Summary: The Bible tells us we should "Run in such a way as to get the prize." But there's one part of the race that's crucially important for us. Do you know what that is?
I love this church. It’s so great to have this kind of worship where our Hispanic and Anglo congregations can get together, pray, sing praises and study God’s Word together. I’ve preached for about 24 years now, and every couple of years or so, I’ve preached the type of sermon I’m going to preach today. And I preach it because it’s one of the most important topics any church should hear.
Read Scripture and Pray.
OPEN: Several years ago there was an Olympics held in Seattle Washington. As in any Olympics, there were various competitions where athletes compete for a prize. But at this Olympics, there was one event that was so powerful that it was talked about for years afterward. And that event was the 100 yard dash. Nine contestants lined up at the starting line. The gun fired. And the nine competitors started to run… kind of.
You see, this was something called “the Special Olympics” - a competition for physically or mentally handicapped people. And the nine young men and women were filled with excitement as they ran and laughed and raced to the finish line. That is… until one little boy stumbled on the asphalt. He tumbled over a couple of times and fell on his face and lay there crying. The other eight heard him and slowed down and looked back. Then they all turned around and went back - every one of them. One girl with Down's syndrome bent down and kissed him and said, "This will make it better." Then all nine linked arms and walked together to the finish line. And everyone in the stadium stood, and the applause seemed to go on… forever.
APPLY: What had that audience seen that day? They had seen 9 young people who loved each other more than they loved the race. And their love for each other had such a powerful effect on the crowd that they stood and applauded.
Jesus told His disciples: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35
In other words: if we show love by our actions the world will notice. They might even stand up and applaud.
Now, this “loving one another” was not just a passing comment by Jesus. This was called the royal law of the Kingdom. James 2:8 tells us “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing well.”
In fact, love was to become such a crucial part of who we are as Christians that Galatians 5 tells us about it.
Galatians 5:22-23 declares “… the fruit of the Spirit is LOVE, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
Notice, LOVE was the very first item on the list. That was because love MUST BE what we are known for as Christians.
The phrase “Love one another” shows up at least 14 or 15 times in the New Testament. And as I looked over those passages, a question arose in my mind – how do I know if I’m truly being a loving Christian? Then it occurred to me that I should look at some of the other “one another” passages and see what they said about loving.
ILLUS: One scholar noted that the phrase "one another" is used 58 times in the New Testament. "Greet one another," "Bear with one another," and "Be devoted to one another" are but a few examples. It's the "one anothers" in the Bible that pull us together as family of God.
For example, Galatians 6:2 declares “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you fulfill the law of Christ.” You can carry another’s other’s burdens by praying for each other, meeting each others’ financial needs, or making food for someone when they’ve been sick. When someone is struggling in the church you can help them by carrying their burdens and making life easier on them.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says we can show love in another way we can love each other: “… encourage one another and build each other up...”
Encouragement is when you tell others that you’ve seen what they’ve done.
ILLUS: The famous UCLA college basketball coach - John Wooden – used to encourage his players to acknowledge the assists of their teammates. If one player received a pass that allowed him to score, Wooden wanted him to give the other man a wink or point to him as they moved down to the opposite end of the court.
One of the new players once asked Wooden. “But what if the other player isn’t looking when you point him out?” Wooden just smiled, “Oh don’t worry. He’ll be looking.” People like to be encouraged.
ILLUS: The Univ. of Michigan did a study some time back where they split students up into teams and had them compete to see who could complete tasks faster. But when they created the teams, they told one set of group leaders to give 6 encouraging comment for every negative comment they gave. The other team leaders were instructed to give 3 criticisms for every positive encourage. GUESS WHICH TEAM DID BETTER?