August 12, 2016 Brethren Letter
Tonight, I’m sending some excerpts from an article I wrote a few years ago. With the 2016 Summer Olympics now being held in Brazil, I thought this article would be appropriate, especially in light of its spiritual context.
As always, please have a wonderful Sabbath!
Your Brother in Christ,
Recently, my wife and I were watching one of the many televised sporting events covered during the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, China. That particular evening, the women’s 100-meter hurdle event was broadcast. After watching this very exciting race (a race that had an unexpected ending), we discussed the spiritual parallel both of us could see in our minds, as we thought about the physical race we had just viewed. One of the U.S. athletes, Lori “Lolo” Jones, had been strongly expected to win the gold medal for this event, but instead, it didn’t happen that way.
When the race began, Lori started out POWERFULLY from her lane-four position. As she approached each and every hurdle in her path, this strong athlete pushed increasingly forward in a momentum that was impressive. Then, the unexpected happened! As she approached the ninth hurdle, her foot clipped it. She stumbled, and immediately began to lose her stride. The momentum she had maintained throughout the previous eight hurdles quickly began to fade, and sadly for her, she didn’t win the gold medal. Following the race, Lori commented on her performance and said, “I felt the gold around me … You hit a hurdle about twice a year where it affects your race. It’s just a shame it happened on the biggest race of my life.”
Even though Lori did not win the Olympic gold medal (she placed seventh), there remains a spiritual race for her in her future that is far more important to run, a spiritual race we in the Church of God are in right now.
The apostle Paul tells us in I Corinthians 9:24-27, “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.”
In any Olympic race, there’s always a first, second and third place winner receiving a gold, silver, or bronze medal. With the SPIRITUAL race we’re in, EVERYONE who has been put into the race is a WINNER in God’s sight, as long as they remain loyal to Him, faithful to His TRUTH, His way of life, and His Commandments (John 14:15, Revelation 17:14, II Thessalonians 2:13-15, Matthew 24:13).
Today, we live in very sobering, prophetic times. This world is in serious trouble. The end of this age, along with Satan’s rule, will come to a CLOSE. If we honestly observe events around us, we will continue to see an ever-increasing intensity which Christ described as “signs” (Matthew 24:3-14). Christ tells us in Luke 21:36 to WATCH and PRAY. “Watch therefore and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
We continue to see WAR in this world. The Middle-East remains a continuous hotbed. Crippling weather conditions also plague various nations. Severe drought persists in Australia [now occurring in America], a country suffering their most severe drought in 100 years. In the Northern Hemisphere, at the time of this writing, a major and potentially catastrophic hurricane, Gustav, is heading toward the U.S. Gulf Coast States of Louisiana and Mississippi. All of these world troubles will continue.
Satan the Devil is shown to be “The prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2), always seeking to devour every true Christian, just as a lion would devour his prey (I Peter 5:8). Satan has a no-holds-barred policy in his quest to destroy everything God stands for. Satan can never have what is promised to us. He will use any means possible to prevent you and me from reaching our human potential. He desires that we will stumble and fall out of the SPIRITUAL race which we’re running. Since his never-ending DESIRE is to destroy everything God stands for, we must remain on our knees, asking God to continually provide protection for us. When our hearts are right, and our prayers are humble, God will answer. Sometimes God does allow a certain amount of testing for our character development, but He also makes plain in Hebrews 13:5, “…I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Epaphras, a servant of Christ spoken of in Colossians 4:12, was apparently well-known for laboring fervently in his prayers for the saints of that time. We, too, should have an equal fervency in our prayers for one another, just as he did. “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).
In my opening paragraphs, I wrote about an Olympic race my wife and I recently saw on television. For Lori “Lolo” Jones, the physical race she was in seemed to her to be the “biggest” race of her life. In reality, the spiritual “race” we’re in, is by far The BIGGEST race to run. (I Corinthians 9:24-25, Hebrews 12:1). Through fasting and prayer, we will grow ever closer to God, and increase our forward momentum spiritually. No matter what “hurdles” we face, we CAN continue our stride and press forward toward our goal, serving in the FAMILY OF GOD, FOREVER!
As the apostle Paul said, “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Jesus Christ.”