Improving our lives usually requires some effort. We may even, at times, expend a great amount of time and energy to do so!
A seventy year old man in Michigan has accumulated 30 bachelor or post-grad degrees over a great many years of study! Many in America at least, spend incredible amounts of effort to educate themselves, some because they love the field that they are studying for, others simply to make more money!
ART / SKILLS
Likewise, musicians, artists, actors, plumbers, electricians and carpenters, as well as those engaged in other many other skilled positions, have worked extremely hard and endured many difficulties to learn and acquire their abilities!
CAREER / WORK
We also make great sacrifices for our careers by giving up marriage or having children, time for personal pleasures or pursuits. Others work many hours a day to pursue wealth or early retirement!
Still others spend hours and hours at the gym. To them having the perfect body is worth the sacrifice and effort involved!
Athletes, celebrities, scientists, and almost an endless list of others, work diligently toward some temporal gain. I am not implying that this is entirely without merit. There is certainly good in some of these pursuits which benefit mankind and we cannot deny that we should provide for ourselves and our families!
THE KINGDOM OF GOD!
The question that comes to mind is...
Do we exert the same amount of effort into our Christian lives and our pursuit of The Living God that we do in these other life quests?
Paul puts his finger on what our motivation should be:
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!
1 Corinthians 9:25
If a person's goal is to be an Olympic champion, he will work with a trainer to prepare him. The first day, the trainer may show up at his front door to summon him to run, lift weights, etc. He will have to stop eating many of his favorite high fat foods, exercise to near exhaustion and practice his particular Olympic skill over and over to master it!
For what purpose? To win an Olympic medal! That medal will bring him great joy, pride and excitement - but eventually the glory of it will fade! It is a PERISHABLE CROWN!
If an athlete trains in a mediocre way or sits around eating Twinkies all day, he obviously will not win a medal or become champion.
Yet it seems in the race for Christ, we often do train in a mediocre way. How often do we visit our Heavenly Trainer for instruction in prayer? How often do we exercise our Christianity to the point of exhaustion? How much effort do we make to study God's Word over and over, to make sure when we use it, we are ready for the individual race God has set before us?
Paul tells us how to run the race:
24 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.
26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air.27 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, 26-27
God spoke in a similar way to Jeremiah:
And you will seek Me and find Me, WHEN YOU SEARCH FOR ME WITH ALL YOUR HEART.
Run to win the prize! Discipline your body! Search for me with all you heart! These are words which challenge us to strive with our best efforts in our Christian lives, not words that encourage mediocrity!
THE TIMOTHY CHALLENGE!
Paul also instructed Timothy on how to live his Christian life!
7 But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and EXERCISE YOURSELF TOWARD GODLINESS.
8 For BODILY EXERCISE PROFITS A LITTLE, BUT GODLINESS IS PROFITABLE FOR ALL THINGS, HAVING PROMISE OF THE LIFE THAT NOW IS AND OF THAT WHICH IS TO COME.
9 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance.
10 For TO THIS END WE BOTH LABOR AND SUFFER REPROACH...
1 Timothy 1:7-10a
3 You therefore must ENDURE HARDSHIP AS A GOOD SOLDIER OF JESUS CHRIST.
4 NO ONE ENGAGED IN WARFARE ENTANGLES HIMSELF WITH THE AFFAIRS OF THIS LIFE, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.
2 Timothy 2:3-4
BE DILIGENT TO PRESENT YOURSELF APPROVED TO GOD, A WORKER WHO DOES NOT NEED TO BE ASHAMED, RIGHTLY DIVIDING THE WORD OF TRUTH.
2 Timothy 2:15
1) to study, hasten, make haste.
2) to exert one's self, endeavor, give diligence.
Time does not permit the many references to trials, battles, the armor of God, sacrifices, selling all for the Kingdom of God and many others, both in the Old and New Testaments!
A.W. Tozer, a great pastor and writer once wrote:
"THE IDEA THAT THIS WORLD IS A PLAYGROUND INSTEAD OF A BATTLEGROUND HAS NOW BEEN ACCEPTED IN PRACTICE BY THE VAST MAJORITY OF CHRISTIANS!"
It is the most valuable prize we can win, in this life AND in the life to come! ALL other prizes and crowns are temporal and WILL pass away - but the prizes and crowns of God's Kingdom are eternal!
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