“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.” 1 Cor. 9:24
We all know that there are several events in sports in which an athlete must stay in his or her lane in order to win the race. If they get out of their lane, they are disqualified. Staying in your lane is a requirement of the race and an athlete must train so that he or she learns to compete within the specific parameters of the lane. It is the same way in the Christian life.
We must all learn to stay in our own lane. We have all been given different gifts and talents and each of us has an individual call on our lives. One of the most fundamental aspects of our call is that we learn to do what we are supposed to and not have our eyes on someone else’s race and what they are doing. Our own race may not be as exciting or attention grabbing as someone else’s race. It must not matter to us. In order to be successful, we must learn to be content with the race we are called to run.
We also must learn to say no to those things that will distract us from completing our race. There are many “good” things that want to take us out of our own lane and keep us from doing what we are called to do. It takes discernment and intentionality in order to be able to focus on our own race and say “no” to the temptations that want to get us out of our own lane and disqualify us.
How can we learn to run our own race and keep from becoming distracted and getting out of our own lane? The answer is simple: we must always keep our eyes on the goal, i.e. Christ. If we keep our eyes on Christ and off of other people and what they are doing, we will finish our own race and receive the crown that is set before us.
Image by Skeege. Courtesy of Pixabay.
Previously published on FCA Resources.
Last week, when I heard the politicians debate, it felt like I was living in ancient Rome. Many times, the emperors tried to get power or stay in power by appealing to the masses. “The State will give you free bread and wine. There will be free gladiatorial games in the arena.”
In this latest debate I heard, “We will end cash bail. We will get rid of private prisons. We will defund the police.” When you appeal to those who are breaking the law to help get you into power, you will invariably need to rely on them to keep you there.
We should be aware that there is a historical precedent here.
“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
This weekend, there were two prayer events held in Washington D.C. Both were livestreamed across the nation and the world. For those of us who participated in them, either by being there in person or on the web, we heard several speakers and of course, 2 Chronicles 7:14 was mentioned a lot. Both were powerful prayer events… but now what? Do we just continue on with our lives, business as usual and expect God to act?
Let’s see what those words mean to us who want to see our land healed:
“IF MY PEOPLE WHO ARE CALLED BY MY NAME”
The Lord is talking to us, His people, the people of the Book. He’s not talking to those who don’t believe, they are not under the same mandate.
“WILL HUMBLE THEMSELVES”
That may involve fasting, getting down on our knees, and acknowledging our need for God.
We talk to the Lord in our own words.
“AND SEEK MY FACE”
Spend time in His word, seek His will, His ways.
“AND TURN FROM THEIR WICKED WAYS”
We actually have to do something. We must examine our lives and get the dirt and filth out of it. We Must Change Our Behavior.
“THEN I WILL HEAR FROM HEAVEN”
God will actually listen to us.
“AND WILL FORGIVE THEIR SIN”
He will make us clean again.
“AND HEAL THEIR LAND”
That is what we are praying for. An end to strife, division, Covid, economic disaster, corrupt politicians…etc.
If we want Him to do His part, we must first do ours…and not just on one day!
Have you ever seen anyone walking along train tracks? You know that danger can come along from either direction. You want to yell at the person as you walk by, “Get off the line!”
The same is true for ourselves. We each have lines that we know we should not cross. But sometimes, we like to get as close to the line as we can, maybe even walk on it for a ways. Those that are watching us want to yell at us, “Get off the line!”
Sometimes those lines are obvious to everyone. Maybe, the line of “Do not commit adultery.” We begin to spend time with someone who is not our mate. It seems so innocent at first, but then we like it, we may even prefer to spend time with that person more than we like spending time with our mate! We are walking a line and danger inevitably lies ahead. But just like the person walking on the train tracks, we cannot see it coming.
Other times, the lines are not so obvious. As believers, we each have different lines we know we should not cross. For some, it may be, “Do not drink alcohol.” For many, it may be, “Do not watch R rated movies.” There are all kinds of lines we know we should not cross.
Whatever the line is, the most dangerous place to be is walking on that line. We think we are so safe, but we are not. We are putting ourselves and our spiritual health at great risk. If we are walking on one of those lines, we need to get off, and fast!
Once we are off, we need to get as far away from that line as possible. Yes, we need to get to a safe place. Break off that relationship and walk away. Dump the alcohol down the drain. Put controls on our Netflix subscription. You know, take action and move away from that line.
Are you walking on any lines? Are you close to a line? Do you need to take action and move away from that line? Only you know, but for all our sakes, “Let’s get off those lines!”
“So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” 2 Timothy 2:22
It usually starts with a thought. The thought flies through my brain so fast, I cannot even tell you what it was. A few minutes later, another one comes; it lingers a bit and I focus on it. The thought usually starts with some form of “You don’t, You can’t or You aren’t.” The thoughts keep coming and if I dwell on them; I begin to feel discontented with my life.
The negative feelings usually follow the negative thoughts. If I allow myself to think and feel them for any length of time; I begin walking in the Desert of Discontentment. I don’t go there very often, but when I do, I begin to think about my life choices. What if I had made different choices? What would my life be like? Would it be better? If I let my mind go down that path for any length of time, I walk even further into the Desert of Discontentment.
Usually after about an hour of walking in the Desert of Discontentment, I start to look around. It is dry and hot in the desert and very little vegetation grows there. I find myself unhappy and I don’t want to stay there any longer. I turn around and head back the way I came. I look for a landmark to guide me back and then I finally see it.
On the edge of the desert, there is a small hill named Gratitude. If I keep my eyes on the hill, I can find my way out. With each step, I think about what I am grateful for: my home, my family, my health and a hundred little things I quit being thankful for the moment I stepped into the desert.
My hike out usually takes less time than my hike in did. After a few moments of focusing on the things I am grateful for, my discontentment begins to leave. I can see my life and my circumstances from a more positive perspective and I can find my way back from the Desert of Discontentment. And I am always truly grateful for that.
“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thess. 5:18 NKJV
Several years ago, I came home from work and there was a praying mantis on the wall in the living room. I really do not like most insects and this one was really big. Usually, my husband takes care of any insects in the house but he was at work. Feeling a little silly, I called his office.
Amy, his secretary, answered and I told her I needed to talk to him because I had a problem. She wanted to know if it was urgent and if I needed to disturb him (he was with a patient). I said, “Well, there’s a praying mantis on the wall and I don’t know if it is a p-r-a-y-ing mantis or a p-r-e-y-ing mantis.” She laughed, “Can’t you just catch him in a container and put him outside?” I replied, “Of course not. I would have to get near him and I can’t do that!” My husband called me a few minutes later and listened to my problem. He said, “Valerie…” I knew that meant he would deal with it when he came home.
In the remaining two and a half hours before he came home, I fixated on the mantis. I closed the bedroom doors and tried to stay busy. I cooked dinner and all the while, kept going in the living room to make sure the mantis hadn’t moved. It seemed to get bigger every time I looked at it! Mike eventually came home, took a plastic container, caught the mantis and released it outside. Boom! Five minutes and the problem was solved.
This story is not about sharing one of my idiosyncrasies (although there are many). It’s about focus and fixation. I had a choice when I came home (solving the problem was not one of them at the time). I could ignore the rather benign mantis and go about my business or I could fixate on him and lose a couple of precious hours of my life and my peace.
We all have problems, many of which are quite benign. Sometimes we fixate on them and make them much bigger than they need to be. It robs us of our peace and can certainly ruin a nice day. How much better we would be if we could focus and fixate on something that would give us peace instead!
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2
Have you ever been in the supermarket and someone gets a call on their cellphone and won’t answer it? The phone just keeps ringing and ringing and we all want to say, “Just answer the call!”
It’s that same way with people who are running from God. They try this, that and the other thing and nothing quite works out for them. Nothing seems to satisfy their deepest needs. They might try drugs, alcohol, sex, work, material things, and relationships but nothing gives them the peace they are looking for. Those of us closest to them want to say, “Just answer the call!”
Why? Because we remember what it was like for us before we found the Lord. We were no different and certainly no better. Do you wonder if God is trying to call you? Or do you know for sure that it is Him, and that is why you won’t answer the call? You know, we are not guaranteed that He will keep trying forever.
Are you one of those that thinks that God has quit calling you? Have you ever checked your messages from Him? Check them. You will hear several: “Call me, I am waiting to talk to you,” I sent my Son to die for you,” and the best one, “I love you, in spite of who you are and what you have done.”
Do you wonder if He will answer if you call Him back? Will He be too busy talking to someone else? Let’s see what He has to say about it…”For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved,” Romans 10:13. His words, not mine.
What if you answered the call before, but you have turned away? Will He reject you? Can He still use you after all you’ve done? When we turn back to Him, we find that “the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable,” Romans 11:29.
You know, if might just be time to answer that call. Can you hear your phone ringing? I can…
A few weeks ago in Portland, Oregon during one of the protests, someone staged a photo of Bibles being burned. The person (or persons) stacked about three Bibles, set them on fire and then took a photo of them. The photo went viral and of course, according to their plan, people were shocked and outraged.
For whatever reason, I did not react to it, but I have thought about it a lot. After all, people have been burning the Scriptures for Millenia. Antiochus IV (Epiphanes) burned the Scriptures when he conquered Jerusalem in 168 B.C. Same with the Romans when they sacked Jerusalem in 70 A.D. The Scriptures were burned during the Spanish Inquisition and during the Reformation. The Nazis burned the Scriptures. I am sure in our modern era that the Scriptures are being burned in countries where despots reign and Christianity is a threat to their power.
So what was the motivation behind the Bible burning in Portland? Do the people hate God, Christians or the Bible? Who knows for sure, but in any case it was an act of defiance against authority. In this particular case, the authority of the word of God, and perhaps the authority of God Himself.
Am I shocked? No. Is the Lord worried as He sits on His throne? No, not hardly. Let’s look at it from His perspective:
Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One. “Let us break their chains,” they say, “and throw off their fetters.” The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.” Psalm 2: 1-6
Remember this: People will come and go. Nations and Kingdoms will rise and fall, but the word of the Lord will last forever. You can count on it.
Photo by Rafael Juarez, Courtesy of Pixabay.