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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

"The Greatest Contest"

"Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering" (Hebrews 10:32).  "Run in such a way as to get the prize" (1 Corinthians 9:24).

I've not been watching the Olympics much since I don't usually follow winter type sports. I tried snow skiing a couple of times but never made it off the beginner's hill and I just never could skate. About ten years ago when we vacationed in Lake Placid, New York I did ride a bobsled down the actual run where the 1980 Winter Olympics were held. (It's now the training run for the US Olympic team.)  Since it was in the summer they'd put wheels on the sled but it was still quite a thrill. A half mile costs $20.00 so at sixty miles an hour, the ride itself costs about $2,400.00 per hour.  I sure wouldn't want to be on that thing for an hour though, even if it was a free ride!

The Scriptures seem to allude to the ancient Olympic games in several different passages, several times using the race as an illustration.  The first daily selection refers to a great contest. In the second one Paul is urging the Corinthian believers to remain faithful to Christ in the great spiritual race. The sacred Scriptures make it abundantly clear that all believers are participants in this great race.

However I am struck by several significant contrasts in our great contest and that of the Olympic athlete: 

1) We are not competing against one another!  Paul speaks to the Ephesian elders of his aspiration to "finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me" (Acts 20:24).  My ambition in life is to complete the race I am called to, but in fulfilling this, another believer does not lose.  In fact we run best when we are looking out for the spiritual well being of others.

2) We all can and will fall in various ways, but thank God that by His grace we can get up and go on!  The apostle James so candidly stated, "We all stumble in many ways" (James 3:2).  If you're down right now, cry out to God, get up, and go on and if you see another brother down, God's call is for you to help him, "If one falls down, his friend can help him up" (Ecclesiastes 4:10).

3) There's not simply one gold medal awaiting a single "winner" in this great contest.  I really am blessed by a verse that Paul wrote toward the end of his life. "Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing"  (2 Timothy 4:8).

So join me today as we join Paul and so many millions of believers through the ages of the church.  "I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:14).  That's the greatest contest!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen C. Weber

Brooksyne's prayer: Jesus, all the goals and strategies that I set for my life culminate in the blessing of knowing that as I press on I will eventually hear You say to me, "You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary….I will give the right to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God."   You grant the eternal prize for remaining steadfast and faithful in my Christian walk.  Others in this world may earn titles and win prizes for worthy earthly pursuits, but the greatest prize that I will ever obtain is my entrance into heaven.  And amazingly it was not because I earned it but because of Your merciful pardon of my sin.  May my outlook be bright today as my heart is heavenbound.  Amen.

As I consider today's message a song that comes to mind. This online version is presented by the worship team of a Canadian Church.
"Knowing You"

Photo of lighthouse with Scripture versePicture magnets: I want to share with others the idea of making picture magnets as a customized way of sharing your faith with others. For many years I have made small business sized cards with Scriptures and other inspirational messages and distributed them. On a few occasions I have even attached these business cards to a magnet. Recently I printed scenic photos I've taken over the years along with an inspirational thought and made these into magnetized business cards. I would like to share this idea with others and here's a page on this. Also if any readers would like a sample magnet I would be pleased to send one to you if you just send a self addressed stamped envelope to:
Stephen C. Weber
495 Kraybill Church Road
Mount Joy, PA  17552
(In the US a 1st class stamp (.39) is sufficient.)

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission; and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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