From The Heart

Publish date: 08/29/2000

Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.  2 Corinthians 11:23-28 NIV

Paul was a man who was committed to God and committed to preaching the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Before he was so radically saved, he persecuted the Christians and even had them killed. After he was saved, he endured incredible hardships and persecutions himself, even to the point of death for the sake of the Gospel, and yet he never gave up. He persisted, keeping his eyes on the finish line and on the prize. He was committed until the very end. There were no other options for him – he was determined not to give up - he ran the race to win the prize.

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11-13 NIV

The secret of Paul’s resilience and persistence was that he did not allow his circumstances to influence his attitude. He stayed the same no matter what he went through because he kept his eyes on Jesus. Most people are all upset when things don’t go their way - they either have a pity party or they get mad with God. When things go well - they think that they are the bee’s knees! Either way they take their eyes off of Jesus. They are like a see-saw – wobbling all over the place – so busy looking at their circumstances that they forget their heavenly mission and they get nothing done. Paul knew what he was called to do and he knew who called him. God was on his side and he was not afraid of men or devils. Jesus Christ was his strength and he was secure in Him. Paul did not allow anything to sway him or to stop him.

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. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. Hebrews 12:1-4 NIV

It is important to be both well trained and determined. Starting a race is not the hard part. Finishing the race is the hard part. There are rough roads, the weather is contrary, and your body gets thirsty and tired and sore. It is even harder if your critics are harassing you and persecuting you along the way. You have to fix your eyes on Jesus and be filled with His strength and power, allowing the Holy Spirit to refresh you as you go. There is a crown of righteousness waiting for those who fight the good fight and finish the race!

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 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 9:24-25 NIV

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day-- and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.  2 Timothy 4:7-8 NIV