When Pastor Miles was a child playing sports, a player could only win a trophy for “getting it done!” There were no participation trophies. For participating, a child may have received a pat on the back or a patch, but trophies were reserved as prizes of achievement.
Some people think they can just show up to church once in a while, give a little money, and say a prayer now and then and that God should bless them in return.
There are no participation trophies in the kingdom of God, either. Some people think they can just show up to church once in a while, give a little money, and say a prayer now and then and that God should bless them in return. But there are amazing heavenly rewards for believers to obtain, and we’re not going to receive those blessings unless we own our faith. When Jesus died on the cross, He was all in, and He wants us to be all in for Him.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ Matthew 7:21-23
- Are you taking the easy way out and providing excuses for your lack of zeal?
Or are you all-in for Christ?
- I don’t have the gift of evangelism, so I don’t need to share my faith with others.
I have a responsibility as a believer to share the reason for the hope that is in me with those around me who are perishing.
- I don’t think those friends would want to come to church with me.
I’m going to give the invitation and trust in God to prepare their hearts, because if I don’t invite them, they definitely won’t come.
- I tried finding a Life Group, but no one called me back.
I’m going to call again or find another group because I need to have supportive fellowship, live in community with other believers, and grow in my faith.
- I don’t make enough money to tithe to the church or pledge an additional part of my income to further the mission of the church.
God is generous with me and all I have is His. I can gladly give back 10% of His provision and trust that He will provide all I need.
- I would pray for that person to be healed, but I don’t know if my prayers would really make a difference.
I’m going to pray for every person I know that is ill or injured and trust that God can do anything. If I never pray for healing, then no one will be healed.
We need to take responsibility for our own relationships with God. It’s on us to seek Him and we can’t blame anyone else for our lack of passion.
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 disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
The apostle Paul writes in reference to the Isthmian Games, which were similar to the Olympics in his time. These consisted of events and activities such as wrestling, fighting, chariot races, boxing, track and field events. These athletes would discipline their bodies and even were required to sign an oath that they would spend a certain amount of time training and eating certain foods so that when they came to the games, they could prove that they had given their best.
1. Run with winning in mind. Hebrews 12:1-2, Philippians 3:12-14
Running means pursue, fight, and press on.
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2
Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14
It’s easy to point out the shortcomings of others, but instead you need to take ownership of yourself. Taking ownership means pressing on and being diligent in the pursuit of God: come to church on time, bring your Bible, memorize Scripture, talk about Jesus with those around you, spend quality time with the Lord in prayer, ask for Him to fill you with the Holy Spirit all day long, and be expectant that you will see God moving!
Many of us are very passionate about what is happening in politics today. If Pastor Miles preached that we should all for vote this candidate or that candidate, it is likely that many people would become angry and never return to church. But are we this passionate about Jesus? God doesn’t want us to idolize politics and government, but to focus our main passion on Him!
Some of us may wake up in the morning and not be able to function properly without a cup of coffee. We may skip our devotions, but we cannot skip that injection of caffeine -- that is idolatry. While there is nothing wrong with enjoying a cup of coffee, it should never be a bigger passion or a bigger need than the Lord is in our lives.
Where do your passions lie? God wants our attention, our hearts, and our passion. Giving Him all of ourselves is running to win.
2. Run to obtain eternal, not temporary, reward. 2 Timothy 2:3-5James 1:12Revelation 2:10
A crown was a symbol of royalty, victory, glory and honor.
When athletes won an event in the Isthmus Games, they received a crowning wreath of leaves, but the plants would eventually die and fade. We run to obtain the eternal heavenly crown, not just the temporary rewards available on earth. This doesn’t mean you should never try for any earthly successes, but to give more of our passion for Jesus and the Kingdom of God.
Miles shared that when he was playing football, he took pride in how much he trained. For his sport, he was in really good shape, but then he met an olympic athlete!
In a survey of 3000 Olympians, here were some of the discoveries made:
Olympians train for an average of 10,000 hours for the games: 6 hours/day, twelve months/year for 4 years
One canoeist lifted the equivalent of 6 blue whales in weight every month
One swimmer swam 1,860 miles/year
In addition to physical and mental discipline, there is a discipline of physical rest - an average of 8-9 hours of sleep/day and a daily nap
Strict caloric intakes and quality of calories (no junk food!)
Financial sacrifice: 50% of top ten track athletes have a $15,000/year in income
This intense training is for an earthly prize, but this is the intensity of spiritual training God wants from us. We are not fooling Him or impressing Him with our token religion or going through the motions. His gave His Son’s life for us and He deserves all of us.
Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. Revelation 2:10
Seek God in such a way that every night when you lay your head on the pillow, He will say to you, “Good job. You walked with me today. You trusted me today. You listened to my voice today.”
While the ruling principle on earth is control, in heaven it is peace. Whatever glorious crowns we will earn in heaven, we will use them not for our own glory, but to reflect back onto the Father.
You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. 2 Timothy 2:3-5
Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. James 1:12
What are you holding back from the Lord today?
Maybe you have never given your life even though you have heard the gospel before. Today is the day to take ownership of your salvation and make a decision to follow Jesus.
Maybe you have become complacent in your faith and it’s time to pursue the olympic training schedule! Does He really have your heart? God wants ALL of you; He wants to you to be all in and take you to the next level, whatever that means for you.