Purpose of Living
Run Your Race Well
Did you know that your perspective on how you view time can have a tremendous effect on how well you run your life’s race and the training required to finish well? For starters, we must embrace God’s perspective of time, He is not limited to our 24 hour days, seven-day weeks and 12 month years.
“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2Peter 3:8)
Secondly, we must adopt the perspective of a soldier whose loyalty and commitment to serving a higher purpose embrace the suffering and focus required to endure and finish well by the grace provided by God through Christ Jesus.
“Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.” (2Timothy 2:3-4)
Third, we must learn the proper rules of running our race.
“An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.” (2Timothy 2:5)
In order to compete according to the rules we must become a student of the bible in order to learn God’s rules of engagement and how to apply it to our daily run. As we get to know God, the more inclined we become to trust in His approach to running well the race set before us.
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep Your righteous rules.” (Psalm 119:105, 106)
When we decide to live by God’s word, He promises to watch over our lives forever.
“The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.” (Psalm 121: 8)
Have you been running your race according to your rules or God’s rules? There was a group of Christians in the Bible that were reprimanded for not having grown in their faith-run as expected by their teacher. They had become dull of hearing and needed to be taught again the basic principles or rules of engagement according to God. They needed, once again, the milk of a child, not being able to digest the solid food for the mature in Christ. (Hebrews 5:11-13) These Christians were running their race according to their rules.
Those who run their race according to God’s rules will lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely and run in such a way to endure to the finish line. They will not let distractions take them off course and are quick to bring their focus to the call of Jesus on their lives.
“and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1,2)
At the end of my life’s race I want to be able to say, like Paul the Apostle;
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2Timothy 4:7,8)
How about you? May you run God’s race for your life well.
Out of Bondage
Have you noticed that two overriding themes of the Bible are trust and obedience? Both words are used hundreds of times in giving both positive and negative insight. Christians are encouraged to trust in God as we journey through life in ever-increasing measure. The more we trust God the more obedience is established in our relationship with Him.
“Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.” (Psalm 62:8)
A trust walk keeps our focus on God and our lives aligned with His will. This intentional walk based on trust can also keep us free from becoming entangled in sin, which can lead to bondage. Sin removes us from a position of trusting in God to meet our needs towards trusting in ourselves to meet our need. Often we are lead into sin by our own lust, desiring the very things that steer us in the direction of a lifestyle of bondage.
“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (James 1:14-15)
A sin focused life leads to destruction, devastation and even ultimate death on some level. Sadly, the fall-out usually impacts a wide circle of lives.
Our freedom from the power of sin has been bought and paid for by Jesus who willingly gave His life as a sacrifice in order to offer us a life with the freedom to choose. Those who place their faith in Jesus can actually choose to sin or not to sin. They are no longer in bondage to the power of sin.
Sin is blinding and its fall-out usually happens slowly (like the frog place in a pot of water that slowly heats until it’s too late to escape for his life). When we choose to sin the dying process begins and we won’t realize the full devastation until the process is fully grown.
There are many examples of God’s people being delivered from calamity because they placed their trust in Him by waiting for His instruction before taking things into their own hands. He knows exactly how and when we need deliverance and does it in a way that builds our trust in Him.
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1Corinthians 10:13)
During a recent walk-run in our neighborhood a huge truck came up alongside me and the driver asked “is this the way out?” Yelling above the engine noise I replied, “yes, this road leads to the way out!”
Friend, Jesus is the road to the way out of a life of sin and bondage!
“For You have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.” (Psalm 56:13)
Passing the Test of Obedience
Passing the test of obedience is a mark of how well we are willing to follow God and the diligence required to trust and obey His instructions.
“Then the Lord said to Moses, Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not.” (Exodus 16:4)
Some years ago God used a simple circumstance in my life to reveal to me that I did not possess the spiritual fortitude that I presumed and that I was not prepared for the future ‘tests’ that would come my way. It was when my car was being serviced and I received a frantic call from my daughter who had left her school report at home and if not turned in on that day she would receive a failing grade.
So, I did what any mother would have done, I decided to ride my bicycle to her school knowing that I was committing myself to a ten-mile hilly trek (we lived in southern California) to the school and back. I presumed in my mind that I was physically fit enough to endure the trip.
Getting to the school was no problem, it was mostly downhill with slight uphill moments. And delivering my daughters report brought satisfaction towards my effort as a mom (although this later became a mother-daughter teaching moment). It was the return trip that became a teaching moment for me and my spiritual journal with God.
Cycling home was another matter; it was mostly uphill and tested my body in a way that I had not experienced before. Several times I had to stop and after taking a break, get back on the bicycle and painfully force my pedals to rotate enough to get me home. I arrived completely wasted of bodily strength, dehydrated and too weak to walk.
God used this unsuspecting circumstance to illustrate my lack of spiritual fortitude and diligence required for an enduring walk of obedience. He showed me that to “walk in a manner worthy” of His calling on my life would require intentional focus on preparing myself to pass every test of life allowed in my life. It would require diligently seeking getting to know God and His instructions for living an abundant life in Him through His Son, Jesus.
The Israelite’s had to learn to depend on the daily bread from heaven before entering into the promised land. We have Jesus who is the Bread of Life (John 6:35).
“…it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.” (John 6:32)
Passing the test of obedience has everything to do with our daily reliance on God’s provision through Jesus Christ our Lord and intentionally building a foundation in Him that prepares us to not only endure the tests of life but also to pass them!
“…give us this day our daily bread…”
Hope is a positive emotion, the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best. What is your hope based upon and on whom are you relying to achieve the outcomes you hope for?
Self-reliance has a proven history of mixed results. How often have you failed to reached the desired end of a hope born out of inspiration? Or encountered another human being that didn’t have a failure or two to remind them that hope in ‘self’ can not be trusted to get you where you want to be?
Jesus had something to say about hope. He revealed to us who our hope should be anchored in to ensure crossing the finish line of life without regret. He knew and took the steps to live His life in a way that would please His Father in heaven. He humbled Himself and followed every command of His Father without exception. He trusted God and placed all His hope in Him to the point of God becoming His all in all. And He did it for us.
“…then the Son himself will also be subjected to Him who put all things in subjection under Him, that God may be all in all.” (1Corinthians 15:28)
God is our sure and living hope offered through Jesus Christ who humbled Himself by descending from heaven to save a hopeless, self-reliant people striving after the wind.
It is in Christ Jesus we find eternal hope and triumph over failure and triumph in life. When we place our trust in Him He promises to stay with us to the end.
“…I will never leave you nor forsake you…” (Hebrews 13:5)
Out outcome has been guaranteed, sealed in eternity in the power of His Name. He is our One Hope, our all in all!
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you…” (1Peter 5:6)
A Mother’s Prayer
My mother raised eight children and she is my hero. When I think about my childhood and her influence on my life the word prayer comes to mind. Her faith in God grew with every baby she birthed, with each new level of life’s challenges and the growing complexity of managing a large family. She learned to pray about everything, even a difficult marriage that brought consistent strife and hardship into our home.
Growing up I could not perceive the weight of her burden in managing eight children without the support of my father. I do however remember how she modeled her faith in God and the strength she received through prayer. Hearing her crying out to God one night for help in our tiny bathroom made a lasting impression on my heart. Supposing that we were all asleep I never told her that her pleas made it to my ears. Her faith was strengthened to endure through prayer.
Her prayers brought much-needed provision, protection and purpose in the midst of so much insecurity growing up. Her prayers brought salvation to our souls as well. It was Mother’s Day 47 years ago when I and my siblings made our way to the altar to accept Christ as our Savior. It was a result of a mother’s prayer.
“Pray about everything,” she used to tell me all the time. Now that I am a mother I know firsthand that her words were wisdom coming through the fruit of a praying life. As my mother prayed over her children and household so shall I. In cultivating a praying heart God has blessed my family with provision, protection and purpose.
I am the fruit of a mother’s prayer.
“…pray without ceasing…” (1Thessalonians 5:17)
“What is truth?” This is one of the most important questions of the ages. It was asked of Jesus by Pilot, the governor of Judea over 2000 years ago and still resonates in hearts today. (John 18:38)
Truth is sought sincerely early in life but it seems that once life complications set in (through influential relationships or circumstances) we are easily swayed into forming our own truth. Not realizing that our truth can never acclaim to the height, depth and width of God’s truth we sabotage our future potential and impact the outcomes that we were created and designed to have. Our version of truth becomes as natural to us as breathing and we miss out on God’s best for our lives and fulfilling His purpose.
Our form of truth is not liberating, it leads to a fear based bondage. Real truth is found in God Word.
“The sum of Your word is truth…” (Psalm 119:160)
“I am…the truth…” (John 14:6)
Jesus also said
“For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world — to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to My voice.” (John 18:37)
Truth is found in Jesus. In receiving Jesus we receive truth. Once we enter into truth our ears are opened to listen to Jesus’ voice. Then and only then are our hearts satisfied, we have found truth and the empowerment to build a life based on truth and the freedom to enjoy a blessed life!
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)
Listening to God
How often have you gotten yourself in trouble because you chose not to listen to or follow the recommended instructions to complete a project? God understands this tendency in our human will to presume that we know just enough to get the job done without His help. The bible is full of warnings to avoid presumptive sin by choosing to listen to God’s instruction for doing life.
“Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! (Psalm 19:13a)
When Israel was led into captivity after years of enjoying and mishandling the blessings of God, Jeremiah the prophet tells us it was due to them not listening to God. They had forgotten there need for God who not only brought them into the promise land but also their need for Him to keep them there. They presumed that God would not judge their sin.
“I will pursue them with sword, famine and pestilence…because they did not pay attention to My words…you would not listen, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 29:18-19)
As children of God we are also deeply loved by Him. It is His love for us that drives His discipline towards us for our good. He sacrificed His Son (Jesus Christ) in order that we might enjoy His abundant blessings in this life on earth and throughout eternity. The better we become at listening to His instructions the more our lives become enriched with His blessed presence and all the daily benefits of His provision.
“I will turn to you and make you fruitful and multiply you and will confirm My covenant with you.” (Leviticus 26:9)
Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s covenant promise to ultimately provide for all our needs. He is the Blessed Savior from whom all blessings flow. It is in and through Jesus that God made His plea once again to His beloved children to listen to His Son in order to live in the abundance of His provision on a daily basis.
“This is My Son, My Chosen One, listen to Him!” (Luke 9:35)
The Bible is our instruction manual for life, how well are you listening to it?
“Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.” (Psalm 19:13b)
His Banner Over Me is Love
Growing up I learned that love had to be earned based on how well I performed. The giving of love was by works and not by grace. This way of receiving love was instilled in my father by his father and he naturally brought it into his parenting relationship with his own kids.
“We love because He first loved us.” (1John 4:19)
Performance based love is rooted in fear and not in the freedom of grace love initiated by God. My earthly father inflicted a ton of rules that I had to adhere to. Eventually I figured out that I would never be able to consistently meet his standards. God accepts us as we are, with all our imperfections and shortcomings. He not only loves us first but wins our heart with His kindness towards us.
“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us…but according to His own mercy…” (Titus 3:4,5)
God is love and He delights in pouring out His love on us. So much so that He sent His Son Jesus to remove the barrier of ‘works based love’ which could never satisfy our longing to be loved and accepted.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life…In order that the world might be saved through Him.” (John 3:16, 17)
There is no fear in the perfect love of our Heavenly Father, there is peace of soul knowing that we are loved and accepted just as we are. His love brings freedom to soar into fulfilling our God-given purpose on this earth.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…” (1John 4:18)
Nothing can separate you from the love of God! (Romans 8:38, 39)
“He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.” (Song of Solomon 2:4)
Image: Nature’s Love, J. Shauk