Given current events, I’ve decided to take a brief break from our series on the END TIMES. In this and the subsequent post, I want to share some lessons that Rick Warren shared with me four years ago from the London Olympics.
For the last two weeks all the eyes of the world have focused on the Rio 2016 Olympics. Why is it we’re so interested in this? It’s because we love to see people excel. We love to watch winners. I’m reminded of the old ABC show “Wide World of Sports.” We would watch that show religiously for the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”
Click here for a YouTube clip.
I have set my DVR to record ALL that NBC had to offer this year from Rio. I then fast forward or delete entire shows until I found the events that most interested me.
In 1 Corinthians 9, Sha’ul talks about the Corinthian games which in ancient Greece were second in importance only to the Olympics in Athens. They were held every three years. The games including running, leaping, spear throwing, boxing, wrestling, chariot racing and racing in armor (I would have loved to have seen that). Everyone that competed was required to take an oath that said: “I trained for at least ten months and I will not resort to unfair tricks.” Maybe the current IOC needs to reinstate that requirement? Remember, they didn’t have steroids in those days.
There were many benefits to being a winner in the Olympic Games; first your name and hometown were shouted out as you were awarded a wreath. Then you would be given a triumphal parade in your town. You would be given five hundred drachmas. You would be given the right to sit at a place of honor for all succeeding games for the rest of your life. Then if you won in the Corinthian games your children would receive a free education for life, you would be exempt from military duty for the rest of your life, and you were released from paying taxes the rest of your life – now that is quite some prize! Is there any wonder that everybody competed in the Corinthian games?
Sha’ul uses these games as an illustration for life. He pulls out of them four principles for successful living. Four things you have to do if you’re going to win at what matters most. Four things that we all must do if we are really to live out our calling to serve others. We’re going to look at these four principles.
The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 9 that there are four things it takes to win in life.
- It takes desire. We must want to win.
- It takes direction. We must focus on a goal.
- It takes discipline. We must be willing to work.
- It takes determination. We must never give up.
It’s pretty simple to explain these but we need to dig deeper.
“Don’t you know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one wins the prize? So then, run to win! Now every athlete in training submits himself to strict discipline, and he does it just to win a laurel wreath that will soon wither away. But we do it to win a crown that will last forever. Accordingly, I don’t run aimlessly but straight for the finish line; I don’t shadow-box but try to make every punch count. I treat my body hard and make it my slave so that, after proclaiming the Good News to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” ~ 1 Corinthians 9:23-27 (CJB)
Sha’ul says: “It takes desire.”
We must want to win. If we want to make our lives count, if we want to win in life, if we want to succeed in life, we must want to win
As I’ve watched interviews of the different athletes during the last two weeks there’s a common denominator among each of them, no matter what country they come from and it’s this: they have a desire to excel. It’s a passion. They eat it, they sleep it, they talk it, they think it, and they live it. They have this passion, this deep desire to achieve, to excel, to set records.
What are you passionate about? What is it that turns your crank? What is it that motivates you to get out of bed in the morning? What is it that really gets you going? What are you passionate about?
A passionless life is a wasted life. If you want to make an impact with your life you must have passion. You must have desire. You must know what you really want in life so you can go for the Gold.
Sha’ul was a passionate person. Notice what he says in 1 Corinthians 9:24: “Don’t you know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one wins the prize? So then, run to win!” He says if you’re going to go for it in life, go for the gold. Say to yourself: “I’m not just running to place; I’m not just running for the fun of it; I run to win; I want to go for victory; I want to make my life count; I want to succeed; I want to be at the top; and I want to be the best that I can be in life.” Sha’ul says, in the Messianic life run to win: “Have a passion to make your life count – by serving others.”
The reality is most of us really just live mediocre lives. We really do. We don’t run to win. We run to retire. Our whole goal in life is to just get enough money so that we can retire and veg out.
God did not put you on this earth to retire. I have searched and searched in almost every translation of the Bible and have not been able to find the word “retirement” or even the concept of retirement in it anywhere. It’s just not there. He put you and I here for a purpose, for a reason. He wants us to make your lives count. He wants us to serve others.
Why in the world would anybody not want to win in life? Well, there are many reasons. Some people don’t want to win because of guilt. They think, “I don’t deserve to win. Knowing my past, I had my chance and I blew it. I don’t deserve to win.”
Other people don’t want to win in life because of background. Maybe somebody in your past said, “You’re never going to amount to anything.” You’ve been living under that curse all these years and believing it. They’re wrong. Other people cannot determine what you do with your life. You are in control of that. God gave you that freedom
Some people have a faulty theology. They’re fatalistic and they think, whatever happens is going to happen. What will be will be. I shouldn’t have any desires. I shouldn’t have any ambition. It’s just going to happen if it’s to be. Well, they’re wrong. So they decide to say, I don’t have any desires in life. That is not what the Bible teaches. That is Buddhism.
It is Buddhism that says the goal of life is to eliminate all your desire. When you get rid of all your desire then you’ll be happy and you won’t want anything. God doesn’t say that in His word. God says, use your desires. I have given you desires. I have shaped you. And you have an interest in certain things because I’ve placed that interest in you. I want you to develop it and expand on it and make the most of it. He doesn’t say eliminate your desires. He says channel those desires to the things of God. Channel those desires to serve other people. Channel those desires to win in life.
Then there are some people who think that they don’t want to win in life because they think success is being selfish. If I try to make my life a success I’m being unspiritual. Did you know that God wants you to succeed in life? Maybe you have the wrong definition. If you think success is to make a whole lot of money and spend it on yourself obviously that’s not what God wants you to do with your life. That’s not the goal of life, to make money and spend it on yourself. The goal of life is to figure out what God put you on this earth for, fulfill that purpose and do it the best you can. You will be successful at what God made you to be.
The tragedy of life is that most people settle for second best. They settle for less than what God wants them to do. You are capable of far more things than you’ve ever imagined. Ephesians 3:20 says “Now to him who by His power working in us is able to do far beyond anything we can ask or imagine.” So if you want to succeed in life you need to ask yourself four questions.
First you need to ask, “What do I really want most in life?”
Don’t be flippant about that. Maybe take a few days, a week or so to think about it. What do I really want most in life? Everything starts with desire. Nothing happens until you start getting God’s dream for your life.
Desire is the starting point but it’s not enough. But it takes far more than desire.
Sha’ul says: “It takes direction.”
We must focus on a goal. 1 Corinthians 9:26 “I don’t run aimlessly but straight for the finish line; I don’t shadow-box but try to make every punch count.” Notice Sha’ul says, I don’t run aimlessly in life. I have a purpose. I have a goal. I have an objective. I not only have desire, I have direction. I want to do something with my life. But it’s not just something. It’s something specific. I’m headed in a definite direction. Notice he says, I’m not just playing around. I’m not just beating the air. I’m not just shadow boxing. He says, I’m really going for it. I have purpose in every step. He is a purpose driven person.
Unfortunately, that describes what most people aren’t. They never really get serious about God. They never really get serious about their own life. They never really get serious about the contribution they intend on making in this world with their lives. They live little selfish, petty lives of mediocrity. They never get serious. They just play around.
They do what I call dabble. We have a lot of dabblers in this world. They dabble in this and they dabble in that. Whatever the fad is of the week that’s what they’re dabbling in. How do you know when somebody’s a dabbler? They use the phrase, “I’m into this.” This week I’m into this. Last week I was into that. A year ago I was into that over there. But right now I’m into this. They’re a dabbler. They are like a fly on horse manure, fluttering from pile to pile. They may have desire but they don’t have direction. They’re never going to get where you need to go in life.
There is a sign that says: “If most people drove their cars the way they plan their lives they’d never get out of the driveway.” Most people have never really clarified where they’re headed in life. People may ask, “Where you going?” To lunch. “What do you want to do with your life?” I don’t know. They’re just kind of drifting aimlessly all around. They just try to coast through life.
Think about this: When you’re coasting, you’re always going downhill. You never coast up a mountain. Your life is going downhill if you’re coasting. Proverbs 17:24 “The discerning person focuses on wisdom there before him, but a fool’s eyes wander to the ends of the earth.” A fool starts off in many directions. If you want your life to count you’ve got to settle your direction. You’ve got to know exactly what you want in life.
If you don’t decide what’s really important in your life other people will be glad to do it for you. Have you discovered that? You will go through life guided either by priorities or by pressures. So either you determine what you want out of life, what direction you’re headed or other people will do it for you. When you let other people decide for you your direction that’s called stress.
Some of you are acquainted with that term. You need to know not only the desire – “I want to do something with my life” – but you’ve got to clarify the direction – “What is my goal?”
In Philippians 3 Sha’ul says “Brothers, I, for my part, do not think of myself as having yet gotten hold of it; but one thing I do: [in other words he says I concentrate, I focus, I know what I want out of life. And I don’t get distracted.] forgetting what is behind me and straining forward toward what lies ahead, I keep pursuing the goal in order to win the prize offered by God’s upward calling in the Messiah Yeshua.” Notice he says here if you want to have direction you’ve got to do two things.
First, he says, “forgetting what is behind me”. You cannot live today and you certainly can’t plan for tomorrow if you’re always living in the past. Many of you have been hurt in the past. Deeply. I’m not belittling that or minimizing that at all. But you may tend to wallow in it and you may rehearse it over and over in your mind and you go over and over and over it. You’re living in the past. You’re allowing people in your past to continue to hurt you today. Don’t do that. People from your past cannot hurt you today without your permission. Your past is past. You have to let it go.
You may need some help forgetting it, letting it go. You may need a healing of memories. Maybe you need the help of a biblical counselor. If you’re always living in the past it’s like driving a car constantly looking in the rear view mirror. You’re going to crash. Sha’ul says if you want to win the race of life you’ve got to forget what’s behind you.
Some of you may have had a major failure in your life. And it hurts. You still grieve over it. In fact, you’re embarrassed about it. If we were to talk about it you would be very embarrassed. In your mind you’ve gotten this idea, “I’ve had my chance and I blew it. Therefore, I’m going to have to settle for second best in my life.”
Who said that? Where in the Bible do you find the phrase, “You have to settle for second best.” Folks, that’s not in the Bible. You never see the idea of second best here. Now, you do see the idea of second chance. God loves to give a second chance. Aren’t you glad we serve a God of the second chance? He gives us the chance to start over. He doesn’t keep us stuck in the past. He just says, “Let’s just try that again.”
God says forget the past and press on. I want to remind you that the guy who wrote these words was guilty of murder. Sha’ul had participated in the innocent slaughter, the slaughter of innocent people. You could have called him a religious terrorist because that’s what he was before he became a believer. He stood while one of the great early leaders, Steven, was being stoned to death. He did nothing to stop it. Yet Sha’ul did not wallow in his past and have a pity party. He said, I look forward. He focused on God’s goal.
So here’s the second question if you want to be a winner in life. If you want to make your life count, if you want to really succeed where it matters most. First you ask “What do I really want most in life” and secondly you ask, “What is the focus of my life?”
Whatever you focus on you’re going to move toward. If you say, I’m never going to be like my mother! Guess what you’re focusing on? We always move toward what we focus on. So instead of saying, “I’m not going to do this.” You need to just change your mind and say, “I’m going to do this.” And by sheer changing your attention find freedom from the things in your past that hold you back. You have to refocus and get direction.
In my next post, we will conclude the lesson in life that Sha’ul gives us from the Olympics.