Rules Matter! Run to Win the Prize

Rules matter, guiding every area of life. Competitors must run according to the rules in order to win a prize. In far too many competitions, someone becomes exposed for breaking the rules in an attempt to reach the top of the podium. Why is twisting and bending any or all regulations so common — not just in athletics but in every aspect of life? Whether in sports, politics, business, or even ministry, people willingly risk disqualification or loss of reputation to attain perceived goals.

“Isn’t it obvious that all runners on the racetrack keep on running to win, but only one receives the victor’s prize? Yet each one of you must run the race to be victorious. A true athlete will be disciplined in every respect, practicing constant self-control in order to win a laurel wreath that quickly withers. But we run our race to win a victor’s crown that will last forever. For that reason, I don’t run just for exercise or box like one throwing aimless punches, but I train like a champion athlete. I subdue my body and get it under my control, so that after preaching the good news to others I myself won’t be disqualified.”
1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Here, Paul lays out strategic guidelines for success for virtually any area of life. Rules matter!

Know Your Lane

Whether in baseball, motor sports, swimming or track events, each participant runs within an assigned position or designated lane. Lanes ensure safety for the competitors and fairness in the competition.

What lane has God called you to run in? Is it within business or finance? Maybe your lane focuses on caring for and loving your family or community well. Is it shepherding a church? Or perhaps teaching or writing? Are you running in your designated lane?

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Romans 8:28

God calls each one of us according to His perfect purpose and design for us. He equips and empowers us to fulfill specific roles. When we know and intentionally run in the lane God has called us to, our lives become exciting and fulfilled.

Whether you a professional dragster or an elementary school sprinter, knowing your lane determines your starting position and the course ahead! If you are unsure which position God has called you to run, ask Him for clarity and allow Him to show you.

Rules matter. The most important rule is staying within the lane God provides.

“Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules.”
2 Timothy 2:5

Discipline and Self-Control

We will all start the race at some point, but too few will complete it. Perhaps, a lack of self-discipline or self-control hinders us from staying the course. Whatever the goal or purpose, these qualities will help successfully carry us from start to finish.

A good start doesn’t guarantee a great finish! Sacrifice marks the road to victory. Just as rules matter, so does character.

“. . . we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope.”
Romans 5:3

Though not a contest, entering God’s “race” comes with a physicaly, emotionaly, and often financial cost. However as we run our race, we experience many benefits. God brings out the best in us, deepening our character.

Titus lists qualifying characteristics of those who lead the pack:

“Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.”
Titus 1:8

These attributes form the personal character needed for a great finish to any race we begin.

Oh, my fellow runners, let’s not slow our pace or deviate from our course. May we remain faithful to run with perseverance, character, and hope.

Champion Others

The race we run resembles a relay or a marathon more than a solo sprint. Others run with and beside us. Still more will follow in our footsteps.

As we devote ourselves to run our race, may we champion others — encouraging, training, and developing those co-laboring with us.

We have opportunity daily to choose whether to wear the mantle of encourager or that of a critic. May any encouragement be sincere and all critqueing be given with humility, inspiring listeners to press beyond their expectations.

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Matthew 7:1-2

May we refuse to look over our shoulders, judging others for running in a different manner than we would. Criticism inevitably causes us to lose personal momentum, veer off track, or even break godly guidelines of good stewardship of gifts and resources. Rules matter!

What strategies for success can we pass on? How can we help someone else meet and surpass their goals? What tools, resources, or influence can we share?

May we humbly and willingly both receive and pass on the baton of encouragement, creating a synergy of wins.

Keep Your Eye on the Prize

God rewards those who diligently seek Him.

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: 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.”
Philippians 3:12-14

Through the days, weeks, and years of training, a competitor strains toward the goal, the highest prize possible— the top mark, the highest rank.

Every earthly award will eventually break or lose its luster. In a few short weeks or years, it will fade into insignificance.

As Christians, we run or compete, not for human recognition, but to finish the course God has set before us. Everything will pale in comparison to hearing the King of Glory say,

” . . . Well done, good and faithful servant! . . .”
Matthew 25:23

Let us not become distracted. Rules matter! Staying the course matters! Character matters! Passing the baton and keeping focus matters, too. But maintaining sight of eternity guides us along a straight and purposeful path “heavenward.”

Run Well

Maybe you feel like you have tripped up too badly to continue. Today, I encourage you to restart and refocus. No matter how tragic your fall, with God’s help, restart. Move back into your lane and step-by-step aim for the finish line.

None of us know how much time we have left to run. Today, God offers us a fresh start and a new opportunity to gain ground. He is the God of second chances.

Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity . . . “
Ephesians 5:15-16

You can do it! God is on your side, while forerunners in heaven and on earth cheer you on!

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Get A Hold of This! Philippians 3:12 – Apprehended by God

I am beginning to view Philippians 3 from a new perspective. To be apprehended by God should not be taken lightly or treated frivolously. Jesus Christ has “taken hold of” my life and determines my course of action.

I work part time as a guard for the local police force. In my job, I have the privilege of seeing mankind both at its worst and its best. Where darkness dwells, the Light shines all the more brightly. I only get called to work when someone has been “apprehended,”

arrested and brought into custody,
usually handcuffed and sometimes shackled,
locked behind bars,
removed from freedom 
and detained until further notice.

Apprehended

In the New International Bible Version, Philippians 3:12 states, “Christ Jesus took hold of me.” This week an acquaintance pointed out a different, more accurate, translation:

“Not as though I have already attained,
either were already perfect;
but I follow after, if indeed I may apprehend
that for which also I am
apprehended of Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 3:12

Somehow, to me, the word “apprehend” sounds much more forceful than “took hold.” It makes me sit up and take notice, almost like when my Dad wanted to get my attention about a serious matter. I think, that’s the point! That word “apprehend” means to “take with force, aggressively attaining, and seizing with eagerness.”

Paul compares it to pursuing the ultimate prize in public sports — the winner’s ribbon attained only through eager, strenuous exertion. It may define how God has “apprehended” me, but does it accurately represent how I am “apprehending” what God has called me to? 

“In Christ we can never say “can’t”
to what He called us to do.
We can say that we “will not” or “did not,”
but we can never say we “can not.”
He has given us His strength.”
– Rick Joyner

It is all too easy to get caught up in the daily swirl of activity. But that busyness can distract us from the main thing, the ultimate purpose, for our being apprehended by God.

Apprehend

Connie Inglis of Inscribe Christians Writers provided the inspiration for this blog. She encouraged us as writers to press into our call to blog, journal, publish and compose.

“Brothers and sisters,
I do not consider myself yet
to have taken hold of it.
But one thing I do:
Forgetting what is behind
and straining toward what is ahead,”
Philippians 3:13

I wholeheartedly agree with Paul. I have not yet “taken hold of it.” As a matter of fact, there are times when I am downright resistant to the process of “seizing, straining and taking by force.” At times I even prefer to run in the opposite direction from the call of God on my life. 

Only weeks ago, my Heavenly Father grabbed me again but the proverbial cuff of the neck and in no uncertain terms reminded me, “What I have called you to, is impossible for you. You CANNOT do it! But I CAN! Will you let me?” 

Somewhere in the process, I erroneously began to think the call of God was somehow mine — up to me to fulfill. I was cowering under the misplaced weight of responsibility. I needed the reminder that it was and is never about me. It is and always will be about Him. He alone can fulfill His destiny for my life.

He does ask for my willingness — my “Yes, Lord.” 

So before God set my feet on the ground again, I did just that. Honestly, I am grateful for the attitude adjustment. Thankfully, He loves enough to provide it. Now I can get back to the “one thing” He has called me to — share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Being apprehended by God cannot be taken lightly.

One Thing

It impossible to safely operate a vehicle while continuously looking in the rear view mirror. The distraction will ultimate lead to a collision in some way, shape or form. By looking ahead, one’s focus remains on the “one thing” that God has called us each to do. Know your destination. The destination will determine your route. 

“…But one thing I do:
Forgetting what is behind
and straining toward what is ahead,”
Philippians 3:13

Our goal is to “apprehend that for which also I am apprehended.” I am apprehended by God to share biblical truth in any way possible: writing, speaking, teaching; painting or illustrating.  What is your one thing? There is a God call upon your life, What is it? Finance, education, medicine, ministry, or whatever? What have you been apprehended by God to do?

Oswald Chambers wrote the following in “My Utmost For His Highest” (June 28). Wherever there is a blank, insert the one thing God has called you to.

“Never choose to be a _______;
but when once God has put His call on you,
woe be to you if you turn
to the right hand or to the left.
We are not here to ________ for God
because we have chosen to do so,
but because God has apprehended us.
There is never any thought of,
“Oh, well, I am not fitted for this.”
What you are to ________ is determined by God,
not by your own natural inclinations…
when it comes to the call to _______,
there must be the agonizing grip
of God’s hand on you,
your life is in the grip of God
for that one thing.”

Pressing On

Once we sense the seriousness of being apprehended by God and clearly see the purpose of His calling, we press into Him, toward that  goal. 

“I press on toward the goal
to win the prize for which
God has called me
heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 3:14

For this one thing, we press forward  We reach toward the goal. We stretch to apprehend (violently taking and possessing) the call of God on our lives. Not for us, our glory or benefit, but for His.

God has no favorites. Every individual is precious to Him. But like in the parable of the talents (Matt 25:14-30), some people have been given little responsibility while others have been given much. We don’t look over our shoulder at the portion of others. We simply honour God with what we have, using it to expand His Kingdom.

What God has for you is good! What He has for me is equally good! When you stand on the heavenly podium to receive your prize, I will applaud your accomplishments. So will multitudes of others. 

“Therefore, since we are surrounded
by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everything that hinders
and the sin that so easily entangles.
And let us run with perseverance
the race marked out for us.”
Hebrews 12:1

Run, stretch, reach and pursue! Your prize awaits! You are an earth changer, a kingdom builder, apprehended by God. A paradox exists within the apprehending. Our agreement to God’s call ultimately sets us on a path of freedom. Here alone will we discover complete satisfaction and an exhilarating life more fulfilling than we could ever have imagined.

The call of God is the key to unlocking multiple doors of opportunity, advancement and adventure. But it also comes with a price — being apprehended by God.