Let’s Stay In The Race Even If We Don’t Win

1Corinthians 9:24  You know that in a race all the runners run but only one wins the prize, don’t you? You must run in such a way that you may be victorious.

 

You might find it interesting that I quote the Apostle Paul where he speaks of a race and the picture I use is an illustration of a tortoise.  Certainly you will never read of a tortoise winning any race unless it’s against another tortoise!

I Corinthians chapter 9 opens with Paul defending his ministry from false teachers of the day.  His character was being attacked and Paul makes his defense here in chapter nine.

He then closes the chapter by using images of competition to paint a true picture of who he is.  Athletic competitions were a big part of life throughout the Roman empire and Paul uses athletic metaphors as he concludes the chapter.

Our lives all have a beginning and an end with a whole lot that goes on as we get from point A to point B.  Therefore it’s easy to see our lives as a race.

In the verse I used to begin this article Paul clearly states only one person will win a race yet he challenges his readers to run so that they might win.  Even a tortoise can do that!

I’ll confess that for too long I have looked at the race Paul speaks of and have been duped into thinking that if my life is and has been a race then I am the biggest of losers.  I suspect I’m not alone.

I grew up as a kid with my life filled with sports.  My friends and I would spend countless hours playing baseball, football, and basketball.  We played football and baseball on the streets of our neighborhood.  We spent a lot of time at a school close to home competing all of the time.  I recall walking with my friends in a group carrying our gloves and bats in a happy group.  Once we got to the school we divided into teams and one of those teams would lose.

Maybe that’s why in my life everything was so black and white.  Either I was a winner or a loser.  The final score of the games we played told me so and that mindset when applied to life doesn’t cut it.

When my life spiraled out of control some 17-18 years ago when I experienced my first major panic attack I saw myself as a loser.  No middle ground. No alternatives.  No real hope for victory.

I bought the lie.  How couldn’t I when many in society and sadly, even the church were telling me I was weak, sinful, and without faith?  I needed to suck it up and rest on the promises of God.

That mindset settled deep into my soul and no matter the good that may have come from my life I saw myself ultimately as losing the race because for whatever reason I wasn’t free of my mental illness.  It was alive and well and sneering at me.

Along the way something has become clear to me and to even speak of it unsettles me.  What if I’m never totally free of my anxiety?  What does that make me?  For that matter what if you are never totally free of your bipolar disorder, your schizophrenia, your depression, your PTSD, your OCD, or anxiety?

Look at that tortoise.  He’s racing with no hope of finishing first.  Has it occurred to you that God hasn’t called you to finish first but to simply stay in the race?  We are not defined by our mental illness any more than a person is defined by their cancer or diabetes.

I know how difficult the holidays can be for those who are in the midst of real trials and real suffering.  You’re hoping January 2nd will arrive ASAP as the holidays can be so difficult.

How do we stay in the race?  We realize God is in the business of not setting us into a locked cupboard but will equip us with what we need to see his will realized in our lives.

We need to cling to the fact that…   Philippians 1:6  Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

That’s a promise from God with no strings attached.  Of course this isn’t some sort of license to go live a sinful life!  Yet so many of you who are floundering and not seeing much hope for your lives please know God loves you unconditionally and can and will use you even in the place you would rather not be.  God is our lifeline.  Nothing can separate us from His love.  He will never leave or forsake us.

There are times when we tell God we don’t have it in us and quite frankly we’re not happy with where we are at this point in our lives.  God desires honesty from us and that can begin with a prayer you may not feel is worth uttering.

God is not a respecter of individuals.  He flat out loves us and sent his only begotten son to demonstrate that and as he hung on that cross he suffered the consequences for our sins.  Jesus allowed himself to be crucified for the joy that was set before him and that joy includes you.

As we approach Christmas we celebrate the birth of the Christ child who took on flesh for you and me.  He loves us that much.

My prayer is that God would do something supernatural in the lives of all who read this.  The thing is he does the supernatural according to his perfect will and it doesn’t always happen as we might think. He loves you.

In closing I can be content being that tortoise.  They may move slowly but they won’t leave the race.  God bless and keep you this Christmas season.