A Dead Heat

 

Today I continue my series of running devotions for My TEA CUPP for Athletes & Runners Book & Journal. I pray these will be a blessing to you and you will be encouraged to PRESS ON! Hope you are inspired as you exercise your faith!

But many who are first will be last, and the last first. Matthew 19:30 (NKJV)

Have you heard of a dead heat?  In the sports world, it’s when two or more athletes cross the finish line at exactly the same time, making determining the winner a challenging task. 

There have been many famous dead heats over the years, from high school sports to the Olympics Games.  Just Google “Dead Heat finishes in track and field”  and you will find a proliferation of examples.   One cool finish I found was of the 100 m final race at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia.  If you’d like to watch it, check this out…A Dead Heat.

But why do I bring this up today?  Because recently I was reading Jesus’ Parable of the Laborers in Matthew 20. Jesus told the story of a landowner who goes out early one morning to hire workers for his field.  They agree on a wage for the day and get to work.  At 9 a.m. the landowner goes out to hire more workers for the day for the same wages.  At noon and 3 p.m. he again hires workers for the same wages.  And at 5 p.m. he hires the last group.  When evening comes, all the workers come for their pay and receive exactly the same wage, one denarius. 

Of course, the workers who began early in the day grumble about this. Author John MacArthur in his study Bible explains this amazing story, how the landowner choose to be generous, just as God is compassionate and merciful on His people.  In response to verse 20:16 “So the last will be first, and the first last…” MacArthur explains, “In other words, everyone finishes in a dead heat.”  As Christians, we will all finish in a dead heat when we get to heaven, the thief on the cross, Rev. Billy Graham, the baby born yesterday and you! 

The crowds (angels) in the stadium will cheer and glorify God as crowns are awarded to every finisher.  And if it’s anything like the one time I ran a marathon, we will collapse into the arms of Jesus in thanksgiving. 

 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away. 1 Peter 5:4 (NKJV)

The Runner’s TEA CUPP:  Read the Parable of the Laborers in Matthew 20:1-16.  Celebrate that we will all cross the finish line together in a dead heat.  Who can you tell about Jesus today, so they can join you in crossing the finish line?

Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. 2 Timothy 4:8 (NKJV)

Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.  Revelation 3:11 (NKJV)

For I know that my Redeemer lives,
And He shall stand at last on the earth;
And after my skin is destroyed, this I know,
That in my flesh I shall see God,
Whom I shall see for myself,
And my eyes shall behold, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!  Job 19:25-27 (NKJV)

Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

 

Disqualified!

Today I continue my series of running devotions for My TEA CUPP for Athletes & Runners Book & Journal. I pray these will be a blessing to you and you will be encouraged to PRESS ON! Hope you are inspired as you exercise your faith!

But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:27 (NKJV)


I remember the day like it was yesterday. It was my first big indoor track meet of my junior year of high school.  It was the first time I had qualified to run the Drake Indoor meet in Des Moines, Iowa.  I was so excited to run the race, though running distance runs on an indoor track can be tedious as you go around and around multiple times.  

It must have been a two mile race, because that was the longest distance for girls at the time.  The track was half the size of the outdoor track, making it 220 yards, or 200 meters.  Instead or running 8 times around the outdoor track, we would be running 16 times around the indoor track to make two miles (doesn’t sound so far if you’ve run the 5K or 10K on a track!).  

To make things easier on the judges, the race officials decided that if anyone was lapped, they would be knocked out of the race, otherwise they wouldn’t be able to monitor how many laps people had left to go.  With only a 200 meter track, that meant many girls could be lapped before the winner finished her two miles.  

The lead runner was so fast, it didn’t take her long to be 200 meters ahead of the pack. I was one of those girls who was lapped and disqualified from the race.  In tears I left the track, so sad to be out of the race I truly wanted to finish.  I was heartbroken, watching the other girls finish the race. The girl who lapped me was a star senior runner from Cedar Falls, Iowa, who only a few years later would become my friend and college teammate, pointing me to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.

Besides being lapped, there are many other ways an athlete may become disqualified… too many false starts, taking drugs, yelling at the line judges, etc.  But while in athletics we can try again the next year to follow all the rules of competition, in our spiritual lives we never want to be disqualified.  

If I say, “My foot slips,”
Your mercy, O Lord, will hold me up. Psalm 94:18 (NKVJ)

What could disqualify us from receiving our crowns in heaven?  Not believing in Jesus (John 3:18).  Not allowing the Holy Spirit to do its perfect work in us (Mark 3:9, Luke 12:10).  Falling into temptation and lust and pride without repenting, when God has called us to serve Him (1 Peter 1:16).  Oh dear athlete, let us live our Christian lives even more carefully than we do as runners, that we may never be disqualified.

And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. Romans 8:10 (NKJV)

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified. 2 Corinthians 13:5-6 (NKJV)

The Runner’s TEA CUPP: Have you been knocked out of the race?  Dear athlete, let Jesus pick you up!  He is coming again to judge the living and the dead (Acts 10:42) Turn to Him for help while there is still time.  Confess your sins, let Him wash you clean and put you back on your feet.  Memorize 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. Start running for Him again.

 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NKJV)

Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects;
Therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty.  Job 5:17 (NKJV)

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Psalm 51:11-12 (NKJV)

Now I pray to God that you do no evil, not that we should appear approved, but that you should do what is honorable, though we may seem disqualified. 2 Corinthians 13:7 (NKJV)

Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. 

Side-lined

Today I continue my series of running devotions for My TEA CUPP for Athletes & Runners Book & Journal. I pray these will be a blessing to you and you will be encouraged to PRESS ON! Hope you are inspired as you exercise your faith!

You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? Galatians 5:7 (NKJV)

It happens to every athlete at one time or another, an injury side-lines us. But at the time, it seems like it will last forever.

I remember my first major injury was spring of my senior year of high school. I had developed a stress fracture in my shin from running indoor track and could not compete for the outdoor season. Instead of working out with my teammates every afternoon, I was in the swimming pool “running” in the deep end. I thought it was the end of the world, thinking it was my last season, not knowing I would compete in college. But God healed me and allowed me to walk on as a college cross country runner, and there I met Jesus.

Over the years there have many other times of being side-lined, from mononucleosis, to miscarriages, to gallbladder surgery…and currently back and leg pain. But Jesus carries us through it all. And as Job said so aptly to his wife, “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10) Shall we not accept the victory of completing a marathon, as well as the injuries?

What can we do during this time of injury? Pray! Rest! Seek the Lord! Heal! Trust in Him! Encourage others! Look upward to Jesus and outward to others, rather than inward to our own troubles.

And what about our spiritual lives? Do we ever get side-lined in our faith? Satan the side-liner is always trying to discourage us and get us to take our eyes off Jesus. The enemy tells us we’re no good. The enemy tells us to give up. The enemy tells us he has something better. But he doesn’t. God has made us good and loves us (John 16:27, Romans 8:1). God calls us to run with perseverance (Hebrews 12:1-2). God has the very best, a mansion for us in heaven (John 14). Oh friend, keep trusting Jesus, keep pressing on, keep holding all God’s promises.

In life we may become side-lined temporarily, as God rebukes and chastens us for falling short of His glory.  But He only does this because He loves us and wants to help us be more like Him and better able to serve Him.

As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Revelation 3:19 (NKJV)

So dear friends, do not be discouraged if you are side-lined.  We serve a merciful God.  Allow Jesus to use this time to bring you closer to Him and His throne of grace.  I wrote a verse based on Romans 8:37-39 for you..

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither losing nor winning, nor shinsplints nor stress fractures nor pulled hamstrings, nor false starts nor dropped batons, nor sickness nor health, nor fans nor foes, nor 100m nor 10K, nor high jump bar nor long jump pit, nor any other athletic event or distress, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord!

The Runner’s TEA CUPP: Have you been side-lined, either in your running or in your Christian walk? Dear friend, don’t be discouraged. Get your rest, do your physical therapy, pray, repent, seek the Lord and He will get you back on track!

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1 (NKJV)

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39 (NKJV)

Let not the foot of pride come against me,
And let not the hand of the wicked drive me away.
Psalm 36:11

He does not delight in the strength of the horse;
He takes no pleasure in the legs of a man.
The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him,
In those who hope in His mercy. Psalm 147:10-11 (NKJV)

Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. 

Training for the Competition

Today I continue my series of running devotions for My TEA CUPP for Athletes & Runners Book & Journal. I pray these will be a blessing to you and you will be encouraged to PRESS ON! Hope you are inspired as you exercise your faith!

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. 1 Corinthians 9:25 (NIV)

Training. Strict Training. Those are tough words. Tough athletes know what this means: Getting up early each morning to do a workout, even before the sun comes up. Eating healthy meals and avoiding sweets. Skipping late night events so we have a good night’s sleep and are ready to do it all again the next day. Over and over again. Persevering. Never giving up. It’s not the race that’s the hard part, it’s the training.

That’s how an athlete trains, but what about a Christian? How do we train to be Christians? The verse above from 1 Corinthians 9:25 tells us we do the same thing. We go into strict training to receive a crown that will last forever in heaven.

What does this Christian training look like? Much the same as an athlete…Strict training.

Getting up early each morning to seek the Lord, spending time in God’s Word, reading our Bibles and praying even before the sun comes up. Then when it’s light we can go out to exercise.

I rise before the dawning of the morning,
And cry for help;
I hope in Your word.
Psalm 119:47 (NKJV)

Living a healthy lifestyle, giving thanks to God for the food He provides.

be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience. Titus 2:2 (NKJV)

Skipping activities that don’t glorify the Lord in favor of ones that do…time with family, worshiping our Lord, serving others.

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)

Getting a good night’s sleep so we can do it all again the next day…

I will both lie down in peace, and sleep;
For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.
Psalm 4:8 (NKJV)

And asking others to pray for us...

Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you. 2 Thessalonians 3:1 (NKJV)

The Runner’s TEA CUPP: How are you doing in your athletic training? How are you doing in your Christian training? Pick one area to work on this week and keep pressing on each day to glorify Jesus, the Son of God. You can do it, dear friend! He is helping you!

I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)

And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 1 Corinthians 9:25 (NKJV)

The name of the Lord is a strong tower;
The righteous run to it and are safe.
Proverbs 18:10 (NKJV)

Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

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