FIRST Thoughts

The Summer Olympics are just a few days away and with it will come what one famous TV sports figure used to say, ' the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.' Years of cost and conditioning will come to a crescendo of anticipated competition. Some will be rewarded, and some won't. Sadly, there may be some who are disqualified altogether because they did not compete according to the standards of competition. It could be repeated false starts or lane violations or impeding the progress of another athlete. In short, a disqualification means that the athlete did not compete according to the rules and thereby misses out on any reward available.

Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist, Dallas uses a story in his book, ''Perfect Ending' that his friend Howard Hendricks once told. It illustrates the point perfectly. The story begins with a downhill slalom racer who was greeted at the bottom of the course by his ski coach. "'The good news is that you arrived at the finish marker faster than any of the other students. In fact, your time was the fastest ever on this course, perhaps even faster than the world record.' But the coach wasn't finished. 'The bad news is that you missed nearly every flag and therefore are disqualified.' To which the novice skier replied, 'Flags? What flags?'

Jeffress continued, 'an expert skier understands that the route taken to get downhill is just as critical as reaching the goal." end A scenario like the one just painted is truly the agony of defeat. For an athlete to have put in the time and hard work of preparation and then fail to compete correctly reinforces the true definition for disappointment. That level of regret may linger for years to come. Have you ever thought about the eternal impact in spiritual terms of running the race of faith that Paul described in his letter to Timothy only to find out at the finish line that 'running your own' race disqualifies you from being rewarded for 'running His race?'

2 Timothy 2:5 reminds the disciple of Christ of one very important detail in serving the Lord after we have been saved by His grace through faith.

The Scripture says, "And if someone likewise competes as an athlete, he is not crowned as a victor unless he competes according to the rules." It's in the book. You can't make this stuff up.

The point is, it's not how fast you get to the finish line but how disciplined you are in staying on course and finishing well. That matters much more.

For those in the Church today who think grace is a synonym for tolerance for breaking God's rules (commands) for living and faithfully serving His purpose in this life, the day of reckoning (2 Corinthians 5:10) and reward will no doubt be met with overwhelming disappointment. To finish fast or first won't matter if you and I did not stay in the lane of life that God laid out for us to run faithfully and finish well.

There is a difference in finishing the race and finishing the race well. Only the latter will get rewarded. Only the latter will hear from the Chief Judge, "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your reward (Matthew 25:23).

What rules (commands) are you conveniently omitting because they no longer seem applicable in this new age of enlightenment that too easily substitutes 'my way of thinking' for His way of living?

What 'gates' on the course are you missing because they require a different, more disciplined path of progress toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14)?

Are you in a race to the 'bottom' that will be met with disappointment and loss of reward (1 Corinthians 3:12)?

Are you in a race to the top where you will be graciously greeted by the Lord and a great cloud of witnesses that have run the race before you and me and found God to be faithful to reward faith that perseveres?

It matters how you and I run the race, not only that we run the race set before us. If your race came to an end today, could you with humility and honesty say as the Apostle Paul, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing (2 Timothy 4:7-8)?"

There is a day on the horizon when we shall all stand before the Lord and give account of our life. Believers will be evaluated on how each invested what God provided for His kingdom purposes.

Will 'that day' be a day where you genuinely enjoy the 'thrill of victory' or will it be 'the agony of disappointment' in that you hid what God gave you in the matters of this earth on 'this day'?

Will 'that day' be a day where you genuinely enjoy the 'thrill of victory' or will it be 'the agony of disappointment' in that you hid what God gave you in the matters of this earth on 'this day'?

Finish well!

Pstr K

Psalm 27:1

(ref. 'Perfect Ending'--Robert Jeffress--pg. 181)