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)
The Apostle Paul teaches that we’re in the race of life not just to run, not just to survive, not just to show up, but to win the prize.
What does that mean, spiritually? It means we should run at a pace that allows us to win.If that pace involves running uphill at times, so be it. If it means running through dangerous terrain, or if it necessitates going around runners who distract and obstruct, we do so. Sometimes in the race of life, we are called to motivate others to pick up their pace, orto have the crucial conversations with those who keep crossing over into our lane.
We should expect all of these things and none of them should cause us to quit, because we’re not in the race for the comfort of the track. We’re not in the race for the ease of the run. We’re not in the race for whowe’re partnered with. We are in the race to win the prize, which is to be conformed to the image of Christ.
I want my calling to outpace my fleshly desires. I want my prayers to outpace my inner drives. I want the Lord’s will to outpace my will. Don’t you? We have to win the race that matters.
I'm not trying to live a good life; I'm trying to live my best life. I'm not trying to live stress-free; I'm trying to honor the adventurethe Lord designed for me. His racecourse will be fraught with Pharaohs and Goliaths and mountains and vipers and Judases and Calvarys, but none of those things can stop us unless we make the choice to change our pace. If you are in the race to win it, none of those obstructions will hinder you from keeping your eyes on the prize.
Your motivation for running is to get what God’s will has for you, to get His good pleasure, to grow closer to Him through it all. You are in it to win it! And you can win it, because greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.
When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, "Hosanna!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!" "Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!" "Hosanna in the highest heaven!" Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.
Mark 11:7-11 NIV
Jesus’ entry on this side of the city of Jerusalem signaled something different from the government-sponsored entrance that Pilate was making on the other side of the city. On one side, the city was celebrating their oppressive leader. On the other was Jesus on the back of a colt. For half of the city, the way things were would never change, and for the other half was the one who would come and bring deliverance to the captives.
A relationship with Jesus teaches us is how easy it is for us to give into our inherent weaknesses. This is how we know that there is no correlation between depth of spirituality and overinflated egos. The more we know Jesus, the more we know that we need his help.
This is where we are in the world today. We’re trying to collect our breath and trying to keep this virus from consuming us. No matter how great we are, we are still susceptible to this virus. But a belief in Jesus means that help is on the way. He is riding into our lives and He calls for us to offer to Him spontaneity. We have to be willing to be led in the moment to be flexible and let the Lord change our plans.
The whole city was supposed to be pressed shoulder-to-shoulder watching Pilate come into the city with pomp and circumstance. Jesus’ entry stands in rebellion to that. The people knew that the offering that was appropriate for God was spontaneity. When they saw Jesus riding into the city, they took of their cloaks and laid them before him. They waved palm branches for him.
One of the many things that we must accept that we cannot plan our way through life. We can only respond to where God is leading us. Today information changes minute by minute—we can’t follow God as faithful disciples if we need everything to go according to plan. We must be willing to run out to the city gates and throw our cloaks on the ground and wave palm branches because Jesus, our help, is on the way.
The LORD had said to Abram, "Go from your country, your people and your father's household to the land I will show you. "I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran.
Genesis 12:1-4 NIV
One fateful day Abraham encountered God and was given these instructions: “Go from your country, your people and your father's household to the land I will show you.” On the surface, this sounds so simple and neat. There is no mention of fear, drama, or inner doubts.
It seems simple for us because we know that Abraham becomes progenitor of an entire nation. This makes it easy make the jump from where God is taking Abraham from to where God is taking Abraham to.
However, God asked Abraham to make an abrupt change that required discomfort and sacrifice. Abraham was hit with change so quickly that we would be stunned with shock if God asked the same of us. Maybe for the first time in our lives, due to this pandemic rocking the globe, we understand the cost of change.
Change is challenging, and it is all the more challenging when it is imposed on our lives without warning or approval.
Every one of us are managing change that we never thought would be ours to manage. We are all nervous and curious as to what this change will mean for us. We may not have thought that we had time for God to demolish some things or implode some things, but when the pandemic hit, it became necessary time for spiritual and emotional construction.
This change is uncomfortable, especially when we will never go back to life as we knew it, and the changes for life as we know it are still unfolding. The world in front of us is nothing like the world behind us.
We must nurture a healthy spiritual filter through which we strain all of our human decisions. When life forces change on our expectations, we must be able to sift out purpose beyond shock and pain. Then we can anchor in on divine purpose.
This is the only way that we can testify that the enemy meant this for our demise, but God meant this for our development.
20 Then Jacob made a vow (promise), saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I take, and will give me food to eat and clothing to wear, 21 and if [He grants that] I return to my father’s house in safety, then the Lord will be my God. 22 This stone which I have set up as a pillar (monument, memorial) will be God’s house [a sacred place to me], and of everything that You give me I will give the tenth to You [as an offering to signify my gratitude and dependence on You]”.
Genesis 28:20-22 AMP
Jacob was on his way to Haran, a couple of days into a journey that will take him over 500 miles on foot. He is on his way to fulfill his father’s request to take a wife from the people of his homeland, preserving the heritage of the family line.
Weary from the steps of his journey, Joseph is aware that he is also carrying the weight of holding the responsibility of continuing the covenant relationship between God and his family and his people. Additionally he is shackled with the burden of the knowledge that his trickery has so enraged his twin brother that Esau wants to kill him. Jacob knows that his life is in serious danger.
Have you wandered your journey of life under the weight of stress? Do you understand how weary the steps become when you are carrying the burden of circumstances, some of which have been the result of your own mishandlings? Can you relate to plight of a man whose journey seems never-ending?
Jacob approaches the end of his day, feeling far enough from home that he can afford the luxury to pause and rest. He has carved a moment of safety and security, a moment where he places a stone beneath him and lays his head for some well-earned peace. But his head is the only thing that is still. His mind races out of control, invading his dreams.
Jacob sees, through the picture of his dream, a stairway stretching from heaven to earth. Angelic creatures ascend and descend the steps of the great staircase past the stars. The images of the dream are not strange to Jacob. People of the area grew up with a blend of reality and mythological teaching. The beliefs of most understood their deities would descend from the heavens to their temple via such stairways. The location of such a dream established a sacred space.
God showed Jacob through the dream that He does not need a stairway to reach His people. God tells Jacob three things in the dream. First, “I will protect you.” Next, God shows Jacob, “I will provide for you.” Finally, God reveals, “I will return you safely to your father’s home.”
Jacob awakens from the dream realizing he has had an encounter with God. He in turn makes God three promises. Jacob assures God 1) I promise to live my life devoted to You; 2) I dedicate the place where this takes place and name it Beth-el, “the house of God;” and then 3) I promise that no matter what I accumulate from this point on, I will offer ten percent of it back to God.
Jacob chose to demonstrate the pledge of his heart, the devotion of his spirit, and the commitment of his life by the tithe of his possessions. The only promise of action he makes to God is the promise to give God a portion of how he has been blessed. Jacob understood his possessions were a result of God keeping His part of the covenant.
Charles Spurgeon focused on the heart of the matter when he said, “Give to God as you love, but then measure your love by your gift.”
Jacob never allowed himself to believe that he could live as a part of a covenant, breech his responsibilities in the covenant, and yet still expect to benefit from its blessings. Jacob made a pledge on our behalf. He did not need to be reminded to keep his part of the agreement. He fulfilled it throughout his life and passed it on to the next generation.
Can we dare to do any less?
But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning He came back into the temple [court], and all the people were coming to Him. He sat down and began teaching them. Now the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery. They made her stand in the center of the court, and they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the very act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women [to death]. So what do You say [to do with her—what is Your sentence]?” They said this to test Him, hoping that they would have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and began writing on the ground with His finger. However, when they persisted in questioning Him, He straightened up and said, “He who is without [any] sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Then He stooped down again and started writing on the ground. They listened [to His reply], and they began to go out one by one, starting with the oldest ones, until He was left alone, with the woman [standing there before Him] in the center of the court. Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” She answered, “No one, Lord!” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you either. Go. From now on sin no more”].
John 8:1-11 AMP
Most of us know all too well what it means to be condemned. We relate to the feelings of despair, of hopelessness, of guilt and shame, and of paralysis. Susie Bright, feminist author and critic, writes, “Behind every stimulating condemnation there is a burning hypocrite.”
We know all too well the back-breaking harness of condemnation. We have not just been the victim of condemnation, but with our heads hung in shame, we have sometimes also been the perpetrator. Condemnation is the terror that attacks our own spiritual ambitions.
On that day in the Temple yards, the Sanhedrin was holding court. Tossing a woman about like the papers of courtroom evidence, a woman caught in the act of adultery is made to stand center stage. The members of the religious leadership were less concerned about what she had done or about her personhood, than they were with the real reason motivating their behavior of the morning.
Their real task was to put Jesus to the test. Can they place a circumstance in front of Jesus that will lead Him to either contradict what the Law taught or to support a woman in her sin. They really didn’t care which direction He chose. They believed they had limited His choices to only two.
Instead Jesus tosses the tension of the moment and the message right back to them. Yes, the Law requires condemnation, but throwing the stone carries a shackle that weighs as heavily as the sin. You who is without any sin, cast the first stone. The implications of every word from the mouth of the Master caused the death grip on the stones to be weakened and released. From the oldest to the youngest, the self-appointed judge and jury adjourned for time at home.
“Sister, condemnation drags you here, but the gift of compassion offers to give you a ride home, if you need it. Where are those who want to condemn you?” Like a chord of triumphant music, the woman answers, “None are here.”
Jesus whispers in reply, “If none of your accusers condemn you, then I won’t either. Instead I will gift you with compassion. You don’t have to live as if you have been condemned for simply being a participant in the human struggle.”
You don’t have to live as if you have been condemned, held hostage to your own weaknesses and your own contradictions. You don’t have to live as if you have been condemned, when your feet are made of clay and they lead you in the wrong direction. You don’t have to live as if you have been condemned, when your mind wanders and contemplates things that are both embarrassing and annoying. You don’t have to live as if you have been condemned, when your choices have been more wrong than right, more tainted than true.
You are not who you should be, not who you could be, not who you will be, but you are not condemned.