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Faith Workout 1808.1 | Competitors Do Hard Things

READ

Acts 4:13-31

 

REFLECT

On May 25, 1961 President John F. Kennedy requested over $7 billion dollars from congress to pursue a mission to the moon.  He aimed to complete this mission within the decade of the 1960’s. Even though he was assassinated two years later his dream was accomplished on July 20, 1969.  A year after his request, he inspired the country with a speech given at Rice University in Houston, TX.

In this speech, President Kennedy said, “We choose to go to the moon and do the other things not because they are easy but because they are hard.”  Competitors choose to do hard things.

 

DISCUSS

How has your commitment to fitness helped you understand the value of doing hard things?

Peter and John were true competitors for the Lord.  They understood that following Jesus often includes “hard things.”  After being instructed to stop sharing their faith in Jesus Christ they chose to trust God with a powerful statement in front of opposition:

“Whether it’s right in the sight of God for us to listen to you rather than to God, you decide; for we are unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

Human beings tend to avoid challenges.  We tend to look for the easy way out of adversity.  In fact, we are even prone to think if things don’t go smoothly we must have chosen the wrong way.  But, these men understood that following Jesus is the way that includes hard things.

When Peter and John were released they reunited with their friends and spent time in worship together.  The most amazing part of this story is what they prayed for. “And now, Lord, consider their threats, and grant that Your servants may speak Your message with complete boldness.”  They did not pray for safety or comfort. They prayed for boldness in the middle of adversity.

What about us?  Do we seek the easy road or the hard way?  Are we willing to follow Jesus when it includes hard things?  This is the life of a competitor.

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

 

SKILL WORK

Take a moment to reflect, journal, and pray.

  1. Identify which areas of life you have avoided challenges.
  2. Pray to God for boldness to confront these challenges.
  3. Set a specific goal this week that will force you to take the next step in confronting one of these challenges.
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Faith Workout 1807.2 | Competitors Use Their Position for a Bigger Purpose

READ

Nehemiah 1:1-4

REFLECT

Today’s Faith Workout is adapted from a sermon one of our original founding team members, Jeff Schlenz, gave to his Church. It’s an endurance Faith Workout, so longer than usual, but worth it.

The Bible speaks to all of us because it is a message from God for all of us – it is as much for the simple man who has never seen an iPhone as it is for the programmer in Silicon Valley who is working on the next iPhone. It is for the desert nomad and the astronaut, the rice farmer and the executive, the father as well as his son. It is for the woman from the first century and for the woman of the next century, (should we still be around), because there is only one God and this is His one message to man.

We aren’t just reading a textbook or a novel; this is a book about God, and about you, and what’s going on between you and God.  So hear the stories, grasp the details, but also ask – what does this have to do with me today.

Sometimes the answer is going to be immediately obvious – a very clear piece of instruction telling you “Do this” or “Don’t do that” or explaining something that you need to know.  At other times it might be an example you ought to follow or avoid, or an illustration of the character of God. Sometimes it might just be a bunch of data that moves the storyline forward through history closer to the cross.  

But always ask the question, what does this section of Scripture teach me about God and what does it teach me about me? Keep those kinds of questions in the back of your mind as you read your Bible and you’ll be amazed at how much this ancient book has to say to you.

With all of that in mind, let’s talk about Nehemiah, a man I think many of us will be able to relate to.  He is a Jew, but he isn’t living in Israel, which we’ll explain in just a minute. Instead, he’s a servant to Artaxerxes, the king of the Persian Empire – if you want to think about it this way – Nehemiah is a GS employee in the federal government of his day.  He’s living in the capital city, working in a government building, a long way away from the place he would call home. This is his story.

 

DISCUSSION

1. Nehemiah’s identity was as a Child of God.

1 The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah.

It came to pass in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year (of the reign of Artaxerxes – ca 445BC), as I was in Shushan the citadel,

2 that Hanani one of my brethren came with men from Judah;

and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped, who had survived the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem.

Nehemiah was a stranger in a foreign land. That said, he had this comfortable position in the government.  He lived in the palace. He ate good food and wore nice clothes. You know, life wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t bad either.  

And I think we could all understand if Nehemiah started to focus a little on himself, on his position, on his career, on getting promoted.  We could understand if he got caught up in all the gossip, and rumors, and intrigue. In short, if he lost sight of what was going on outside the capital and the court.

There are plenty of people who just get caught up in the system – they move from position to position, from appointment to think-tank and back depending on who is in power at the time, they retire from a military position and move straight into a civilian position doing the same job.  I’m not saying any of that is inherently wrong, all I’m saying is, it creates a temptation to live in this little world of our organization, or our profession, or our cause, and lose sight of what’s going on elsewhere.

But Nehemiah didn’t succumb to that temptation, he never lost sight of his roots so to speak.  You see, it wasn’t just that he cared about people outside the capital; he also recognized that his primary identity was with those people outside the capital.  He wasn’t a local. In spite of his position in the government, he recognized he was still a stranger in a strange land.  He was a Jew and his heart was with the Jews.

Can I encourage you today that if you are a Christian, you are also a stranger in a strange land?  This is not your home. No matter how comfortable you are here, no matter how far you have advanced here, no matter what position or rank or title you have achieved, this is not your primary identity.  

God has given you a place and a title among the governments and organizations of men whether they be local, state, national or international, but there will be times when you will need to consciously remind yourself that you are a citizen of Heaven before you are a citizen of any country on earth.

And yet, by the same token, if you feel like you lack any real role or position or influence – remember that your status as a child of God is far more significant than anything you could ever attain on earth.  There is both a Psalm (84:10) and a modern worship song based on that Psalm, that speak of the value of simply being a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord: “better is one day in [God’s] courts than a thousand elsewhere.”

So stay focused on the kingdom of God and your place in it even as you serve in the kingdoms of men.  Don’t let the things of this earth keep you from what God may want to do. Nehemiah is about to receive news that will change everything – his position in the government is about to take a massive back seat to his position in God’s kingdom because although things are going great in the citadel where he’s serving the king, the same thing isn’t true back in Jerusalem, that city he still cares about.

 

2. Nehemiah had the Heart of God.

3 And they said to me, “The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire.”

4 So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.

That news hits Nehemiah like a ton of bricks.  Now remember, there was no CNN, no Twitter, no Facebook, no SnapChat – there was no way to get instant news updates on what was going on a thousand miles away.  But these men have just returned, they saw it with their own eyes. Jerusalem, the holy city, is still in a sad state.

It’s been 140 years and nothing has really been improved and with the walls broken down, it’s like the city is a house with all the doors and windows busted out.  There’s no safety, no security, no sense of “home.”

God gripped his heart and burdened him for the city.  He wept, he mourned, he fasted, and he prayed. Let me ask, has God ever given you that kind of a burden for a person, a people, a place, or a project?   

I believe that He wants to.  He wants us to have His heart.  He wants us to be moved by the things that move Him.  And that’s what’s happening here. Nehemiah is weeping over Jerusalem just like the prophets who foretold the fall of the city if it didn’t repent and turn to God long ago before it was captured.  And like Jesus would a few centuries later. God has a heart for the city of Jerusalem, and it’s being reflected in Nehemiah. And because of that connection, that similarity of concern between God and Nehemiah, God is going to use this man to do something great in that city.

Brothers and sisters, this same God is after your heart this morning as well.  I believe that He wants to show you things that will make you sit down and weep, and mourn, and fast and pray.  God wants to show you people and places and projects where there is a desperate need for Him. He wants to equip you to meet those needs, not in your own strength, but in His.  And God wants to use you to do something about those needs.

I absolutely guarantee you, there is someone or something or somewhere in need around you.  And maybe God has allowed you to be the one to see it or hear about it because He wants to use you to do something.  Just ask Him to open your eyes, and open your ears to hear the report. Be willing to let Him grab your attention and be willing to say yes to whatever He brings your way.  

 

SKILL WORK

Take a moment to reflect and journal.

  1. What does this section of Scripture teach me about God and what does it teach me about me?  
  2. Think about the place where you are. How does God want to use YOU to make a difference in the lives of people around you? Did He put you in your city, in your neighborhood, at your school or job or gym, to make a difference for Him at such a time as this?
  3. Spend some time praying over the answers to these questions. ““God help me see the world the way you see it.  Help me feel the way You feel. Help me value the things You value.  God, keep me from getting caught up with life here, and help me see how I can make an impact for you.”
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Faith Workout 1807.1 | The Unbroken Commitment of a Competitor

READ

Genesis 22:1-19

REFLECT

Unbroken commitment is a mark of a true competitor.  We are familiar with this term in the fitness community.  Performing a series of pullups in an unbroken fashion means we do not come off the pullup bar until the entire set is complete.  How does a competitor for Christ live with unbroken commitment?

DISCUSSION

  1. What is the most difficult exercise for you to perform 10 repetitions unbroken?
  2. What does it take for a competitor to go unbroken when each repetition gets extremely difficult?

Abraham was a true competitor of the faith.  His relationship with God is a great example of unbroken commitment.  God challenged Abraham to sacrifice what was most valuable to him – his child.  As we reflect on this story we can see at least three reasons why Abraham stayed unbroken in his commitment to God:

  1. Abraham listened with unbroken commitment.  Abraham did not pick and choose when to listen to God’s voice.  When God spoke he simply said, “Here I am.” (Genesis 22:1)  Abraham listened to God faithfully because he kept his heart in a constant state of worship by reflecting on the faithfulness of God. (Genesis 12:7-8; 13:4,18; 21:33)  Do we listen to God’s Word with the same unbroken commitment?
  2. Abraham prepared with unbroken commitment.  When Abraham heard God’s instruction he immediately took steps of preparation.  He got up early in the morning, took two of his servants, and prepared the wood for the offering.  This unbroken commitment continued when he arrived at his destination. As Abraham ascended the mountain with his son he took the sacrificial knife as he prepared for the unthinkable.  Does our preparation demonstrate an unbroken commitment to God?
  3. Abraham believed with unbroken commitment.  When it was time for Abraham to ascend the mountain we see the heart behind his obedience as he spoke to his servants.  He said, “The boy and I will go over there to worship; then we’ll come back to you.” (Genesis 22:5)  This is the reason a competitor can remain in unbroken commitment to God.  He believes God always keeps His promises.

We have opportunity every day to listen to the promises of God through Scripture.  When we hear His instruction we can make preparations to obey God no matter what He tells us to do.  And the reason we take these steps of obedience is because we believe He is always seeking our good. How can you know this?  The apostle Paul reflected on this same thought.

“Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous. And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.” (Romans 4:20-25)

SKILL WORK

  1. Set a timer for 5 minutes and list everything God has given you.
  2. Spend time in prayer and praise thanking God for His blessings.
  3. Reflect on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  What similarities do you see in the story of Abraham?
  4. Commit this month to God as an opportunity to listen, prepare, and believe with unbroken commitment.
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The Nutritional Strategy of a Competitor

READ

Luke 5:33-39

REFLECT

Competitors crave improved performance.  As we grow in this aim we become more intentional with our food choices.  When our performance demands increased food intake we add more calories, macronutrients, and make better choices.  But many of us have also found fasting to help us perform better as athletes. Intermittent fasting has become a valued trend in the athletic community with its attested benefits.  But how does a competitor for Christ approach this discipline? Should we fast? What information does Scripture provide on this subject?

DISCUSSION

  1. What nutritional strategies have you found to be helpful in your athletic performance?
  2. How have you incorporated fasting into your nutritional strategy?

In today’s reading, Jesus is asked directly about His approach to fasting.  His response provides His followers with guidance on this subject.

“Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.”

We learn at least 3 important principles about fasting from Jesus’ response:

  1. Followers of Jesus practice fasting as a discipline.  Jesus says His disciples “will fast.”  In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus describes the appropriate attitude with which we are to fast.  As He gives these directions, He simply says, “When you fast…”  He does not give us a specific program or a prescribed method, but Jesus does expect His disciples to fast as part of the Christian life.
  2. Followers of Jesus practice fasting when they experience loss and they crave the Lord’s presence.  The metaphor Jesus uses to illustrate His relationship with His followers is described as the wedding feast.  In Jewish culture this was a celebratory time when the bridal party would enjoy life along with the bride and groom for an entire week.  But, the friends would naturally feel separation and sadness when the experience ended. Scripture reminds us life provides a balance of loss and gain.

“There is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance”

The nutritional strategy of followers of Jesus is formed based upon their relationship with Him.  When our hunger for the Lord rises to new levels we may forget to eat, or even choose to intentionally avoid eating.

Fasting is intentionally, or unintentionally, going without food because of a craving for the presence of God and His work through our lives.

  1. Followers of Jesus celebrate when the Lord is present.  Since the Christian life is described as a wedding feast it must be designed to be filled with joy.  When the Lord’s mission is being carried out through our lives, we have reason to celebrate. This is what we have been made for!  God designed food and drink as one way to celebrate His creation.

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

Competitors for Christ do not fast simply because it aids in increasing athletic performance.  Like everything else in life, the purpose of fasting is to praise God for what He has accomplished through Christ.  Competitors crave the presence and power of God in their lives so much, they are compelled to empty themselves of everything else to experience more of Him.  So, when you fast, do so because of your relationship with Him.

Why do we fast?  Because of Jesus.  

Why do we eat?  Because of Jesus.

Why do we train?  Because of Jesus.

“Everything was created through Him and for Him…He holds all creation together…So He is first in everything.”

SKILL WORK

  1. How have you felt distant from the Lord and His power in your life?
  2. How could prayer and fasting help you draw nearer to Him?
  3. How have you experienced the presence and power of God in your life?
  4. How could you celebrate His closeness through eating and training?
  5. Commit 1 Corinthians 10:31 to memory.

 

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The Motivation of a Competitor’s Discipline

AthleteWord:  “The competitor’s greatest joy does not come from scoring points, but from being on the winning team”

 

READ

Luke 10:1-20

REFLECT

Competitors train with discipline.  In order to experience success they execute a plan that involves daily disciplines leading them toward their goals.  But, what about the days when we lose motivation? Where does it come from? What keeps a competitor moving toward the goal?

DISCUSSION

  1. What has helped you stay motivated to train?
  2. What could be missing when your motivation to train diminishes?

In today’s reading Jesus sends His followers into the world on a mission.  They have trained for this mission by watching their leader, but this mission is a continuation of their training.  This is evident when Jesus’ followers return to review what occurred on the mission field. They are so excited to have experienced success.  But Jesus reminds them where their motivation must be rooted in order to remain disciplined. Jesus says, “Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Jesus reminds His followers that lasting motivation does not come from counting the fruits of our discipline but from remembering the roots of our discipline.

What does this story teach us about the motivation of discipline?

  1. Discipline is motivated by the hope of success.  We commit to training because we believe it will help us reach our goals.  Jesus sends His followers into the mission field with hope of great success.  He says, “The harvest is plentiful.”  Overflowing, abundant success is the expectation of the competitor’s discipline.
  2. Discipline is motivated by progress.  Competitors train because they believe they will see progress.  One more rep or one more pound on the bar is what a competitor hopes to see through his discipline.  Jesus said, “The workers are few.”  This motivates us to pray for opportunity to train more workers in the kingdom of God, but it also implies work is necessary to achieve God’s mission.  Scripture teaches our labor is not the main reason we experience progress. Everything is a gift from God.

“It is the Lord’s blessing that brings wealth, and no hard work can add to it.”

Though this is true God designed effort to be the avenue He uses to bless us with success.  This is why He calls the results of our discipline “fruit.”  Progress motivates the competitor’s discipline, so they stay committed to hard work.

  1. Discipline remains motivated by identity, not by performance.  The joy that keeps someone motivated must come from joy rooted in that which can never be removed.  If we are motivated by our own performance, or the applause of others, our joy will fade. Jesus wants us to experience permanent joy so we can remain disciplined.  This only comes from that which can never be lost.

When we commit to following Jesus He writes our names in the book of life.  The only One who can erase it is the same One who wrote it down.

Be disciplined.  Be disciplined to win.  But let your discipline be rooted in the identity Christ has given you through His grace.

SKILL WORK

  1. Identify the areas of your life where you need to be more disciplined.
  2. How has progress served as a motivator for your discipline?
  3. How has your lack of progress, or lack of affirmation from others, affected your motivation?
  4. Has your name been written in the book of life?  If so, praise God for His grace. If not – receive His gift today!  Contact us if you are ready to take the next steps of obedience: chip@FAITHRXD.org