Remain focused on the larger purpose
Published 9:11 am Friday, August 17, 2012
Across the Pastor’s Desk
By the Rev. Andrea Myers, Grace Lutheran Church
Watching the Olympics over the last two weeks has been truly inspiring. We’ve seen athletes at the peak of their mental and physical condition achieve truly great things. But what is most inspiring about Olympic champions isn’t a single moment of victory. The true inspiration is found in the stories of their journey to that moment. These athletes and their families have made tremendous sacrifices for the sake of their Olympic dreams. They have worked hard over many years, enduring physical pain, separation from loved ones and financial hardship. That perseverance is the key to their victory.
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The apostle Paul used this inspiring vision of determination and victory when he encouraged the Corinthian church to persevere in their own journey of faith. They, too, would be required to make sacrifices for the sake of the gospel. Yet Paul urges them to remain focused on the larger purpose of their lives. “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25). The forever prize is life in Jesus Christ, and his resurrection. Paul admonishes these young Christians to go into training, living with intention and determination. And as their coach, he promises to continue training as well, so that he will not be “disqualified” in his own race (1 Corinthians 9:27).
We may not dream of finding Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. But we do dream of living purposeful and fulfilling lives. We pray for strength and comfort in hard times. We pray to be filled with peace and to know the love of God. Going to the gym may train our bodies, but our longing for God urges us into an entirely different kind of training. Instead of speeding up, we’ll train by slowing down to pray, to read the Bible, to offer thanks to God in worship. As we train, we strive in all things to be more like Jesus. The strict training of becoming disciples focuses our attention on others, instead of ourselves. It demands that we seek justice, that we forgive our neighbor and that we give generously out of what God has given. We’ll need training partners for our journey. When we run alongside others who are pursuing the same prize of eternal life, they’ll encourage us and challenge us along the way.
In this way, we will claim the victory. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 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 12:1-2).