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Competing for the Gold

During the winter Olympics in
Lillehammer, Norway, the finest athletes from
all over the world gathered to compete in
various sports events. Jack and I were
especially interested in the skiing and skating
competitions, and watched in awe as both
men and women set new world records.

What a thrill to see these champions receive
the victor’s reward and be presented with the
Olympic Gold Medal with the great crowds in
the stands looking on, and the television
cameras providing international coverage; the
whole world was watching!

Most of us could never compete in a world
class sports competition like the Olympics,
but as Christians, we are faced with the
challenge of running a race for the Lord. The
whole world is watching to see how we run the
race — will we be champions or defeated
competitors?

The Apostle Paul had visited Greece where
the first Olympic Games were held centuries
ago. No doubt he was thinking of the
comparison between Christians and
Olympians when he wrote. Know ye not that
they which run in a race run all, but one
receiveth the prize. So run, that ye may obtain.
And every one that striveth for the mastery is
temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain
a corruptible crown: but we an incorruptible. I
therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not
as one that beateth the air: but I keep under my
body and bring it into subjection: lest that by any
means, when I have preached to others, I myself
should be a castaway
(I Corinthians 9:24-47).

Dedication and Commitment

In order to be a winner, a competitor must
meet certain prerequisites and prepare his
body for the race. No one is born a Gold
Medal Olympian.

Athletes train and condition their bodies to
compete. They are temperate, or moderate, in
all things. They watch their diet, engage in
challenging, strength-building exercise, and
get proper rest.

The apostle says, “If they do this to gain a
corruptible crown, a reward that will pass
away, how much more should we be dedicated
and committed to winning an incorruptible,
eternal reward.”

What does it mean to be temperate in all
things? We are to have pure lives! We are to
keep ourselves from contamination.

One of the saddest moments of the
Olympics in Lillehammer was when one of the
athletes was disqualified after tests revealed
illegal drugs in his blood. He went home in
shame and disgrace.

Paul warns that the same thing can happen
to us, but with far greater consequences. He
said he continuously worked to keep his body
pure and under subjection. Paul was saying
that he did not want to run the race, then be
disqualified. I keep checking up on my
personal dedication and commitment, he said,
lest that by any means, when I have preached
to others, I myself should be a castaway.

I’m sure you know of Christians who failed
to be temperate in all things… who did not
keep their lives pure. Perhaps they dropped
out of the race altogether, or sadly faced the
humiliation of being publicly disqualified.

I heard a report about a group of ministers
that came from all across the nation to attend
a convention at a major hotel. After the
meeting was over, the hotel management said
that 75 percent of the rooms occupied by these
preachers requested X- and R-rated movies.

Turn Loose of Hindrances

God help us to keep our lives pure.
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about
with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside
every weight, and the sin which doth so easily
beset us
(Hebrews 12:1).

Let’s lay aside “every weight” — we can’t be
just partially pure, you see. We must lay
everything aside. The writer goes on to say,
“and the sin which doth so easily beset us.” I’m
fully convinced that each of us has a tendency
toward something that could cause us to fall.
The passage doesn’t say “sins,” but the one
particular thing that so easily gets to you. You
know what it is in your life — I know what it
is in mine.

We need to examine ourselves to know
where our weaknesses lie so that we can defend
ourselves against the devil’s temptations.

I was reading a devotional book about a
woman who was extremely obese and was
having a real struggle losing weight. (She may
have been like the person who said temptation
never bothered him because when it came
around, he succumbed.)

As this lady was praying, she said, “Lord,
You see what a problem I’m having. Why don’t
You just take away my appetite?”

And the Lord answered, “If I did, what
would you have to do?”

You can keep yourself under control. You
can avoid things you know are hindrances to
victorious living. You can lay aside the weights
that slow you down… the temptations that
are your greatest weaknesses. God will protect
you from the evil one. He will not protect you
from yourself!

Patience to Endure

Let us run with patience the race that is set
before us
(Hebrews 12:1).

Everyone in the race can look like a
champion at the starting line. But that’s not
where it counts! The winner is determined at
the end of the course!

It’s not enough to start strong. We must be
patient… and have endurance. I noticed in
the Olympics that particularly in the long
races, the winner often was not the runner
who started off in front. Sometimes the
winner didn’t make his move to the front until
the final lap.

Patience and endurance are just as
important to a successful Christian life as the
dedication and commitment one has at the start.

At the end of his life, the Apostle Paul could
say, I have fought a good fight, I have finished
my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there
is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which
the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at
that day
(11 Timothy 4:7,8).

Keep Your Eyes on the Goal

As I watched the Olympic contest I noticed
that no one ever turned to look at anything or
anybody else — they kept their eyes on the
goal. If someone fell beside them, they kept
moving. If another athlete came near them,
they kept their eyes straight ahead.

I love what Hebrews 12:2 says — Looking
unto Jesus.
Even though it’s a continued
thought, this statement is part of the verse
before it that talks about laying aside weights
and sin, and running with patience. While
you’re doing this, the apostle says, keep your
eyes on the goal. LOOK UNTO JESUS!

There are many distractions in the world.
There are discouragements, especially when
we get weary, and when we see other
Christians failing and falling out of the race.

But if we look unto Jesus, He will help us
stay in the race. If we keep our eyes on the
goal, we can make it to the end. If we keep our
eyes on the Lord, it matters not what others do.

I hope you’ll join Dr. Van Impe and me in
a new resolve to run a better race for the Lord.
There is a reward for those who finish the
course… and you can be a winner. “So run,
that ye may obtain.” The Lord has a very
special race for each of us to run. You know
what your challenge is.

So we must be built up in the faith and
ready for the challenge ahead of us. I’m excited
about being in the race and… competing for
the gold.

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