6 I’m already being poured out like a sacrifice to God, and the time of my death is near. 7 I have fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith. 8 At last the champion’s wreath that is awarded for righteousness is waiting for me. The Lord, who is the righteous judge, is going to give it to me on that day. He’s giving it not only to me but also to all those who have set their heart on waiting for his appearance.
24 Don’t you know that all the runners in the stadium run, but only one gets the prize? So run to win. 25 Everyone who competes practices self-discipline in everything. The runners do this to get a crown of leaves that shrivel up and die, but we do it to receive a crown that never dies. 26 So now this is how I run—not without a clear goal in sight. I fight like a boxer in the ring, not like someone who is shadowboxing. 27 Rather, I’m landing punches on my own body and subduing it like a slave. I do this to be sure that I myself won’t be disqualified after preaching to others.
A champion lives a big, purposeful life. The apostle Paul used images from the Greek Olympic races and boxing to describe his disciplined approach to being a life champion. Paul related what he’d seen of human sports champions’ discipline to his disciplined spiritual life. He had a vision of a "crown that never dies" (better than any human trophy) waiting for him after this life. He knew the Romans would soon end his earthly life but was confident that a champion’s wreath awaited him in eternity. Scholar N. T. Wright said, “The picture we get… is of a man facing serious trouble and likely death, beset with problems and anxieties, but who nevertheless remains determined to bring every single aspect of his life into the orbit of the gospel itself, the royal proclamation of Jesus as Lord. He lives in the present world, Caesar’s world, as already a cheerful citizen of the world to come, Jesus’ world.”*
Lord Jesus, lead on, O King victorious! Lead me through and beyond this life, until I can claim the champion’s wreath in your eternal kingdom. Amen.
* Wright, N. T., Paul for Everyone: The Pastoral Letters: 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus (The New Testament for Everyone), location 2253-2255. Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.
(Our scheduled blogger was not able to write for today. Thankfully, Janelle Gregory—from whom we have the honor to hear every other Thursday—first wrote this thoughtful reflection on today’s Scripture for August 9, 2012, and it still has much to say.)
The world of fitness has offered us some fascinating fads over the years – the thigh master, Sweatin’ to the Oldies, the machine that just jiggled your fat away, and in the 90’s Billy Blanks graced us with his creation – Tae-Bo, a workout that incorporated “martial arts” movements into an exercise routine. If you are too young or you were on another continent in the 90’s, you seriously missed out. Tae-Bo went as viral as Justin Bieber (you can still find many of the videos on YouTube).
Billy Blanks had us convinced that by following his 40 minute video three times a week, we could kick-punch-punch our way to a black belt. No longer would we fear purse snatchers or back alleys. We had harnessed our inner-ninja, and we were invincible! That is, as long as the perpetrator didn’t mind waiting as we went through our warm-up and dance/kicking sequences.
Really, we were no more fighters than the gangs from West Side Story that pranced their rivals into submission. Unfortunately, just going through the motions a few times a week really didn’t do the trick.
In today’s scripture, Paul’s letting us know that our Tae-Bo Christianity isn’t going to bring us the full life that God intends. Our aimless wandering and choreographed kicks aren’t helpful to prepare us for that kind of commitment. Christianity can’t just be something that we do once or twice a week. Christianity must be who we are.
But moving from doing Christianity to being a Christian can be painful. I’ll be the first to say that I love being comfortable and I love to be in control. I’m not a huge fan of sacrifice and submission. So when God whispers to me His expectations or His plans, my first response is to cringe or act like my ten-year-old and pretend that I didn’t hear Him.
I’d like to say that I always eventually move on from this behavior, but I don’t. I’ve mastered the art of ignoring and conveniently forgetting. But there are times that I’m able to see the prize – the life of beauty, meaning, and eternal value. This truth releases me from my selfish bonds and allows me to make the decisions and behavioral changes that God is asking of me. And it can be difficult, scary, and painful at times, but there has not been one instance where I’ve looked back on my life and thought, “God didn’t know what He was talking about. I wish I never would have done it His way.”
Just like the athlete on the medal stand or the champion fighter, I know that any sacrifice that I might make is always worth it. Doing Christianity is all nice and good, but it gives us a false sense of our true identity. If we want to live into our reality as a child of God, we must be willing to give of our time, our desires, and our resources. This will put us in situations and times where it will be difficult to say, “no,” and others where it will be even harder to say, “yes.” But these choices make the difference between being Tae-Bo Christians and living an abundant life.
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