24 Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! 25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. 26 So I run with purpose in every step.
1 Corinthians 9:24-26a
A couple months ago, I was in Panama City, Florida. As my girls were playing on the beach, while I was enjoying the Florida sun, I noticed an older couple with two very small kids playing near us. As I sparked up conversation with them, I realized that the state had given them temporary custody of their grand kids. My heart broke as she shared their story with me. Seeing this as an opportunity to share my faith, I searched for the right words to say.
I remember leaving this situation felling a little defeated. I was at a loss for words. Then it hit me, “Why am I not training myself for these moments?” Are they not the most important opportunities we face? I could easily think, “Well, this is just not my strength.” But, then again, I could say that about public speaking. There is no way I can step up onto a stage unprepared and expect to have anything worthwhile to say. Yet, I feel compelled and called to do it. Because it matters so much to me, though it may not feel natural, I obsessively prepare for it.
Isn’t this how I ought to view one-on-one ministry opportunities? I want to train and prepare for those God-moments disguised as life’s interruptions. The lady at the check-out counter, the waiter, the homeless man at the intersection: these are daily opportunities to live a life of significance. By comparison, what could possibly matter more? When we leave this earth, an inevitable future for all of us, what can we bring with us, what will we have to show for our lives, but the investment we made into the faith of humanity? Then why don’t we prepare for these opportunities as if they were the MOST important opportunities of our day?
With this is mind, I turned to 1 Corinthians 9:24-26, and these are the truths that jumped out at me:
- Run to get the prize. At the end of the day, Jesus made it pretty clear what that prize is, and how to get it. The prize is eternal life. Those who will receive that prize: those who fed the hungry, gave water to the thirsty, invited in strangers, gave clothes to the naked, looked after the sick, and visited prisoners. (Matthew 25:34-36) In real life, you know what these look like? Interruptions.
- We run to enjoy God’s love, not to earn it. We are accepted because of the suffering of Jesus Christ. It isn’t fair. We don’t deserve it. It’s crazy. Jesus, you deserve all that we have, every moment, every breath. It is only fitting that we give it all to you. And, what joy and motivation it brings!
- Don’t run in place or off the track. Running in place is me-centered and religious and produces no worthy results. We exhaust ourselves trying to be our best. We try to earn our Christianity. In effort to achieve personal perfection, we forget that there is a desperate world all around us. Paul said, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself as love.” When you wrap your mind around that, it’s pretty heavy! Running off track is running into sin. We all fall for it at some point or another. Keep in mind that the white lines on the track are boundaries that keep us in our lane. They represent the laws of God’s Word. They are for our good, that we may cross the finish line.
The Punch Line
I read an article in a Sprint Relays magazine called “Better Baton Passing” by Dennis Grady. He discusses the fact that the US has the fastest runners in the world, yet have lost multiple races in the Olympics and in the World Championships. These superior athletes at the highest level of the competition, who have the fastest feet in the world, kept falling short of the gold and have even faced disqualifications because they kept botching the exchanging of the baton.
What I gained from this:
- The real measure of our faith is in the hand-off.
- Faith without deeds is dead, and every deed involves another human being.
- True faith bears fruit and is made complete when it is passed on.
- Our purpose is realized and exercised in the exchange zone.
- The whole point of life is the hand-off of faith.
You were created for good works that Christ prepared in advance for you to do. (Ephesians 2:190)
In closing, I want to encourage you with this:
- Start where you are, and don’t overlook the value of what you are already doing. Often, what we see as small, God sees as significant.
- Prepare for and embrace the interruptions. Significance lies in our response to the people around us.
- Your life begins and ends with Jesus Christ. Make it count!