In my last post, we began to examine a passage from 1 Corinthians 9 which Sha’ul used the Corinthian Olympics for some timeless insights in the adventure of life. 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.
We examined the first two principles in my last post. In this post, we will tackle the last two principles in creating a winning life.
Sha’ul says: It takes discipline.
We must be willing to work. In 1 Corinthians 9:25 he says: “Now every athlete in training submits himself to strict discipline, and he does it just to win…” Notice he says they use strict discipline. In other words, they have to practice self-denial.
These two words – discipline and self-denial – are not exactly popular words in the American culture. How many of you go home and think, “I think I’ll meditate on the word self-denial. How about discipline?”
Discipline is what we need most and want the least of in our lives. Yet it is the thing that turns ability into achievement. Sha’ul says I’ve got to deny myself some things. Nobody has ever succeeded in life by just doing what they please. The difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is simply this: successful people are willing to do things and develop habits that unsuccessful people aren’t willing to do. They’re not willing to pay the price. That’s the difference. It’s your choice. Successful people are willing to do things, make the extra sales call, make the extra phone call, do the extra practice, study the extra book and on and on and on, work out the extra twenty minutes or whatever – go the distance and then a little bit more. That takes discipline.
Proverbs 13:4 says: “The lazy person wants but doesn’t have; the diligent get their desires filled.” The mark of a great achiever is personal discipline. Diligence.
That is so rare in our society that people will pay big bucks to get it. You don’t become great by accident. Desire, direction, discipline. That’s what it takes.
As I said earlier, nobody becomes great by doing what he pleases. First, you ask “What do I really want most in life” and secondly you ask, “What is the focus of my life?” So the third question you have to ask yourself if you really want to succeed in life is: Am I willing to pay the price?
A lot of people have desire. And some people even get the direction right. But then they’re not willing to pay in the price, to put in the time, the hard hours, the sweat equity and all these other things to develop the habits. They don’t count the cost.
It takes desire, it takes direction, it takes discipline and if you want to make it in life, if you want to win the race…
Sha’ul says: It takes determination.
We must never give up. We must never, never, never give up. In 1 Corinthians 9:27 Sha’ul says, “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.” He’s saying I do whatever it takes to keep on keeping on. I am not going to stop in the middle of the race. I’m not going halfway through and quit. I’m going to make it to the finish line. That’s determination.
Philippians 3:14 says: “I keep pursuing [That’s keeping on keeping on, discipline, determination, persistence, diligence] the goal in order to win the prize offered by God’s upward calling in the Messiah Yeshua.”
Persistence is the fourth key to winning. Determination, diligence, endurance. Great people are just ordinary people with an extraordinary amount of determination. They don’t know how to quit. Most people give up too soon. Hebrews 12:1-3 says: “Let us, too, put aside every impediment — that is, the sin which easily hampers our forward movement — and keep running with endurance in the contest set before us, 2 looking away to the Initiator and Completer of that trusting, Yeshua — who, in exchange for obtaining the joy set before him, endured execution on a stake as a criminal, scorning the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Yes, think about him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you won’t grow tired or become despondent.”
Notice he says that in order to finish the race in life there are some things you have to let go of and there are some things you have to hold on to. You’ve got to do them both without getting them confused.
First he says you need to let go of anything that is holding back your spiritual progress. Ask yourself the final question: “What is holding me back?” What is it that’s keeping me from becoming all that God wants me to be? What is it that is stunting my spiritual potential? What is it that’s holding me back? That’s a great question. What is getting in the way of my spiritual progress?
For some of you what’s holding you back could be a habit. You know it. That habit continues to keep you from being all that God wants you to be.
For others of you it may be a friendship. You’ve got a friend who’s not really a friend. They don’t know the Lord and they keep pulling you down, dragging you in another direction. You keep hanging out with people who don’t lead you in the right way. They lead you in the wrong way. Then you feel bad about it after it’s over. They’re holding you back.
For some of you it might be materialism. The desire to acquire has so consumed your life and you’ve got caught up in the modern culture that says, I’ve got to have more, more, more, more. You’re saying I want to be a strong Believer and have everything too. That is not possible. If all your time is spent making the buck you don’t have any time for the things that are really going to last in life.
There are things in life; you have to ask yourself personally. Take these questions home and say what is it that’s holding me back? Is it a memory? Something from my past? I was hurt in some church and it’s held me back. Or I was hurt by some so-called Believer and that held me back. Is it a job that you need to change? Whatever it is if you want to win Sha’ul says you’ve got to let it go.
Then there’s some things to hold on to. He says remember Yeshua’s example when you get discouraged. He held on. He didn’t give up when people were putting Him down and criticizing Him and misunderstanding Him. He didn’t get discouraged. He just kept on keeping on.
Some of you are tempted to give up. You are thinking; it’s not going to work. Some of you are being tempted to give up on a job. Some of you may be tempted away from the Lord and say, “Why should I even try to be a Believer? I can’t keep this up. I can’t follow the directions.” The devil is telling you all along, “Who do you think you are? You call yourself a Believer. Forget it! Give up.”
Some of you are tempted to give up on a dream. God says to you, “Hang in there. Don’t give up. Hang in there.” Like the old poster that says, “When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hold on for dear life.” Some of you need to do tie that knot and cream out for help.
What is the key to persistence? What is the key to determination? The key is what you have your eyes on. We must focus on Yeshua. Notice it says, “Let us look only to Yeshua.” The reason we give up too soon is we get distracted. Remember the movie Chariots of Fire. One of the dramatic scenes in that movie about the Olympics was where the coach of Abraham was scolding Abraham because in the race he was running and he was winning and then he could not stop the urge to look sideways to see if Little was coming up to catch him. When he looked sideways Little passed him up and he lost the race. The coach said, “Never take your eye off the goal!” Don’t do it! The moment you start looking at the competition you start looking sideways you’re dead in the water. Don’t do it.
Sha’ul refused to be sidetracked. That’s why at the end of his life he could say, “I’ve fought the good fight. I finished the race.” ~ 2 Timothy 4:7
One day you’re going to stand before God. Will you be able to say that? “God, I finished the race You put me on earth to do. I did what You made me to do. I became what You made me to become. I didn’t waste my life and I didn’t get sidetracked. I didn’t get sucked up into a materialistic culture that says “Everything is here and now. It’s not.’” The most important things are not here and now. Are you going to be able to stand before God one day and say, “God I did with my life exactly what You made me to do. You gave me the desire. I waited for the direction. You gave me the power to be disciplined. I was determined I was going to finish the race.” That is success.
What matters in life is not all the awards and the acclaims and the salaries and the perks and getting your picture on the cover of some newspaper or magazine. What matters is the eternal rewards which you will celebrate for eternity.
1 Corinthians 9:25 says that the athlete “does it just to win a laurel wreath that will soon wither away. [How many remember all the Olympic winners from four years ago?] But we do it to win a crown that will last forever.” He’s talking about running the Believer’s life. He says the crowns here don’t last. In the ancient Olympic games, the award was a winner’s crown made out of olive branches. In the Corinthian games they were made out of pine or floral branches. In each instance the moment the crown was made they began to wither. Awards eventually tarnish. Fame is fleeting. It doesn’t last.
So live your life for the awards that God’s going to give. They’re going to last for eternity.
Focus on running the race that God intends for you. You will receive not only benefits here and now, but in eternity.
Our last verse, Psalm 60:12 (NCV) says this “We can win. We can win with God’s help.” That’s the key. If we have accepted Yeshua as our Lord and Savior, God our Father will see us through any trial we encounter in our pursuit to serve others.
We are not guaranteed a tomorrow, much less the rest of the day or next year. We don’t know how long our life is going to last. I want to say to whatever you’re going to do with your life do it now. Don’t say, “I’ll wait until I get more money… I’m going to wait until it settles down… I’m going to wait until the kids are out of school… I’m going to wait until I get this job finished…” No! Do it now. Whatever you’re going to do for Yeshua, get on the stick now and do it! You’re not guaranteed a tomorrow and neither am I. You’d better start making your life count today. We can win the Gold medal with God’s help. Start running the race that the Father has created you to win.
In my next post, we will pick back up with studying what Yeshua says about the END TIMES.