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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: Purpose With Power

The purpose in a man's heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.

READ

Ephesians 3

REFLECT

“Why am I here?”  This is one of three most important questions we will ever ask.  We ask because we desire purpose.  We want our lives to matter.  We were designed to ask this question.  But even when we address this question accurately, we must ask two other questions to find power to truly live on purpose.

Question #1“Where did I come from?”  Purpose is empowered when we point to a Purposer.  Design demands a Designer, buildings point to builders, and the Bible proclaims “the Builder of all things is God” (Hebrews 3:4)  When we connect our purpose to the Creator we are empowered to truly live.

Question #2“Where am I going?”  Purpose is empowered when see eternal meaning in what we do.  This reminds us of the main reason people quit training.  When they can't see the long-term benefits they lose motivation.  We desire to know what we do matters now, but we can't be sure it matters if it's not guaranteed to last.

This is why the Bible points to an eternal power behind our purpose when it proclaims, “All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.  So I run with purpose in every step.” (1 Corinthians 9:25)

We find all three questions answered when we look to Jesus.  Our purpose in all things is to follow Jesus.  All things were made through Him and for Him.  Jesus paved the way for our eternal home through His resurrection, and He invites us to join Him.  He is the power to live our purpose forever.

AthleteWords OF THE DAY

But you are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness.  Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses. – 1 Timothy 6:11-12

I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.  Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him.” – Ephesians 3:16-17

 

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Faith Workout: The WHY of Training

Work as though you are working for the Lord

READ

Colossians 3:23

REFLECT

After the Games it's common to consider this time of year the beginning of a new training year.  It's time to set goals and pursue new achievements in the sport of fitness.  It is wise to begin the goal-setting process by evaluating our purpose behind training.  What are we really aiming for?  What is the “why” behind our training?

There can be many reasons to train, but most fall into two categories.  They are either an aim for better form or better function.  Form is the way we look.  It could also include the form of our performance.  This is simply training so we can train more.

The other reason to train is function.  This is when the aim of our fitness is not accomplished within the gym.  Our work in the gym helps us accomplish another goal.  Our training can help us be more effective in our job, in our role as a parent, or in our ability to serve the world around us.

The Christian's purpose for everything we do is the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:13).  Everything becomes a “thank-you” for what God has done through His Son on the cross.  How can we bring glory to God through our training?

Training for the glory of God is not simply saying a prayer prior to the workout, but prayer is certainly included.  Training for the glory of God is using physical fitness to help us bring attention to our Creator.  To train for the glory of God is to snatch up every bit of function from training and use it in the work God has called us to.  If we see our training as a vehicle for becoming more of the person God created us to be, then our “why” in training is the glory of God.

WHY DO YOU TRAIN?

AthleteWords OF THE DAY

“So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31

“That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty.  God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.” – Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

“Let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” – Matthew 5:16