't know how long the race is? How do I pace myself? Do I assume it's going to be short and I need to run like crazy? What if it's actually long and I lose steam halfway through?"

First of all, I don't recall ever seeing a scripture verse mentioning "pacing" ourselves or "holding back." Instead, I see these:

"...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 3:13-14)

and

"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)

and especially,

"Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." (1 Corinthians 9:26-27)

Forget the human reasoning that says, "maybe I should save my energy for later."
No! We are commanded to live, "making the MOST of every opportunity, because the days are evil!" Another verse says, "Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders. Make the most of every opportunity!" (Ephesians 5:15-16 Colossians 4:6)

It doesn't matter if your life is "short" or "long." In light of eternity, it's just a drop in the bucket. Yet, isn't it incredible that God can take my 19 or 30 or 70 years that I have, and he can make that little tiny time span of INCREDIBLE value in his kingdom?

Every moment, you are given a choice. Will I make the most of the opportunity I have right now, or will I wait, and let go of a chance that will never come again?

Remember, life really IS short if you look at it in light of eternity. Take this race of life one moment at a time, and do your very best in that moment. Make the most of every opportunity you're given! Leave it all on the track. No Regrets.

“One day at a time--this is enough. Do not look back and grieve over the past for it is gone; and do not be troubled about the future, for it has not yet come. Live in the present, and make it so beautiful it will be worth remembering.” ~Unknown


More on this topic:
One Regret: A true story from my life.