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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Training for God


Today I’m reading 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.

Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes in training submit to strict discipline. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for a prize that will last forever. That is why I run straight for the finish line; that is why I am like a boxer who does not waste his punches. I harden my body with blows and bring it under complete control, to keep myself from being disqualified after having called others to the contest.

Monday I was exhausted. Easter is like Super Bowl Sunday for pastors. We had such a full morning. Five services, a breakfast, about 1400 people. Even though I have a great team and didn't shoulder any of this by myself I still rightly or wrongly carried the weight of feeling responsible for everything going well. And it did! It was an awesome morning and such a joyful celebration. But the next day I was depleted and needed to do absolutely nothing!! I don't normally take Mondays off. That's my day to do administrative stuff and map out the week ahead. But Easter week is different and I needed the downtime.

Athletes know that training and discipline is what is required before the game so that they can perform at their best during the game. I think the same thing is true in the spiritual life, and ministry. It's what you do the rest of the time that gets you ready for the pressure times. So, I feel like a regular life of spiritual discipline is what makes day like Easter happen - and happen so well.

Sad to say, not all pastor (or believers) live with this sense of spiritual discipline. This week I heard of one of my colleagues (at a different church) who didn't want to continue the church's Easter sunrise service because the pastor didn't want to get up that early. Really? On Easter? What a missed opportunity - and what a way to lose the respect of your congregation.

I've always liked the way Ann Kiemel expressed it in her book "Running to Win" where she journals about her quest to train and then to run in the Boston Marathon. I met her at Park Street Church in Boston right around this period. She was (at that time) about 90 lbs and very small. Not your typical athlete. But she was determined, and she did it. Here's what she wrote:

No one can really understand what it costs or means to be faithful…
unless one has tried to do just that. The people on the periphery,
cheering on the winners, really have no comprehension of what it meant to be out there running those miles.
They thought it looked great, and they were impressed with the people who could…
but they didn’t know inside what it feels like to put yourself on the line…
to compete…
to feel the pressure and the strain and the throb in your whole body.
I think it is the same as being true with Jesus.
Unless one has really tried to be faithful…
really paid some price for faithfulness…
one doesn't understand the cost or the great reward…
the pain or the great joy.


Today's Prayer: Dear Lord, Thank you for teaching me
 the lesson of divine discipline. Help me remember the worth of self-control
 and not just the rewards.
 Help me discipline my life and my heart. Give me the personal will power
 to make a lifelong commitment. 
Give me your supernatural power 
to make lifestyle changes.
 Give me the persuasive power of godly people 
to make life changing choices. Help me persevere in divine discipline.
 Help me practice the disciplines of life -
 spiritual, physical and mental. Help me use divine discipline
 to change the world. Thank you oh Lord, 
 for a disciplined life
 that's possible with you. In your precious name I pray
. Amen (From Rhonda Harrington Kelley's Divine Discipline).

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