The Olympics are a great showcase of human competition, victory and defeat. Every athlete competes with the best in the world, with full knowledge they may not win. Yet, they are able to give their best effort toward their desire. One wins, two more medal and the rest go home knowing they tried.
Paul used the same athletic comparison to point to his own level of determination. He understood the price of success and the necessity of competing for your land.
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. 25 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. 26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. 1 Cor 9:24-27 NIV
The athletic analogy breaks down in this sense. We are competing with our brothers and sisters for the same Kingdom, not against them. We are all running together… striving for different aspects of our calling, but all on the same team. Your victory is a source of encouragement for the rest of us.
Determination is a common denominator behind victories of any kind. The path to victory goes through hard work, determination, failure and then victory. James 1:3 “the testing of your faith develops perseverance” which means cheerful (or hopeful) endurance, constancy. Our confidence in the Lord produces persistence in the face of long odds and through the trial of defeats and setbacks, because we know that the Lord is full of compassion and mercy toward us.If you’re feeling like Job, it’s important to remember how the story ends.
You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. James 5:11 NIV
The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. 13 And he also had seven sons and three daughters. 14 The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. 15 Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers. Job 42:12-15 NIV
Great expectations – We hear the drumbeat of so many great testimonies of success and triumph that in our hearts we start to expect life to be problem-free so that we can experience those same victories. When things do go wrong, we often blame our own level of initiative. In other words, we naturally back off our heart’s desires thinking that, because of problems, we must be out of God’s will or that our hearts are oriented in the wrong direction. Our theology is prone to throw out our determination and wait for the Lord to lead us or to hand us a miracle.
Here’s the reality of life. Miracles do occur. God does intervene in all our lives. However, those miraculous interventions are occasional. The rest of the time we are left to our own cheerful and hopeful endurance, determination, hard work and persistence. We are very prone to view “waiting on God” as doing very little in the hope of a miracle. That’s the formula for failure. The norm is that God works through the best efforts we have. He blesses people who try as hard as those Olympic athletes.
The attitude – Here is how Paul related to God. He went through seasons of wealth and poverty, of success and failure. However, in every season, his determination was unwavering. He believed that he could do everything in his heart’s desire to build the Kingdom that God had given him.
I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Phil 4:12-13 NASU
The fight – I like this quote from Graham Cooke:
“Usually you either have to fight to get into what God has for you, or you fight to stay in there. If you come into an experience of God easily then you probably have to fight to stay in there. Or, if it’s tough to break into something that God has got for you, you should find it’s much easier to abide. Either way you’re going to have a fight, because the enemy is going to contest the ground of your promises and permissions. Get used to that.”
Right now, God is using (and has used) difficulties to prepare a people who now compete in the marketplace of ideas, business, and spiritual warfare, a people who don’t wither in the face of adversity or defeat. These same people also have the foundation of maturity to handle victories and wealth as resources to build the Kingdom.
God does want to bless you. He has plans to prosper you and to give you hope and a future. It’s yours and mine to inherit in this life. The price tag is determination. We cannot pray or prophesy our way to great victories without it.