Summary: A life worth living is a life on mission.
Paul speaks here of how the Spirit was leading him to go to Jerusalem. Paul said that he was committed to following Christ, even if the only promise given him was that he’d face difficulty. I wonder, if the Spirit spoke to you as He had to Paul, would you obey? If you knew that following God would mean prison or hardship, would you obey? As American Christians, we might have to imagine such a scenario, but such is not the case elsewhere in our world today.
For almost 60 years, Open Doors has worked in the world’s most oppressive countries to empower persecuted Christians. According to their research, each month, 722 forms of violence are committed against Christians (such as beatings, abductions, arrests and forced marriages); each month, 214 churches and Christian properties are destroyed; and each month, 322 Christians are killed for their faith. Recently, we’ve all heard the news about the 21 Egyptian Christians who were beheaded by ISIS in Libya. The day is fast approaching when American Christians won’t have to imagine what we’d do if following Christ meant prison or hardship.
When it does come, how will you respond? I suggest this is a question you don’t wait to answer when you are faced with the choice. This is an answer you give before the situation ever arises.
Ironically, the commitment to follow Christ regardless of the cost is not only a decision that enables us to die well; it is the key to our living well. Notice what Jesus said about following Him:
“Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, (Jesus) said, ‘If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’” - Mark 8:34-38 (NLT)
Jesus makes it clear that following Him is the key to living a life of eternal significance and complete fulfillment. If I want to discover my purpose in life and why I am here, I will do so only as I commit myself to following Christ, no matter what.
Paul was determined to follow Christ, no matter what, because he said, life lived any other way is not worth living. Paul tells us two things that will characterize the life of the Christian who has lived well.
1. A life worth living finishes the race.
“It’s not how high a person jumps, but how straight they walk when their feet hit the ground.” - Anonymous
Paul knew this. That’s why he wanted to be sure he finished well in running the race the Lord had marked out for him to run. The writer of Hebrews tells us that God has a race marked out for each of us to run:
“. . . let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus . . .” - Hebrews 12:1b-2a (NIV)
Paul was determined to run his race well.
“Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I
myself might be disqualified.” - 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NLT)
So, how do we run our race well?
A. By being discerning in everything we do.
1) There are things I must be willing to set aside.
“ . . . let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.”
2) There are things I must be willing to take on.
“All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.”
B. By being deliberate in everything we do.
“So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing.”
C. By being determined in everything we do.