Gate of the Year – January 4, 2021

New Year 2021

At the dawn of a new year, it is customary for news commentators and talk show hosts to throw out their pearls of wisdom with respect to what we have to look forward to in the new year.

Many take time to look back and then look forward. However, so few take the time to look up.

If we have learned anything from the past ten months, it must be that the future is uncertain.

Over the past ten months, we have seen a dramatic shaking taking place in the Church. Many, who for decades attended religiously, have fallen away from the church and we may never see them again. However, others who did not formerly see the value in gathering together as a body of believers, have committed themselves wholeheartedly to the fellowship of likeminded followers of Jesus.  

Is it possible that God is pruning His church? (John 15). If God is indeed pruning His church, we need to be aware that how we spend our personal time is critical. What I am talking about is our personal walk with the Lord, our personal spiritual disciplines. The disciplines of prayer, reading the Bible, fasting, giving, serving and worship, to name a few.

Here is a good article on personal spiritual disciplines; “Spiritual Disciplines – Don Whitney”

The purpose of spiritual disciplines is godliness as we see from 1 Timothy 4:7and 8.

The purpose of the pruning by the Vinedresser is to produce fruit, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples”. John 15:7-8.

As we look ahead in 2021, we certainly don’t know what the future holds. However if we abide in Christ, we can be assured that our Heavenly Father will hold us.

At this time every year, I am drawn to read a short poem by Minnie Louise Haskins (1875-1957), called “God Knows”. I think that it is more meaningful this year. Will you join with me and place your uncompromising faith in the hand of God in 2021? I believe that we will see much fruit and growth in the Body of Christ.

God Knows

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.
And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.

So heart be still:
What need our little life
Our human life to know,
If God hath comprehension?
In all the dizzy strife
Of things both high and low,
God hideth His intention.

God knows. His will
Is best. The stretch of years
Which wind ahead, so dim
To our imperfect vision,
Are clear to God. Our fears
Are premature; In Him,
All time hath full provision.

Then rest: until
God moves to lift the veil
From our impatient eyes,
When, as the sweeter features
Of Life’s stern face we hail,
Fair beyond all surmise
God’s thought around His creatures
Our mind shall fill.

Sermon, Sunday November 15, 2020 Spirit Filled Families

To view the full sermon, click on the camera

As a church we can proclaim to be fiercely pro-life, from conception to the grave, but sometimes we can be guilty of categorizing the value of people based on their productive ability.

And this is never more prevalent in the area of our children. Our children can be noisy and messy, but they are of inestimable value in the Kingdom of God (see Mark 10:13-14).

We are so blessed to have so many children in our church family and I believe that they are our greatest responsibility. The training up of children in the ways of the Lord is the primary responsibility of the parents, but it is all of our responsibility. The community of believers all bear the responsibility of caring for and setting examples for our children.

In the first century Roman Empire, children were not valued at all. It was legal for a father to discard a newborn onto the trash heap if he decided not to keep the child. But the early church was radically different to their culture and had a high regard for children, as should we. There is no greater responsibility than to be entrusted with the short time that we must teach and mold these children in the ways of the Lord.

Paul begins by addressing children and telling them to obey their parents, “…for this is right”, Ephesians 6:1.

This seems obvious, but sadly our post-modern culture would re-write this verse to say, “Parents, obey your children, for this will keep them happy and bring peace to the home.

When Paul says, “for this is right”, he is simply stating that this is the ordained order of nature. It is part of the natural law of God written on every human heart. If you study history, virtually every civilization in history has regarded this natural law as indispensable for a stable society.

In Paul’s letter to the Colossian Church he adds the phrase, “…for this pleases the Lord” Colossians 3:20.

Now, this must not be a blanket statement that parents use for abuse. Our foremost authority is to Jesus, and if parents instruct their children to do things that are obviously contrary to the Word of God, then the child’s first line of obedience is to the Lord.

Paul writes in verse 2 that children must honor their parents. To honor means to show respect and love. Children do not honor when they talk back to their parents or mock them. This is not simply wrong; it is dishonoring to God Himself who has given you those parents.

Paul was referring to the fifth commandment in Exodus 20:12 and in Exodus 21 anyone who cursed their parent or hit them, was to be put to death!

This commandment does not only apply to a certain age group, God requires all of us to honor our parents. 

Verse 4 has a particular challenge to parents, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” Ephesians 6:4. The word translated as fathers, is translated in other passages as “parents”, so it is safe to assume that Paul is referring to both parents in the role of raising their children.

This verse is more than simply an instruction not to make children angry, it is an instruction to parents to directly teach children and to disciple them in the ways of God. Our society has abdicated the responsibility of raising our children to the public-school systems and we wonder why society is failing in so many areas.

Parents taking the responsibility for the training of their children is the way God intends society to function (Proverbs 6:20).

In the ancient world, fathers had absolute control, they could abuse and even kill their children without any repercussions. We don’t have that challenge in our culture; however, we can be guilty of causing anger and discouragement in our children. Our children are often neglected and fail to receive the love and approval that will cause them to thrive in society. We can easily discourage our children by comparing them to other children or by using sarcasm and ridicule. Conversely, nothing causes a child to thrive like positive encouragement and unconditional love.

The Apostle Paul writes that parents are to, “but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” Ephesians 6:4b.

Contemporary parent counsellors and sociologists teach that we are to be more hands-off in the training of children. We are told to be non-directive and let them, “find their own way”.

Let me assure you, someone has an agenda for your children. Satan and his demons love to find children who have been left to, “find their own way”. Parents, it is our primary responsibility to train and instruct our children in the ways of the Lord. Danny Akin says about parenting, “have fun and talk about Jesus a lot”

We must teach our children that Jesus is Lord, and he is the ultimate and highest good. We must teach our children faith by living it in front of them. Involve our children in the process of praying through important life decisions. Parents, we can talk all day about living under the lordship of Jesus Christ, but unless our children see it in our lives, they will never make it their own.

Sadly, so many young people have left the church the moment they graduated from high school. I believe the primary reason is that they see the church as a social construct or a social club that their parents belong to. They do not see the power of the Gospel on display and the lifestyle of faith that the Bible talks about.

Parents lead your homes by faith and involve your children in the journey.

Unless the Lord builds the house,
    those who build it labor in vain.

Psalm 127:1a

Parenting is only possible with God and it is a daily walk by faith. We need to learn to commit our children to the Lord daily in prayer as we look to Him for grace and wisdom.

June 17, 2018 – Fathers Day

 Father’s Day – Genesis 18:1-19

Fathers-day is a day of mixed emotions and quite often it is a day of pain for those who have lost fathers or who had abusive fathers. I was blessed to have a father who loved his family and who set an example for his family. My father was not perfect, but he was steadfast in his, love for God, and his love for his family.

The Bible has so many examples of good fathers and poor fathers, but one of the best examples we have of a father in the Bible is Abraham. God called this mighty man of faith to be the father of a great nation. Abraham was a man of exceptional faith who had a unique relationship with God. In Genesis 18 we have the account of God speaking to Abraham about the birth of Isaac, and the reaction of Sarah to the good news.

After the declaration of Isaac, the two angels prepare to leave and go to Sodom where they will rescue Lot and his family, but the Lord stays with Abraham. The Lord stays behind and discloses to Abraham what he is about to do in punishing Sodom and Gomorrah. God has a special role for Abraham, to raise up God’s chosen people and to be the father of the nation of Israel which will bless all the nations of the earth.

In verse 19 we read,For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”

In this verse we see four characteristics of a good father that we need to develop in our own lives.

1: A godly father teaches…”that he may command his children…” Genesis 18:19a

The Greatest Command in the Bible is found in Deuteronomy 6:4-5, the Shema is the very first scripture a Hebrew boy would learn, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

But the Scripture doesn’t stop there, verses 6 and 7 continue, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

God tells the Hebrew fathers that they have a responsibility to teach their children to love Him with all their hearts. He tells them how to impress this command on the children by talking about it when you sit down or walk along the road, when you lie down to sleep and when you get up first thing in the morning. The teaching continues all day and every day. Teaching happens all the time, even when we aren’t intending to teach, but right teaching does not happen by accident. You have to teach on purpose the things of the Lord.

Fathers teach your children to love God. This is your first and primary discipleship role as a Christian parent. Our children have a much better chance to grow up to love God, if they see the love for God in our lives (see Proverbs 22:6 and Ephesians 6:4).

2: A Father is to lead his children,For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord…” Genesis 18:19a.

God told Abraham to command his children and his household, the people who were under his sphere of influence. Abraham was to lead his family.

You can lead by rule, or force, but a good father leads primarily by example (Joshua 24:15).

Fathers are you leading your families well? Are we leading those in our sphere of influence to know and love the Lord?

3: A father disciplines his children, “For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord… Genesis 18:19a

 Keeping the way requires discipline, it requires intentional correction in order to maintain a life that walks along the pathway that God has for us.

Discipline is not beating a child into submission, it can be affected without the rod, although sometimes a child may need to feel correction.

But discipline is correction, guidance, keeping the child in the pathway that is right. A fathers’ discipline is always done in love (Hebrews 12:6-11, Proverbs 3:11-12).

True discipline is an act of love. We need to know the difference between discipline and punishment.

Punishment causes rebellion, but Discipline builds relationships.

Punishment is spoken harshly in anger, but Discipline is usually spoken kindly and lovingly.

Punishment produces a bitter, poisonous fruit, but Discipline produces the fruit of acting in the right way, which is righteousness.

4: A father loves his children.

In Matthew 22, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6, when he was asked about the greatest commandment, and he responds by saying what we read in verse 37, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…” and the second, Jesus said is to love your neighbor as yourself.

Fathers, your children need to know that you love them (see 1 Corinthians 13:1). Parents tell your children they are loved and show them that they are loved. Bringing a paycheck home is not loving your children.

God blesses good fathers.

The last part of verse 19 contains a promise, “so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”

Those two little words, “so that”, introduce the promise.

If you want to see all that God has in store for you, follow these four principles in your homes. You will be overwhelmed by the goodness of God and his blessings to you and your family.

It all stems from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. If you don’t know Jesus, that is the place to start. Only then can you teach your children by example to love God and you can introduce them to Jesus, the Way the Truth and the Life.

Sermon – Starting Over part 2 – January 22 2017

startingover-image1Prayer is a discipline and the most incredible privilege we have.

Jesus displayed a disciplined prayer life throughout his time on earth. He would rise early in the morning or retreat from the crowd to be alone in prayer. As His disciples witnessed this, one of them came and asked him to teach them to pray, so Jesus taught them what we know as the Lord’s Prayer in Luke 11. These few lines carry all we need to know about prayer. Jesus begins the prayer with a statement that must have shaken their religious traditions; “Father, hallowed be your name.” We are invited to address God as our heavenly father, but we must never forget that he is the all holy, uncreated creator of the universe, hallowed be His name.

Then in verse 3 the prayer continues; “give us each day our daily bread”. Jesus said that we are to pray to our heavenly father asking him to the provision we need for each day and then trusting him for the day thereafter. Can you imagine your child coming to you and asking for food, and then asking for a weeks’ worth of food so that they can store it up in their room, just in case you don’t happen to be there tomorrow? Jesus encourages us to pray with faith and confidence that our heavenly father knows our every need for each day.

Looking further in chapter 11 and to verse 5, we read another parable that Jesus taught his disciples (read Luke 11:5-8).

As always, Jesus uses an example that the people would clearly follow. The friend who had the unexpected visitor is unashamed in his asking, he persists in his request and Jesus said that because of his shameless audacity the friend will get up and give him what he needs. The key is the boldness of the friend outside the door, he is bold in his ask because he is secure in his relationship with his friend.

This is the way we can come before the throne of God. We can and must be bold in our coming before our Heavenly Father (Read; Ephesians 3:12, Hebrews 4:16, Hebrews 10:19). We can only be bold because of the cross. God opened the way for us to come directly to his throne and he invited us to come boldly before him, without reservation.

As Jesus concludes the short parable, he continues to teach in Luke 11 verse 9.The Greek verb tense literally means;  keep on asking, keep on seeking and keep on knocking. There is an invitation by Jesus to persistence in prayer, but there is also a difference between these three verbs.

Asking is face to face communication; we can come directly, with no intermediary, petitioning God.

Seeking is taking time to find something. Spending time in prayer. Prayer is very often a searching and discovering of the will of God.

Knocking is persistence; not giving up even when we feel our prayers aren’t being heard.

We must keep on asking, keep on seeking and keep on knocking, not because God is hard of hearing but because in the process God is transforming us as we discover the plans and purposes of God.

In our efforts to become people of prayer we can easily become defeated because of the false teaching that everything in the universe is already set, and things cannot be changed (the ancient philosophy of Stoicism).

If things cannot be changed, why pray? But the Bible teaches that we work together with God through our prayers in changing the future of people and nations. The truth is that we have a tremendous responsibility to pray. Prayer changes things and we are called to change the world through prayer. Erwin Lutzer the pastor emeritus of the Moody Church wrote; “The sovereign purposes of God are uniquely connected to the extraordinary and united prayer of God’s people”.

Jesus said in John 15:7; “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” But Jesus doesn’t end there, he goes on to say; “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” Answered prayer is always to the Fathers glory. God delights to answer our prayers because it is for His glory!

Children know more about prayer than we do, Children do not get confused with reasoning and theology, they simply ask their Heavenly Father for what they need. Childlike faith is the foundation of a healthy prayer life.

What are you asking God for specifically today? Do you believe that God is going to give you above and beyond what you are asking for? In your praying, are you praying persistently? If we understood the power and privilege that we have in prayer, our prayer meetings would be full and our times of prayer would be extended.

Developing the Discipline of daily prayer must be a priority for us. Prayer is a privilege bought for us by the blood of Jesus.  Through prayer marriages are healed, through prayer physical bodies are healed, through prayer the lost are saved, through prayer financial needs are met, and so much more.

4 keys to prayer,

  • Pray specifically; What is the miracle that you need from God today?
  • Pray persistently; Keep knocking, keep seeking, keep asking; persistent prayer makes a difference
  • Pray expectantly; expect God to answer your prayer because He delights to answer your prayers.
  • Pray thankfully; Sometimes part of the step of faith is to thank God for his answer even before we see the miracle. Be thankful when God answers your prayers.

Let us become a people of prayer for the glory of God.

Sermon – Starting Over part 1 – January 8 2017

startingover-image1

Beginning the year well.

Every day is an opportunity to start over.

We all have our stories of starting over, maybe it has been after a bankruptcy, the loss of a spouse, a divorce or some other life change. Starting over has a certain appeal to it, leaving behind the past and beginning again. Starting over is not simply a reboot, as when you hit the reboot button on your computer, because after you reboot your computer it may start-up again and work well for a time, but the reality is that the problem caused by the virus or the spyware is still there, and your computer is going to crash again sooner or later.

The same principle applies to our lives, there is no point in simply trying to hit the reset button in our lives if we don’t address the root cause of the problem, the deep down issues that are causing our pain and the lack of victory in our Christian walk.

The writer of Hebrews uses a number of metaphors in chapter 12 pointing to the fact that the Christian life is a race, it is not a life of ease, rather it requires discipline. And the first discipline we have is the discipline of repentance and turning away from sin (Heb 12:1). Confession of sin is a discipline that needs to be done on a regular basis. As the writer to the Hebrews says, sin so easily entangles, and we get the picture that sin is like a creeping vine that wraps around a person’s legs and prevents them from walking and eventually chokes the life out of them. At the outset of the new year, have you spent time, confessing your sins, repenting and recommitting your life to following Jesus?

So as we throw off the sin, verse 1 continues; “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,”. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9, the Christian life is not a meandering in the forest, or a life of ease, it is a race that requires strict discipline. The reason is that there are eternal consequences for your daily life. The decisions you make today about how you spend your time, your money, the people you talk to, the places you go, all of these have eternal consequences.

So how do we run this race? Verse 2 starts with the crucial phrase for every Christian; “fixing our eyes on Jesus”. There is simply no other way to live the Christian life. A great picture we have in the Bible is when Peter walked on the water to Jesus. The moment Peter took his eyes off of Jesus, he began to sink. Taking your eyes off of Jesus is the moment your faith begins to waiver. Who or what are you looking to in life? Where is your faith? Jesus is the only security that we can trust for 2017 and beyond.

Verse 3 goes on; “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”  Jesus is not someone who is aloof and unfamiliar with our suffering and difficulties. The ESV version of the Bible says, “don’t become fainthearted”. In the last year did you feel weary or fainthearted? It is something that we all struggle with at one time or another, but the Bible says that the reason we grow weary and fainthearted is because we take our eyes off of Jesus, we begin to look at the storm clouds on the horizon. We get fainthearted when we look at the uncertain future for our children, we see the number of murders in our city, we look at the unstable financial markets, we get fainthearted because we take our eyes off of Jesus.

Going back to verse 2 again we read; “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith “. Jesus is not only our guide he is also the perfecter of faith. It is all about faith; believing that the blood of Jesus covers our sins, believing that Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us, believing that all our earthly struggles are temporary because this is not our home.

But then Hebrews 12 goes on to talk about discipline (Hebrews 12:5-6). We need to have a clear understanding of the difference between discipline and punishment, there is so much confusion between these two words in the church today.

Punishment is a consequence of sin, whereas Discipline is preventative. If you study your Bible, everytime God punishes someone, there is an eternal consequence for sin. But discipline is a training or a correction in order to fulfill the promise of a better future. Discipline has nothing to do with retribution and everything to do with redemption.

If you have made Jesus Christ Lord of your life, you will experience the discipline of the Lord, simply because he loves you so much that he does not want you to struggle with the same sins day after day, week after week and year after year.

Then there is the fruit of this discipline (see Hebrews 12:11).  Do you want to have peace in your life this year? Allow yourself to be under the discipline of God, don’t resist the corrections that God brings into your life. He is your perfect Heavenly Father and he will only do things in your life that will be for your good. (see also; Jeremiah 29:11, Luke 12:7, Romans 8:28).

 Not only are we disciplined by God, but we are also taught to discipline ourselves. We need to practice disciplines in order to run the race God has planned for us. Over the next few weeks we will be looking at some of these spiritual disciplines that will help us in the running the Christian race in 2017.

Are you ready to commit to run the race that God has for us, throwing off all that hinders you in your personal life?

Run the Race Part 2 February 21, 2016

Run The Race 2 Title.2

Romans 8: 1-17

Using the analogy of a race, a marathon, there is so much that we can look at that applies to the Christian life.

We are called to a new life, a life that is led by the spirit, Paul says is that we need to be led by the Spirit of God, as we run the race that God has for us.

Now human nature is that we make rules, and when we disciple new believers, we inadvertently make rules for them to follow, because of the mistakes we made when we were in their position. Sometimes these guidelines can be made to look like laws. Romans 8:2 says; “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death”. When we run the race that is the Christian life, we do things differently, we are not under the law that leads to condemnation and death, but we are led by the Spirit which leads to life and peace.

Our disciplines and our training for the race are not governed by law, but they are governed by the Spirit and this brings life. Verse 11 tells us that the same Spirit of God that raised Jesus from the dead lives in you and me! Our old way of viewing time, money, family, possessions all changes, and we see things from the perspective of heaven.

And then there is the unbelievable promise in God’s word in verse 14, we are called the children of God! I know our minds cannot grasp that, we have no idea what it means to be adopted into the family of God. We are called children of the creator of the universe. And verse 17 says that as a result of our adoption as God’s children, we receive an inheritance. We have an inheritance simply because we believed that Jesus died for our sins. He did it all, we die to our old way of life and begin to live by the Spirit, and we get to receive an inheritance from God.

But as we read verse 17 a little further we read these words: “if indeed we suffer with Him…” Suffering? That is not the wonderful Christian life the Walmart book aisle speaks about? Going back to the analogy of running a marathon, if any of you have run a long race, you will know that there are periods of suffering that you go through, occasionally you will “hit the wall”, using running terminology, when your tank is empty. But you push through, others encourage you, and you reach the finish line. Immediately the suffering becomes something you joke about because it is so small in comparison to the joy of the finish line. Verse 18 sums it up; “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us..”

Suffering and discipline are a part of the Christian race, but we must not shy away from them, they are building us and growing us to be more like Christ.

Let’s look at four Christian Disciplines that will help us run the race that is set before us:

  1. Reading and meditating on God’s word

This Bible is contains your heavenly Father’s love letter to you– it is your daily bread – it is your sword of the spirit – it is the truth that gives light to your path.

It is no ordinary collection of pages and ink. It is supernatural in its authoring, it is supernatural in its reading and it is supernatural in its application (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

If you are led by the Spirit, you will need the sword of the spirit.

Do we daily discipline ourselves to read, study, meditate on the word of God?

  1. Prayer

Prayer is a discipline, it is hard work, when we don’t discipline ourselves to spend time alone with God we limp along in the Christian race, missing out on so much that God has for us. Discipline yourself to pray, it will transform your life and the race God has called you to.

  1. Tithing

Tithing is something we seldom view as a discipline, but the way we handle our finances is either worship or it is idolatry. Either God is more important than your money, or your money is more important than God in your life.

We don’t tithe because God needs our money, he already has all things. No, we tithe because it is worship. Tithing is an act of worship, because many times we look at our income and our expenses and wonder how we can afford to give 1/10 of our income to the Lords work. Well if the Bible is correct, and we know it is, how can we afford not to give to the Lord, knowing that he is our provider and that he will take care of all of our needs (see 2 Corinthians 9: 6-8). You will have all you need to do the will of God for your life.

  1. Evangelism

Evangelism is a spiritual discipline that we are all called to participate in. Evangelism that is led by the Spirit is a joy and a blessing, but we make it out to be a fearful chore.

Evangelism that is fruitful and effective is evangelism that is led by the Holy Spirit. Daily discipline ourselves to pray: “Lord bring someone into my path today who needs a touch from heaven, let me be used by you, almighty God, to bring a miracle to someone’s life” That is the discipline, being available, daily being led by the Spirit to look for the person that God wants to touch through your life story (see 2 Peter 3:15).

Notice two aspects in this verse: firstly – it starts with “revere Christ as Lord”. If Jesus Christ is truly Lord of your life, it will be evident to those around you and your life will be a testimony for Jesus.

Secondly: “always be prepared to explain the reason for your hope” – because, if you are living by the Spirit, people are going to want to know why you are different.

Remember not everyone is gifted as an evangelist, but we are all called the spiritual discipline of sharing the story that God has given us and the reason for our hope.

Remember that the Christian life is a race, it is not a stroll or a wandering along the pathway, there is a very definite end goal. And to keep us running diligently we need to develop Spiritual disciplines, Prayer, Reading God’s Word, Tithing and Evangelism are just a few of them.

But why do we do them?

Because they are good for us? Or because we become more fruitful and lead others to Christ? Yes, but there is a greater reason.

We develop Christian disciplines, because our lives will bring Glory to God.

Run the Race part 1 February 14, 2016

Run The Race 1 Title.2

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Running is such a great analogy for Christianity, and this is a race that we can all run in and are all called to be running in. Being a Christian is hard work, it is a challenge it requires discipline, it must consume you as you give your whole life over to the Lordship of Christ.

The early church in Corinth had a large number of wealthy people, as a result their personal Christian life was characterized by lack of commitment and ease. Something very much like the modern Western church. We don’t like to hear about discipline and sacrifice.

In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul says that he is a slave to the Gospel. Paul is consumed with telling people about Jesus.

Why? Because he encountered the living God – Saul was on the road to Damascus to persecute the church when Jesus interrupted his life and transformed him from a persecutor of the faith to a proclaimer of the Gospel message. When Ananias is called to go and pray for Saul, the angel of the Lord says in Acts 9:16: “for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.” And what follows in the ministry of Paul is a theme of suffering, challenge, persecution and trials. He doesn’t run from them, in fact he encourages other believers to embrace the way of suffering and trials (2 Timothy 2:1-10; Philippians 3:13-14; Galatians 2:2; Colossians 2:1; 2 Timothy 4:7).

When we are saved, we turn away from our life before Christ. As Paul writes in Galatians 2:20, we have been crucified with Christ and no longer live, but we have been born again. In many ways, becoming a Christian is easy, Jesus paid the price; all we have to do is to die. Die to our old way of life and allow the Holy Spirit to transform us and change our worldview. Seeing things and living according to the Word of God. The problem with dying to our old self is that we struggle to stay dead. Our old temptations come back, we are frequently reminded by Satan of our past failures and we are tempted to go back to our old ways. The hard work of being a Christian is staying dead!

Paul is calling Christians to a life of discipline. It is hard work, it requires sacrifice. We have to constantly be focused on the goal. The Goal is the prize that Paul talks about, eternal life and the reward that we will receive when we are all judged by Jesus when he comes again, but more about that in two weeks’ time.

We need to notice is that the Christian life is a race not a stroll, it is a hard fought battle not a meandering in the forest. Using the analogy of a race, there is so much that we can look at that applies to the Christian life. In any walk of life, in any sphere of society, nothing is achieved without dedication and discipline, and being a Christian, the stakes are much much higher, we are focused on eternity. The eternal destiny of our own selves and that of those around us.

Running a marathon takes weeks of training and preparation and carefully watching your diet. When an athlete is preparing for the Olympics he/she will go into seclusion and prepare when no one is watching. As a Christian, you don’t have the luxury of stopping the world when it gets crazy and taking a time out. You have to train as you go, prepare as you go. But that place of seclusion, that place of being alone is absolutely vital to our Christian lives. We cannot survive without a regular daily time spent with the Lord in prayer.

Which leads to the next aspect of the marathon race, it would be impossible to run a marathon without Nutrition. As a Christian our refueling is the Word of God, we need a regular daily intake of the word of God. Read the Bible itself, allowing the Holy Spirit to speak to us. Paul writing to the Ephesians says the Bible is the sword of the spirit, it is our only weapon to be used against Satan and his schemes. We need to know where our nutrition comes from and we need to feed on that daily.

Another wonderful part of running a marathon is the people you run with. There is a comradery that develops with others as you encourage one another through tough times and push one another to achieve what we would normally not be able to do. It is much the same in any Christian’s life, we need one another. It is essential and healthy to have time alone with God, but it is also essential to have time together, in community, as we run the race together.

And then finally, some of you may be thinking that this message does not apply to you. You may be elderly and not able to get around as freely as when you were young. You might not have as much energy as the younger folk. But this message is for you too. Everyone’s race is different, your pace may be different, but our destination is the same. Your race may be that of a bedridden intercessor, praying daily for our missionaries, for the lost, for our evangelism efforts. Older folk are not cheering from the sidelines, you are in the race with us all until Jesus calls us home or comes again.

Where are you on that race today?

Maybe you began the race many years ago, but you stalled out and started meandering? Maybe someone or something cut in on you (Galatians 5:7), some challenge, some tragedy, some loss. But Jesus is calling you to get back up and continue to run the race, pressing on to the finish line.

The Christian life is filled with unexplainable joy and peace, and we get to experience the miracles of God on a daily basis. But, at times it is also hard, but we must never take our eyes off of the prize – the day when we get to see Jesus face to face.