Summary: Paul calls us to intense training. The challenge which lies before us is nothing short of reaching the world for Christ and building God’s kingdom here on earth with a multi ethnic church. It is far beyond our current ability and it will not happen overni
The Amazing Race
Have any of you ever watched the Amazing Race? It’s a reality game show in which teams of two people race around the world in competition with other teams. Contestants strive to arrive first at the end of each leg of the race to win prizes and to avoid coming in last, which carries the possibility of elimination or a significant disadvantage in the following leg. Contestants travel to and within multiple countries in a variety of transportation modes, including planes, taxis, rental cars, trains, buses, boats, and by foot. There are clues in each leg which point the teams to the next destination or direct them to perform a task. Teams are progressively eliminated until 3 are left; at that point, the team that arrives first in the final leg is awarded a grand prize of $1 million.
We’re starting a new series this New Year called the “Amazing Race.” Throughout his writings, Paul compares the journey of faith with running a race. “Do 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. Everyone 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. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, 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.” 1 Corinthians 9: 24-27 Paul says we are in the Amazing Race of faith with the goal being: doing the will of God, saving the lost and building the kingdom of God.
This past year, we have preached and learned about: God’s vision for our church, “Connecting diverse communities to a lifestyle devoted to Jesus”, our values which are at the heart of this congregation: Building Family, Extending Love, Influencing Communities, Living Mission and finally, Deepening Faith and our Strategy: Celebrate, Discover, Grow, Engage and Connect. If we are going to be able to take the next steps in our Mission, then we need to grow in our faith to strengthen us for the challenges which lie ahead. This year is about serious training in spiritual discipleship and becoming more like Jesus.
A lot of people are just stuck in life and their spiritual journey. Their lives resemble the U2 song which says, “You got stuck in a moment, and you can’t get out.” They’re hanging out with the same people, laughing at the same jokes, thinking the same things, believing the same things and doing the same things you’ve done for the last 5, 10 or 20 years. Let me ask you a question this morning: how have you have grown in your faith in the last year, the last 5 years or even the last 10 years? What signs or evidence is there of growth, change or transformation? The Bible says so many Christians are living under the saving grace of Jesus, but they’re missing the abundance of his life and power. The problem is that too many Christians are still children in the faith and have not grown up. The author of Hebrews puts it this way: “By this time you ought to be teaching others.” Hebrews 5:12 You ought to be spiritual trainers and coaches. But you’re still stuck spiritually and have stopped growing in your faith. You’re still living off of bottled milk, when you should have graduated to solid food.
This is why Paul calls us to intense training. The challenge which lies before us is nothing short of reaching the world for Christ and building God’s kingdom here on earth with a multi ethnic church. It is far beyond our current ability and it will not happen overnight. It’s like running a marathon. I would never think I could just go out and run a marathon, and I’ve been to the gym 6 times this week. There are no shortcuts to running a marathon, even if you’re in shape. It takes months of serious training to be able to accomplish that. The key to running a marathon isn’t to have extraordinary ability or strength. Average people run marathons all the time! But what it take for them to accomplish that is regimented, disciplined training because the challenge is so great. This is why 1 Timothy 4:7 calls us to “train….to be godly.” Notice the word “train.” Training is different than learning. Learning never leads to transformation. You do need some information, but information doesn’t enable anyone to run a marathon. The way you’re going to be godly is the same way you’re going to equip yourself to run a marathon - not through learning but through training and that’s by doing.