February 11th - The Race
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become dis-qualified. 1 Cor 9:24-27 (NKJV)
I have been accused a time or two of preaching “behavior modification” sermons. You know the kind of sermons that I’m talking about. The kind of sermon that “calls” people to change their behavior; sermons that suggest taking action such as, “Deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow Jesus.” Follow-up the sermon with the chorus, “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus,” and you have completed the challenge that is offensive to some.
So, while I’m not presently under scrutiny, let me express why I feel it necessary to teach on those portions of scripture that challenge us to change. It comes down to this—to borrow an analogy from the Apostle Paul. “There is a race. The race is happening right now—this moment. If you are a Believer in Christ, then the Holy Spirit has entered you into the race.” There is only one pertinent question to consider: “Are you running?”
It is obvious that the Apostle Paul took the race seriously. A race of this importance demands our absolute attention, for in this race: Every moment counts. Every decision counts. Every action counts. Every word counts. Therefore: I must take the race seriously—and I need to run in such a way as to obtain the prize.
I think that too often “we” want to practice a religion that is convenient not life-changing. A strange form of Christianity that fits our schedule, that makes the people around us comfortable, that doesn’t require much effort or sacrifice. When we embrace this brand of “lukewarm” religion, it reduces us to spectators who merely watch the race, not participate in the running thereof.
Time to break out the running shoes—time to shake off the sleepiness—time to get serious about competing—time to hit the track and make something happen. “OK, I know…I’m talking about behavior modification once again.” But, I want you to know that you are actually not responsible for changing yourself. That is the job of the Holy Spirit. I’m calling you to cooperate with the work of the Holy Spirit that is already underway in you. Allow the Holy Spirit to transform you, change you, remake you, mold you—to breathe life into you. Soon you will find yourself leaving the ranks of the spectators and you will be running in the ultimate race.
Author's Note: Of all the analogies Paul could have used, he picked running. I have never been a real fan of running. It leaves my knees and shins sore; however, I appreciate Paul's point! Life is happening--even as I write this--life is a race that happening. I have one life to live--one race to run--time to give it all I've got and let God take care of the rest! RJD