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Athletes of Godlori

By Lori Macmath

 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, 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. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. Hebrews 12:1-3

 

Christians living in the third century are described by Paul Thigpen as "athletes of God." These men and women earned the title! They developed the strength, commitment and willingness to endure suffering required to be an athlete of God.  

 

What does it take to be an "athlete of God" in this day and age?

 

We are an exhausted culture, and if the thought of another race sounds exhausting, take heart. This type of discipline is not meant to exhaust, but exhilarate! It is not to be piled on top of all of the other things on the daily "to do" list. This spiritual discipline focuses our eyes on the prize as we hit the pavement to follow Christ in His mission to the lost and hurting. When practiced consistently, this discipline helps us "lay aside every weight and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us." Discipline often seems more painful than pleasant, but it "yields the fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained." (Heb. 12:1-2, 11-13)

 

Training Takes Time

 

Just as athletes must decide how best to prepare for a particular event, the spiritual athlete must seek to prepare the soul. Without disciplining the spiritual self, we are in no way ready to endure the race called life. It requires honest humility, prayers to the Holy Spirit for guidance, and a look at what areas are in need some "extra training."

 

The third century Christians would dedicate a year to a specific discipline and only when that discipline had become ingrained in their lifestyle would they move on to the next discipline. Living in an "instant gratification" culture, we often want immediate results and the thought of "discipline" and "long term commitments" scare us. But this is the race of a lifetime. If we do not seek to grow into better servants for Jesus then are we really running the race that Christ has laid before us? In Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster highlights several areas in which an athlete for Jesus can begin.

  • The inward disciplines of Meditation, Prayer, Fasting, and Study.
  • The outward disciplines of Simplicity, Solitude, Submission and Service.
  • The corporate disciplines, those involving community, of Confession, Worship, Guidance and Celebration.

 

Like most training routines, beginning is often the hardest part. Today choose one, without pressure of a time period in which to complete it. Embrace it, enjoy the journey and fully engage all that the Lord has in it for you. In Paul's words to the Romans, he reminded them,

 

"not to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of your minds, that you may discern the will of God - what is good, acceptable and perfect." Romans 12:2

 

Being transformed into the image of Jesus requires discipline. Discipline to discern the will of God at every turn. Without spiritual food, we won't have the energy to compete for the Lord. If we can't run this race for HIM, then who are we running it for? And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

 

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” Hebrews 12:5-6

 

Consider then the disciplines that may be lacking in your life. Are there some that need a bit of intensive training to get you back on the path? It's not easy, discipline never is, but our heavenly "personal Trainer" is always ready. Jesus is ready to guide us to victory in this race for our sake and the good of the world. We look to a victory in the only race that will ultimately really matter. The race Jesus has laid before us, invited to, and equipped us for. This week let’s run with Jesus. 

 

 

About the Author

Lori Macmath lives in Dallas, GA with her husband Scott of 24 years and 3 children. With the heart of an artist and a spirit to live intentionally missional, Lori strives daily to see Him in all that surrounds her. She runs a daily online devotional magazine for women called Internet Cafe Devotions . Lori and Scott recently launched Hope Products International a missional business providing HOPE to the world through fair trade and sustainable products.

 

 

A Word From James

Think of any accomplishment in your life that has not involved some balance of human sweat and the grace of God! Our maturity as Christ followers is no different. Sowing, watering, and nurturing as we trust God to provide the increase, the fruit of discipleship. Lori is right on in her real-world encouragement. May God help us become athletes of God that are running with Jesus to change the world! Is there some way FollowOne can help you, your children and your church use the blessings of God to serve lost and hurting people? 

 

 

Cruciform Music - This Month's Featured Song

"All Around the World" by Keith and Kristyn Getty

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