Winning The Race

SERMON

FEBRUARY 20, 2022

WINNING THE RACE

Pastor Jean Owens 607-273-5682 jowens11@aol.com

The 2022 Winter Olympics is an international winter multi-sport event that has taken place from February 4-20, 2022, in Beijing and towns in the neighboring Hebei province, China. 3,000 athletes from 91 countries have participated.

The 2022 Winter Olympics included a record 109 events over 15 disciplines in 7 sports.

Back in ancient history, the Olympics were a big deal. The ancient Olympic Games were the biggest events in the ancient world. The ancient Olympics were rather different from the modern games.
Only free men who spoke Greek could compete. However, Greek was the common language of much of the ancient world so athletes from different parts of the Mediterranean world were represented.
The Olympic festival brought huge numbers of visitors to Olympia. Most people slept outside, under the stars, although the wealthy and members of official delegations erected elaborate tents and pavilions. Merchants, craftsmen, and food vendors arrived to sell their wares. No medals were given to the winners. Rather, the victor received a crown or wreath made from olive leaves, and was entitled to have a statue of himself set up at Olympia.
However, like today, winning athletes were heroes who put their home towns on the map. They even caught the attention of the Apostle Paul. He refers to the Olympic games in a few of his letters and, in one notable passage, mentions two of the sports that were part of the Olympic competition in his day, running and boxing.
Paul describes the need for self-discipline. 1 Corinthians 9: 24-27 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore, I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.  No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
Not all runners win the race. In the final competition, just one receives the victory wreath or today’s gold medal.
Some people do not even make it to the starting blocks because they have no interest in entering the great race. They want to walk entirely on their own path in life. Jesus says in Matthew 7:13-14 Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
What factors lead to success and failure? Christians succeed or fail to reach the finish line and receive the prize for the very same reasons that athletes do not win their earthly races.
2 Timothy 2:5 If anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. First, there are rules for entry. Today, there are many who start running without complying with the race’s entry requirements of believing in Jesus as their Savior and obey Him and repent of their sins. There are also rules that govern the actual running of the race. Paul says in Titus 2:11-13, that the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvations to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.
Winners enter the race mentally and spiritually prepared. Winners develop the discipline of self-control.
1 Corinthians 9:25 Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.
The need for personal self-control and discipline is necessary for the Christian race. There is always something in this world that will distract you if you let it.
Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
We also need to discipline our speech. James 1:26 If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.
Some people pride themselves that they just say what they think. According to the Bible, that’s what a fool does. Proverbs 29:11 A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back.
Ephesians 4:29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
A great Olympic marathon race is how Paul sees life this way. Let’s run that race together and help each to win. I pray that the day we part from this life, we can say as Paul did in 2 Timothy 4:6-8, the time of my departure has come. I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day.
Winning athletes were heroes who put their home towns on the map. We have a local hero competing in a world class competition raising funds for the Enfield Food Pantry’s expansion project now.
Dr. Pam Karner, who has volunteered at the pantry helping with parking and other tasks, is now competing in the Gaucho Derby in Patagonia in the foothills of the Andes at the southern tip of South America. She will be riding multiple horses in a 500-kilometer race.
Pam writes in part, “I will compete in a 500K race in the foothills of the Andes near the glaciers and excitingly close to the South Pole. It is called the “Gaucho Derby”. We are not told exactly where the race will start or end until we arrive but the meeting place is in El Calafate, Argentina. We will have the Gauchos’ trusty horses. The challenge will be navigation and wilderness skills. (And many more things that I can’t image.) Although summer/early fall, the Andes are unpredictable and can be cruel. We must carry our camping gear and food as most nights begin by finding a good grazing spot near water, preferably with a flat spot for a tent! The maximum weight in our saddlebags is 10kg. We will have 4 resupply stations where a max of 2kg will await…if one gets there!” (Pam has another horse race under her belt. The Mongol Race in Mongolia.)
Pam goes on to write, “This year I will raise money for the Enfield food Pantry and will match donations up to a total of $4,000. What makes this project unique and particularly special for me is their vision. This is MY LOCAL community but they will set an example for yours and others! This pantry is not just providing truly needed food but has big, exciting and I believe doable plans to teach gardening, cooking, and all new ways of looking at and providing food for people and their families.
Please share this link for the fund raiser Pam is working towards for the pantry.
https://gofund.me/2f59a33e
Pam ends, “Please DO wish me luck and send good energy or whatever you do so that I can return a bigger person and yes preferably in one piece!”
Equestrianists.com
The race begins March 3, 2022. You can follow Pam’s progress as she is followed on GPS.

 

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