The reason I didn’t play football in high school is because I ran cross country. Entering high school as a freshman it is what I was expected to do. My eighth grade year I had won all but one of the mile races that I ran, and so when our school decided to add cross country there was an expectation in the small community I lived in that cross country is what I would do.
I didn’t mind cross country my freshman year, mainly because my coach that year was very good and he expected a lot out of me. My fastest times in cross country came my freshman year. The following years I had a couple of different coaches who didn’t push me as hard as Coach Clayberg had done my freshman year. I began to hate cross country. During the meets my goal was to finish, I wasn’t out to win. As a result my cross country career is not very productive.
My track career in high school is a different story. I loved track, and even though my coaches didn’t always push us, I would do extra running after practice. As a result I was able to run at the Iowa State Track meet. The difference was in my attitude. While during cross country I was just putting in my time, during track I was seeking to be successful, I was running to win.
I believe we have the same problem in our lives that I had with cross country. We have become satisfied with just getting by, looking to finish, rather than living to win. In other words we are looking at the minimum we can do and still consider ourselves a Christian rather than really committing our lives to following Jesus.
Jesus does not want us to live lives that are just enough to get by. He doesn’t want us to be like everyone else. Jesus wants us to stand out from the crowd. Remember He called us to be lights of the world. You can’t be a light in the dark if you don’t stand out. Remember this: we are not really following Jesus if we are just doing the minimum. Christianity is more than “going to church” and place a couple of bills in the offering plate. Christianity is about a total life transformation. That is how we live to win as Christians.
When I talk about living out lives to win I don’t mean that we have to be perfect or even the best. If that were the case than we all would be in trouble. None of us can be the best at everything, and none of us will be perfect at everything we do.
To live to win simply means to give our best. This is what God wants from us. If all we ever do is just enough to get by then we will miss out on all that God has for us. If all we ever do is just what we are comfortable with, then we will not know what it is like to live out our potential.
The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians to remind them to give their best.
24 You know that in a race all the runners run but only one wins the prize, don't you? You must run in such a way that you may be victorious. 25 Everyone who enters an athletic contest practices self-control in everything. They do it to win a wreath that dies, but we to win one that never dies. 26 That is the way I run, with a clear goal in mind. That is the way I box, not like someone punching the air. 27 No, I keep on beating my body and making it my slave so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not somehow be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27; ISV)
We are to run to win. We are to give our best effort. Paul gives us two disciplines we need in order to give our best effort:
- We need to have purpose. Paul says that he runs to the goal with purpose. We need a direction to go in and reason for going there. God gives us this purpose, to have a relationship with Him. When we give our best, we experience God like we have never experienced Him before.
- We need to train. An athlete trains to prepare his/her body for the challenge of competition. In the same way we need to train our bodies to prepare them for the struggles and trials we will face. To live as a Christian is not easy, so we need to be prepared to defend our beliefs, to say no to temptation, and to stand tall when bad times come.
- Point to Ponder: We are not really following Jesus if we are just doing the minimum.
- Passage to Remember: 1 Corinthians 9:25-27
- Question to Consider: What sort of effort are you giving to follow Jesus?