The spiritual disciplines that we do when no one's looking are the things that help us win the race. Are you running the right race?
Morning. David Sorn. Pastor of Renovation Church.
Continuing our Stretch Series this morning.
If I can, I want to take us in a slightly different direction this morning.
We’ve been talking about stretching out towards God and getting out of our comfort zone
And I want to talk about “stretching out” for life this morning. “Warming Up” if you will…
There’s actually been a lot of debate in the exercise world over the past decade about the merits of stretching.
Which I guess may come as a surprise
Think about gym class growing up. Most of us spent 10 minutes every time we had gym doing weird stretches
If you were ever on any sports team in school, you probably stretched out before any practice or game.
Go to a high school or college football game and what do you see: Players lined up doing stretches
But recently, more and more studies are coming out saying that stretching before exercising can actually be harmful.
They say that stretching lengthens muscle fibers, which then can make you more prone to injury
Interestingly enough though, one of the latest studies says that 80-90% of athletes still stretch before they work out
But there’s one thing that every expert agrees on, is that you have to warm up your body before you exercise.
You can’t just walk out of your apartment, out of your house, and just take off at a full sprint.
There’s about 30 different muscles you could pull if you did that…and some of you might be heading straight to urgent care.
So, if you’re gonna go for a run or you’re gonna go play 5 on 5 basketball or even if you’re on a softball team (what if you hit a triple), we have to warm up.
We warm up, we stretch, so we can be successful when we workout, exercise, or play in any game.
And in a really similar vein, athletes TRAIN, so they can be successful in competition.
Do you remember when the Olympics were on and everybody was fascinated with Michael Phelps (and they were actually fascinated with his swimming ability, not just that he smokes pot in the offseason and makes awkward Subway commercials)
It was like every time you turned on the Olympics, there’s some human-interest story about Michael Phelps and how he spends 25 hours a day in the pool.
He IS SO successful though because he doesn’t hop in the pool at the Olympics and give it go.
In fact, every day he would go through a lengthy warm-up process. Even of course, taking time to stretch. I even found a video to prove it:
PLAY PHELPS STRETCHING VID
There you go. Stretching every day. Warming up every day.
Even though it’s tedious.
Over the last couple of years I became a runner.
Mostly just because I can’t do anything else anymore
Both my shoulders dislocate, and I’ve had surgery 3 times to try and stop them from doing so…yet, they still do.
Which pretty much means the only sport I can do is running.
But when I go outside to run, honestly, I just want to start running. I don’t want to take time to stretch. I don’t want to take time to warm up.
And I feel the same about training as well.
The best part I’ve found about running is entering a race.
The thrill of passing 60 year old men and 11 year old girls brings me overwhelming joy.
And honestly, I would prefer to just never train and show up at a race.
But it just doesn’t work that way.
And neither does life.
Because each one of us, whether we want to admit or not, is in a race of life.
There are a couple of problems though.
Sometimes we can get caught in ruts where we’re just not very disciplined in spiritual things, and we’re not stretching out…we’re not warming up…we’re not training.
We’re just showing up at the race and hoping it works out
The Bible explains to us that life really is a race:
(1 Corinthians 9:24-27) – NIV
24Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
So, Paul points out that this life isn’t without purpose.
In fact, it’s a race.
And this metaphor would’ve made a lot of sense for Paul’s audience
He’s writing to the Christians in Corinth (thus 1 Corinthians) which is in Greece.
And one of the things Corinth was famous for was the Isthmian games.
You might have heard of another set of games that was held not too far away at Olympia Greece…the ancient Olympics
The Isthmian Games in Corinth were always held the year before the Olympics and the year after.
Kind of like in modern times where the Olympics are still held every four years, but a lot of “Olympic type sports” have the “World Championships”
So Corinth was famous in Paul’s time for their sporting events. For their races.
So it makes sense that Paul would use this sort of race metaphor for this group of people
But the race Paul talks about is a race where our objective is to get a crown from our Father in heaven.
And you might say, well David, that’s not that big of deal.
After all, Christianity is about us not earning anything, but just accepting that Jesus died for us and if we accept that offer of forgiveness, we get a crown (a crown of eternal life in heaven with him)
Race over. We win.
Yes, true. It’s not a race in that the person who does the most good deeds gets into heaven… not at all.
But it’s a race where your spiritual life counts.
It’s always helpful to get context on a passage in the Bible.
Right before this passage is a passage we concentrated on heavily in our evangelism series this summer.
Paul, the writer, is talking about how he will become like anyone or adapt to be like anyone (without becoming ungodly) in order to help them find Jesus Christ in their lives
(1 Corinthians 9:22-23) – NIV
22To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
THE IMPORTANCE OF WARMING UP
So, we race, we give everything we have, not only to please our God (if we were worth dying for, He is worth living for), but we also race because our purpose on earth is to run this race as hard as we can and bring as many people along with us as possible.
And for that…we not only stretch out, we not only warm up, but we train. We do the hard work of growing in our faith.
The hard work of training when no one’s looking.
It’s the opposite of what Paul mocks in verse 26 of our passage today:
(1 Corinthians 9:26) – NIV
26Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.
Training isn’t like the guy who just walks around beating the air “pretending to be a boxer,” and it’s not the guy playing “air guitar” pretending he knows what he’s doing.
It’s the person in the gym day in a day out or the person practicing guitar in their room when no one’s looking day in a day out
Stretching and warming up isn’t the glorious part of athletics.
And neither is getting up early to read your Bible and spend time with God when NO ONE is looking isn’t the most glamorous part of Christianity.
Sometimes, in sports they say, games are really won on the practice field. They are won in the gym. They are won in the offseason when an athlete is all by herself or himself getting up early to go running or lift weights.
It’s that sort of work that allows games to be won later on.
And it’s no different in your faith.
Your spiritual disciplines (getting in God’s word, sitting in silence, fasting, time in prayer reach day), they are the warm up act that will allow you to be strong enough for when it counts.
Strong enough for when you face adversity…for it will come.
Wise enough when you face a skeptic who needs to hear about God’s grace
Patient enough to deal with a child or a family member who’s really struggling.
Those battles are really won in the “warm up” act of our life…the early hours of the morning..in the late hours of the night…in the car ride home when you shut off the radio and talk to God for 20 minutes.
That’s where we get strong. Build our spiritual muscle.
And we can also get strong by having training partners. One of the best ways to get in shape is to workout with another person
And let me plead with you one last time this month to take a leap and sign up for House Groups.
Our groups where 25 ppl get together and do life and faith together every week…hang out together, learn together, and growin in faith together.
Both as a large community of 25, and as a small group. They really are incredible.
And they’ll help you be batter prepared for the battles of this life.
Far too many Christians are unprepared. Unprepared for adversity that is lurking around the corner and unprepared to really make an impact on the people around them.
But we are in a race. Jesus Christ, God’s son came to earth and died for each one of us…offering every human the chance to accept his incredible gift of forgiveness or deny it and suffer the consequences of our own selfishness
This is a serious race. A race of eternal consequences. Are you training? Are you racing like it matters? Are you racing like eternity hangs in the balance? Or is it an after thought?
DON’T GET CAUGHT IN OTHER RACES
One of the obstacles to look out for is the possibility of running the wrong race
I recently ran a 10K race, and the event was a 5k race, 10k race, and 20 mile race all in one.
And at 8 in the morning (wish it was later), the race started and the 10k (my race) and the 20 mile race start together, and then somewhere along the route, they tell us the 20 mile course will branch off of the 10k course.
So the whole time, I was paranoid about running the wrong race
Sometimes in our spiritual lives, we start on the right course…we start running the right race. We’re passionate about God and helping other people find Him…
But then…life happens. We get busy. We get tired.
And when you get busy, tired, fatigued, and in everyday normal routine, it’s sometimes easy to miss the markers, to miss the signs, and before you know it…you’re running the wrong race.
And some people run the wrong race with a passion.
Their whole life is just about success.
Everything they do is about getting a degree and getting a good job.
Working to pay for the degree.
Studying to get the degree.
Getting the degree to get a job.
Working 60-70 hours a week to get ahead, and get good money, so you can get a nice house, and a nice car.
I mean think about the amount of time and training that goes into something like that.
And I’m worried that too many people will get to their end of their life (as we all will someday), meet their Maker and realize that they ran the wrong race.
How heartbreaking would it be to find out that you gave your whole life to get a degree, and make tons of money, and be really successful, and then to just find out that was completely not was life was even about.
Way too many people will experience the pain of failure when they lived their whole lives thinking they were a success
And for others, their whole life is just about family.
Making sure you have family game nights, and family weekend outings, and your kids have the best education, and you spend every weekend hanging out together, or going on family trips…family, family, family…
That seems like a good race to run.
But it’s not THE race. Yes, even family is secondary to the cause of Jesus Christ.
“Spending quality time with your family is NOT your #1 purpose in life.”
It might be #2, but it’s not #1.
And none of these things are bad in and of themselves: Degrees, great jobs, great pay…but the thing is, they ONLY matter if they are somehow helping you in your race to change the world for Jesus Christ…
And if they’re not…they’re just merely ideas and items that will turn to dust in your hands on the day when you find out what really counts in your life.
This is why Paul says in our passage today in verse 25:
(1 Corinthians 9:25) – NIV
. 25Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever
In their ancient games, they literally got a crown that was a wreath.
But a perishable one. Soon, it would wither away, it wouldn’t matter anymore, and 400 years later, no one would even know it existed.
And the same is true with so many of our pursuits.
I mean, how much time do we WASTE on things that will have absolutely no value whatsoever in eternity.
“Will it really matter in 400 years that you……..”
Video game, biggest house, 4.0, designer clothes
We are spending way too much time training for the wrong races
It’s been said many times that the devil doesn’t have much of a need to literally show him himself in our country when he already has us completely distracted in our own foolish pursuits
Listen, let me tell you what will matter 400 years from now…What will matter 4,000 years from now…
That person that you helped introduce to Jesus Christ…
One million years from now, ppl wills till be talking about it
A lot of people only help bring even one person to Jesus Christ in their lifetime. And if that’s the case.. That’s STILL worthy of a lifetime of training, just for that one person.
Like an athlete, we have to be willing to sacrifice other pursuits for the sake of strict training and competitive edge.
But we have to do it for something that really counts.
For a crown that really matters. So you can be like Paul, who at the end of this life, penned this:
(2 Timothy 4:7-8) – NIV
7I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8Now 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.
James 1:12 (NIV)
12Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
Let’s run for the right crown.
God has done so much for us. Let that hit your heart. Let it move you to action. To change. Let him change you.
Because THIS is the race of your life.
Following Jesus with your heart is the race of your life
Helping bring others to the knowledge of grace is the race of your life
Modeling your life after Jesus in your home for your kids, for your spouse, for your future spouse…is the race of your life. THAT is what you are training for.
Everything else is just supplementary to that plan.
Are you training for it? Are you training for the right thing? Are you running the right race? Are you still stuck on the couch?
Start training with Him.
He’s quite the trainer really. You’re going to see some pretty incredible, eye-opening, life-changing results with Him as your trainer. With Him at your side running your race.
Let me just close with a verse this morning…and may this be your prayer…your calling.
(Philippians 3:13-14) – NLT
13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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