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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Laughlin Mill, Cumberland County, PA 2/9/14
The Laughlin Gristmill in Cumberland County PA.

"The Great Contest"
(Lessons From The Olympics)

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"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). "If anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules" (2 Timothy 2:5). "Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1).

Many of our readers are following the Winter Olympics. Much training and discipline goes into the preparation for these games and we are struck by how dangerous many of the activities are.

Prior to this year I had not seen free-style skiing and the amazing aerials with flips, spins and spirals. Especially intriguing is watching the skier approach the hills backwards and even landing backwards. The extent of my skiing ability as a youth was on the bunny slopes so I am already plenty impressed with those who can successfully ski on the highest mountain slopes!

The Winter Olympics does not have the appeal for me as a sport's enthusiast as much as other events, probably because I never had much proficiency in winter sports. The present extent of winter sports for me is tossing frisbee to our border collie in the snow. Having weak ankles
I could never ski or skate well so when I tried these sports I looked gawky and stilted. I have been teased that I looked alot like Herman Munster on the old 60's television show, "The Munsters".

About twenty years ago we vacationed in Lake Placid, New York where 1980 Winter Olympics were held and which is now a training center for the US Olympic team. I rode down the bobsled run but since it was in the summer wheels were attached to the sled. 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, numerous times using the race as an illustration. The first daily passage refers to a "great contest". The sacred Scriptures make it abundantly clear that all who follow Christ are participants in this greatest of contests.

"Contest" translates the Greek word "athlesis" from which we derive the English word "athlete and athletic" from. It means a contest or combat, a challenge, and figuratively a struggle or a conflict. In secular Greek athlesis was used of a "contest" especially of athletes. The verb form athleo means to engage in competition or conflict and is used figuratively in 2 Timothy 2:5 where Paul encourages his readers to endure hardship and compares the believer to one “who competes as an athlete” to receive the victor’s crown!

It will be worth it all when we see Jesus;
Life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ.
One glimpse of His dear face all sorrow will erase,
So bravely run the race till we see Christ.

However there are several significant contrasts in our great contest and that of the competing Olympic athletes: 

1) In this greatest contest we are not competing against one another! Paul spoke 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 run, but in fulfilling this, another follower of Christ does not lose out. In fact we run best when we are looking out for the spiritual wellbeing of others. That's why steady encouragement is crucial!

2) In this greatest contest we can and will fall in various ways, but by God's grace we can get up, get back into stride and run on! In most sporting events a fall will place you out of the competition for a medal. 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) In this greatest contest there's not simply one gold medal awaiting a single "winner". 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 us today as we unite with Paul and so many millions of believers throughout the church age. "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 & Brooksyne Weber

Thankful manDaily prayer: Father, 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, "Well done, good and faithful servant. 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 walk on earth. 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 where I will see you face to face. 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 I fix my heart not on what is seen but on that which is unseen. I run toward the finishing line which will only be visible as I cross over to heaven.  I thank You for Jesus who made it possible and it is in His name that I pray. Amen.

Today's Suggested Music
and Supplemental Resources

"Follow Me"  Video  Kelly Willard

"Alone Yet Not Alone"
  Video  by Joni Eareckson Tada Joni is one of the outstanding overcomers of our time. (This song is beautiful and rich in meaning.)

In the course of looking for music to supplement this message I came across this touching video from the 1992 Olympics.

Laughlin Gristmill 
We have enjoyed sharing photos of this mill through the years such as this summer photo, a photo from early Autumn and a winter photo last year without snow.

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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, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. 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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