Our discipleship focus continues around joining God’s mission, now likened to athletes preparing for competition. The Ap. Paul calls upon Timothy to join me in suffering by the power of God and points out anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. - 2 Timothy 1:8; 2:5
We step into this week celebrating You, Father, by whose power and grace we are blessed to receive a victor’s crown;
We celebrate You, Jesus, who for the joy set before you, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and ran your race with excellence;
We celebrate You, Spirit, by whose inspiration we can too run the race marked out for us – with excellence;
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
A man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him. Then Jesus ordered him, “Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
As you reflect on the reading, what jumps out at you? Ask God why…
I will move ahead, bold and confident;
Taking every step in obedience;
While I’m waiting I will serve You;
While I’m waiting I will worship;
While I’m waiting I will not faint;
I’ll be running the race even while I wait.
Remember: Take five to ten minutes a day to stop and listen, to connect with God in music. Let the Holy Spirit use it to feed your soul.
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. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
- Apostole Paul
What challenges do you see come through in this reading?
Using His Word, Spirit, and Body (other believers), Jesus brings change into the lives of his disciples. The result will be altered attitudes and shifting priorities. This happens as you spend time in relationship with Jesus in prayer, bible study, meditation & with his people in small group, worship, & fellowship.
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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
An athlete learns that he has to deny himself certain things if he wants to win. Maybe it’s giving up chocolate sundaes and other unhealthy indulgences others freely enjoy. Maybe it’s passing on pleasures, trading idle time for exercise time, eliminating late nights and the lifestyle that goes with it. He avoids what harms the body or routine. Like an athlete, a disciple has to say no even to some good things that hinder, recognizing that they lead to distraction and a diminishing of spiritual intensity; This discipline we learn from the athlete.
Father God, you tell us that you have a “race marked out for us’’, and that as we go, we would do well to fix our eyes on Jesus who is our faith-creator, faith-builder, faith-sustainer. There is much that hinders the soul, and I want my soul unfettered, tied only to You. Grant me discernment to see what is hindering my soul that I might then ‘throw it off’. Give me eyes to see Jesus in my daily life. I desire to please You and set aside any sin entangling me; in these quiet moments show me so that I may repent and be renewed in spirit, able to run free to your glory, in Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
The Ten Commandments were never designed to be a stand-alone list of rules. They come within a relational context. They describe what living up to a certain value and a certain identity and a certain destiny look like... They flow out of how we were designed, who we were meant to be. We read them as "this is what you have to do," but God was saying, "this is who you are." That's why we don't so much break the Ten Commandments as we break ourselves when we violate them.
Soul Keeping, Ortberg, p.144
Eric Liddell, a son of Scottish missionaries, is famous for dropping out of the 100-meter Olympic race because it was scheduled for Sunday (a conflict with his religious values). Instead, he switched to the 400-meter race, on a Saturday, and won gold in record time – inspiring the 1981 film Chariots of Fire. Liddell went on to serve as a missionary to China and author the book Disciplines of the Christian Life, where he wrote, “we are all missionaries. Wherever we go we either bring people nearer to Christ or we repel them from Christ”. Consider watching the movie to be inspired in your life of discipleship.
For the joy set before him Jesus endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Father God, as I consider what Jesus did for me, I’m grateful; Thank you for the blessing of my Lord Jesus, who endured that cross for my sake, for the sake of all sinners – that I (that we) might know your grace and mercy, receiving forgiveness and untold blessings. When I get tired and weary, let Jesus bring inspiration through your Holy Spirit, that I may continue to persevere, to run the race you marked out for me, even if I don’t understand it. In Jesus’ name I pray this,