In 2½ weeks, we will have one of the biggest opportunities of the year to teach children what it means to become and to grow as a Christian.
We will celebrate the Christian Olympics through our Vacation Bible School program. In this program we will teach them how to:
We will help them to:
Not only is this a huge opportunity this is a huge responsibility and any time you have a huge responsibility you have to consider your attitude.
Now I have found that there are about 3 different attitudes that Christians have towards knowing and serving God.
The first one I call the "Give it all I got" attitude
This is the Christian that says, "I realize that on my own, in this lifetime, I will never achieve holiness or perfection in my relationship with God. But because I am so grateful for all Jesus did for me on the cross, and because God's word tells me to "be holy as He is holy" I am going to give it all I got, even if I fail. And when I do fail, I'm going to get back up and I'm going to try as hard as I can until I fail again. And I'm going to keep going, and keep trying, and keep striving until the day when Jesus makes me perfect in Heaven. I owe Him at least that much
The second attitude the "No sense putting myself out" attitude
This is the Christian who says, "Look, let's be realistic about this. I'll admit that I owe God something, but I also know that I'm never going to be all that He wants me to be. I'll do the best I can, but there's no sense in putting myself out too far on a limb here. I may not be the best Christian, but I'm certainly not the worst either.
The third attitude is what I call the "Why try" attitude
This is the Christian on the other end of the spectrum that says "look, let's be honest with ourselves. We aren't perfect. We're never going to be perfect. And there's really no sense in trying to be. And by the way, don't judge me, because you're no better than I am.
Now all of this takes us to our Scripture for today and other things that the Apostle Paul had to say:
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.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me-the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.
I don't mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it,[a] but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
And so we can see this attitude about knowing and growing and serving God in terms of running a race.
I want you to imagine with me the most important race ever run. A race of supreme importance. Maybe you could think of it as the Olympics with a 100 million dollar prize for the winner. You can imagine how motivated the participants would be to train their bodies and their minds for the highest possible level of performance.
The runners step on to the track and make their way to the starting line. They're sizing one another up, trying to determine who their best competition will be. Looking for one another's strength's and weaknesses. You can see in their eyes that they are all business completely focused on the task at hand.
They step up to the line and place their feet in the starting blocks. Every muscles tenses as they listen for the gun to sound . Their bodies quiver with anticipation, they picture the finish line in their minds as they focus on winning the race.
The starter yells out "on your marks", "get ready" "get set" ...... "WAIT! We have an announcement to make.
"We need to announce that the race you have been preparing for, the race you have entered into, was actually run yesterday. And we need to let you know that the winner ran the race of a lifetime.
"In fact, he set the all time world record and it doesn't seem possible that his record will ever be broken again.
"His name has been recorded in the record books and he has been awarded the 100 million dollar prize.
"We are asking you to run this race today in honor of the winner and in honor of the incredible race he has run. On your marks, get set, GO!"
Now you tell me.
How do you think the race will be run?
Well I figure there will be 3 kinds of runners.
One kind of runner will say "You know what? I have trained for this day. I have prepared for this day. I can appreciate the amazing accomplishment of the winner. I want to be a part of what he was able to do. I realize that it's no longer possible for me to win the race but I'm going to run this race the best way I can."
The second kind of runner would say,
"You know what? I've trained for this race. I've prepared for this race. There's a big crowd out here to see me race today. There are people here to race against me. So I'll run the race. But there's no way I'm going to chance hurting myself in a race I can't even win. So I'll run the race. But I figure I'll just kind of keep pace with everybody. Put on a good show for the crowd. But not put out too much effort. There's no sense in trying too hard."
Then there would be a third kind of runner who would say,
"You know what? Forget it. No way I'm running this race. I can't win it. There's no sense trying. I'm just going to sit down here on the track and enjoy the day or maybe I'll wander into the stands and see if I can find a hotdog or something. But no way I'm running the race."
Any of this sounding familiar?
So you tell me.
How will the runners run the race?
Once again the starter yells out to the runners that the race in honor of the winner is about to begin.
He tells everyone to get to their blocks. "On your marks, get ready get set" ...... "WAIT! We have another announcement to make.
"Apparently the winner of yesterday's race has just released a statement saying that he wants everyone who has entered the race to share in His victory.
"He has announced that everyone who has entered will receive the Gold medal at the end of the race no matter what kind of race they run.
"He has announced that every runner will get to put their names in the record book along side his as if they were the ones who set the all time world record themselves.
"And finally he has announced that every runner will receive the same reward of 100 million dollars.
"He's not saying he will split the prize money equally among the contestants, he is saying that he will personally award each person their own prize of 100 million dollars from his personal bank account."
Now how do you think the runners will run the race?
The first kind will be chomping at the bit.
He'll be ready to run the race of his life "Somebody fire the gun so we can get this thing started!" He'll want to run the race for the glory of the one who will share his victory with everyone. He'll give it his everything. He'll leave everything he has on the track for the chance to run the race of a lifetime.
Now the second runner will be ready to run too.
He knows the crowd will be cheering. He knows this is a momentous occasion. He can't wait to get to the finish line so that he can wear the gold medal. So that he can see his name in the record book. So that he can cash that 100 million dollar check!
But hey, he's not going to run too hard! No sense in straining himself when he's already guaranteed the victory no matter how he performs. Might as well treat it like a victory lap instead of a race. The outcome will be the same no matter what.
And then of course there's the third kind of runner.
The one who sits down on the track or wanders off into the stands and just dares anyone to question why he's not running the race.
He found a loophole. You see the winner said that anyone who "entered" the race would share in the victory. He didn't say anything about having to actually run in the race.
Why put himself out? There are other things he could be doing. And don't you judge me! I'm going to have the same reward as you. I entered the race just like you did!
Runners to your marks . . . Get ready . . . Get set . . . GO!
Now you may be thinking that all of this sounds rather ridiculous
But it's not all that different from the spiritual race that each one of us have entered into.
It's not all that different from the race laid out before our church as we try to decide who we are going to be and what we are going to do for God in the coming years.
It's not all that different from the race laid out before each Christian here this morning as we try to figure out if we're running the race with everything we have or sitting down on the track or maybe taking a spiritual victory lap around our community as we decide if the one who died for us deserves to be honored by the kind of race we run.
Paul said, "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."
Maybe as a church it's time for us to forget what lies behind us. Time for us to realize that we can't focus on past successes or past mistakes.
Maybe it's time to move out of the starting blocks!! Get out of our comfort zones and get up off the track!!
Maybe it's time for us to open up our spiritual eyes and find out where God is at work around us so that we can join in with Him and be a part of what He wants so desperately to do in our community.
Maybe it's time to start running the race!!
To start growing in our relationships with Him and with one another. It's time to press on. And who knows how many more people might come to know the Lord, how many missions might be started, how many lives might be changed and how many hearts might be softened . . .
I would like to introduce you to Dick and Rick Hoyt, who are a father-and-son team from Massachusetts who compete together in the most incredible test of strength and endurance known to man: the triathlon - this daunting, almost superhuman, combination of 26.2 miles of running, 112 miles of bicycling, and 2.4 miles of swimming.
Now this would be remarkable if Dick and Rick were just a father and son team, but what really makes it remarkable is the fact that Rick can't walk or talk. I would like you to take a look at this amazing video.
Here is a video showing their amazing courage and determination:
Now I want you to think for a moment about the attitude the Hoyts displayed. Do you see that they knew from the start that they couldn't win the race but they were determined to give everything they had anyway??
They ran the race in such a way as to win the prize. The prize wasn't a gold metal or a purse of money. The prize was the knowledge that they had accomplished something bigger than themselves and brought glory to God.
Orangethorpe United Methodist Church, in two weeks and in the years to come has the opportunity to accomplish something bigger than ourselves and bring glory to God.
It's time for us to forget what is behind us. It's time to strain toward what is ahead, and press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus.
But remember that we don't have to run the race alone.
Just like Dick and Rick Hoyt, we run the race side by side with one another. And we run it knowing that if we fall our Heavenly Father is there to pick us up and carry us along.