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Ministry Development, Personal Growth

What are your big rocks?

This is a question we frequently ask each other around Cede Sports. The question is based on an illustration I heard several years ago. Rather than explain it, why don’t you watch this 3 minute video which shows it.

The professor uses golf balls instead of big rocks. If he were asking the question, it would be “What are your golf balls?”

The lesson we emphasize is, “We have to put the big rocks in first.” Therefore, we need to know know what our big rocks are and make room for them in our lives. When we do that, there is a lot of room for more, and, as the video emphasizes, we live happier, more fulfilled lives.

So let me ask you, “What are your big rocks?” The professor identified some. His list is not what is important. Neither is my list. The question is “What are YOUR big rocks? What are the things God has pointed out to you that are your priority?”

Once you identify these, the next question is “Do you make space for these in your life first?”

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Ministry Development, Personal Growth

Good stuff here from Trevin Wax. Below is an excerpt:
 Cat-In-The-Hat-239x300

2. Beware of the Ping

In The Accidental Creative, Todd Henry warns against the Ping:

“The Ping is that little sensation that occasionally prompts me to check my e-mail or my social media accounts. It’s the impulse to mindlessly surf news sites instead of doing something productive. And as my number of options grew (turns out there is an app for that), the pull of the Ping became ever more powerful. The Pint wants to be my pastor. It wants to own me.”

 

Here’s what happens when you let the Ping have control:

“It’s more and more difficult for me to be fully in one place, to focus on what’s in front of me. I’m losing the capacity to think deeply about whatever I’m experiencing because I tend to gravitate to whatever feeds the Ping.”

I’m not advising you to get rid of technology. But surely we can set parameters at home and at work as to how much we’ll allow ourselves to be driven by instant email, texts, tweets, and Facebook messages.

You don’t need your iPhone at the dinner table. You really don’t.

3. Recognize the exponential increase of energy needed for new tasks.

It’s the “little things” that add up. I learned this the hard way. Even the short amount of time needed for certain responsibilities can create a disproportionate drain on your energy.

When an opportunity or a request comes your way, never examine it by itself. Always look at it in light of all your other responsibilities. Every commitment you make affects the other commitments you make.

 

 

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Ministry Development, Personal Growth

Via Michael Hyatt:

  1. The temptation of priorities. Weak leaders put themselves last. They mistakenly think this is more spiritual. As I wrote in another post, it is a dangerous temptation that has left many leaders cynical and burned out.But successful leaders face the opposite temptation. They put themselves first. In fact, some are outright narcissists, putting themselves at the center of their own universe. The correct position, I think, is second. Strong leaders put God first and themselves second. They know that they can’t meet the needs of others unless they attend to themselves.
  2. The temptation of entitlement. Weak leaders become convinced that they deserve something different. They lose any sense of delight or gratitude. They come to believe what others tell them: they are special and thus deserve preferential treatment.Successful leaders are alert to this temptation and war against it. It can sneak up when they least expect it. So they work hard to thank the people closest to them, knowing that their position is a privilege and likely temporary.
  3. The temptation of resentment. Weak leaders take offense at every slight. They are hyper-sensitive, reading into every situation more than is warranted. In the “movie” about them, there has to be drama.The reality is that offenses are inevitable. Jesus Himself said, “offenses must come” (Matthew 18:7). In fact, I would go so far as to say that God often sends offenses—for our good and for our sanctification. Strong leaders thus overlook offenses, knowing that this is the true mark of maturity and character (see Proverbs 19:11).
  4. The temptation of popularity. We live in a world that places a high value on fame and “personal branding.” We seem to have a list for everything, including the top 100 largest churches and the 100 fastest growing churches. It is difficult for me to imagine the early church—the church of the martyrs—compiling these kinds of lists.In reality, Jesus was a publicists’ nightmare. He eschewed fame. He miraculously healed people and then ordered them to keep it to themselves, telling no one about their experience (see, for example, Luke 5:12–14). Strong leaders are quick to give others the credit and avoid the limelight. They would rather be effective, even if they labor in obscurity.
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Ministry Development, Personal Growth

By Jason Miller

Having a plan is good. Organization is good. Being prepared is good. But…is it possible to “plan God out”? There are some who will read this and answer no, that there is no way to have anything that God is not a part of. Okay…before we get into being so heavenly minded that you’re no earthly good, let me say that I am not claiming to be able to do anything apart from God. What I am saying is that in ministry we can get so focused on the plan that we rob ourselves of doing ministry.

This may not be a frustration of yours, but it is for me. We spend so much time “planning” to do ministry that we often miss the opportunity for ministry. Is it because we’re too scared? Is it because we don’t believe in ourselves? Is it because we don’t believe God will do what He says? The thing that frustrates me the most is when I have meeting after meeting after meeting about how to do ministry, instead of just getting out there and doing ministry! I understand that my mindset of “while you’re planning how to do ministry I’ll be out doing ministry…you can tell me how your plan went later” frustrates some. I also understand that there is a balance and one needs the other to be excellent, but I fear that we spend most of our time constructing this great plan for how to do ministry while the people just need to be ministered to.  When Jesus told the disciples to follow Him, did they go back and consult their co-workers? Did they schedule meetings to decide whether this was the best thing to do? Did they come up with a plan for how it would be most effective? I know all of this sounds silly, yet this is what we do!

Jesus Christ tells us to reach people for Him. We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our strength, and we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Those are the two greatest commandments. Ministry is not hard, yet we complicate it. Here’s the catch…God’s will for our lives is for us to simply obey Him. If we are walking with Him, He will direct whatever we set out to do because we will be doing what He wants us to.

So how does this apply to sports ministry?

All the same things apply. Sports Ministry is not complicated. The reason I say that is because if sports are not complicated and ministry is not complicated then sports ministry can’t be complicated. Sports is a universal language that could be the only thing that we know that can overcome the obstacles that are race, sex, religion, and social status. We complicate sports by creating all these rules that attempt to accommodate everyone because, after all, it is ministry right? We don’t want things to be too hard or to cause anyone to feel bad (God forbid we say the “w” word…win), so we work ourselves tired so that we can “minister” to families. That will never work. We all know that you can’t please everyone. What happens is that in our attempt to “minister” we are actually impacting families negatively. Sports are simple. People already know sports. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.

We complicate ministry by doing exactly what was mentioned above. By recreating the sport, we inevitably create a “christians only” league, where there’s no fighting, cursing, anger, hatred, etc., etc. It bugs me to no end to hear people call our leagues, a “church league”. I know most of the people are not referring to what I just mentioned, but that is sort of the mindset of many Christians as we do ministry. Ministry is simple. Ministry is using whatever to love on people in order to usher them into the Kingdom of God.  Jesus gave us a darn good model. Again, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.

So, can we “plan God out”? The answer has to be yes. If we focus so much of our time on planning to do ministry that we miss out on the opportunity to minister, then aren’t we telling God that He has to wait on us? I challenge all of us who are doing ministry to pay close attention to Proverbs 16:9 – In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps (NIV). The Message states it this way – We plan the way we want to live, but only God makes us able to live it.

 

 

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Gospel Centricity, Personal Growth

Batman. Superman. William Wallace. Indiana Jones.
 Batman

All great heroes brought to life in the movies! (When you think of a hero, who comes to your mind?)

I longed to be one of those heroes as a child. In fourth grade, one of my recurrent daydreams was that I would rescue my class from a dangerous criminal. As he entered the classroom, I would swoop down from the top of the lockers in the room and knock him down and out. Then, as I stood triumphant over him, I would bask in the cheers for their “hero”.

I gave up on that dream as I ran face to face with my inadequacies and brokenness. No longer would I be the hero, could I step in and do what heroes do, but, none the less, I longed for a hero to step in – SAVE  THE DAY! Many times as I felt needy, helpless, and even hopeless, when I looked beneath those emotions, there I found this longing for a hero.

I don’t think I am alone. Neither does Hollywood. That is why every great popular movie has, as one of its core elements, a hero or heroes to come and save the day!

I bring this up to do two things.

First of all, I bring it up for you to acknowledge this longing in your heart. It is there, maybe buried deep below the disappointments, false hopes, and broken dreams, but it there.

I also bring it up to point that longing to the Greatest Hero of all time – Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ is many things – Savior, Son of God, Son of Man, Messiah, Prince of Peace. He is also The Great Hero.

He stepped into The Great Story – the Gospel – and saved the day. Creation was corrupt. We were broken and disconnected – from each other and God. Into this dire situation he came.

–       As King – to restore (fix the brokenness around us)

–       As the New Israel – to empower (fix the brokenness within us)

–       As the Word become Flesh – to connect (with the God we left so long ago but need so much for today)

As such, he did what all heroes do – SAVED the DAY.  To hear more about these ideas, check out Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge for a fresh look at this hero.

In the meantime, when you think of Jesus, will you start to think of him as the Hero you have always longed for, we have always longed for?  He saved the day and has been saving it since.

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The “Minnesota Miracle.”  Alabama’s overtime victory over Georgia. Georgia’s overtime win over Oklahoma. New England’s late drive to defeat Jacksonville. The Eagles defense holding off the Falcons on their final drive.   


These are just a few of the recent games that illustrate this idea – “It could have gone either way.”


In each of those games, there were great plays that led to those victories. A great catch here. An acrobatic defensive play there. Without those, the results probably would have been completely different.  


“It could have gone either way.” It is one of the things I love about sports.  


In that reality, we tend to focus on those great plays. Understandably. Those plays draw our attention and admiration for all that it takes to make them a possibility – like hard work, discipline, and teamwork.  


However, I want to shift the focus of our attention. Rather than just those great plays, I want you to consider for a moment the number of little things that led to the necessity of such great plays.  


For instance, If the Saints make their third down conversion in the previous series and score a touchdown, how would that have impacted the Vikings on the final play calling and the Saints on their defense? Would there still have been a “Minnesota Miracle”? If Alabama true freshman Tua Tagovailoa doesn’t take the 16 yard sack on the previous play, would the same play that resulted in the 41-yard score been called? Would Alabama have still won their fifth National Championship under Nick Saban? If certain penalties in a number of these games hadn’t been missed, would the dramatic events have even been a possibility?


What I am hoping to point out is that it is not just the great plays that make a difference. It is also a lot of little things, some seemingly insignificant at the time, that push the games toward such a conclusion.  


I bring this up because, in several of these games, players who made those great plays brought God into the equation.  


Here is Vikings receiver Tyler Diggs on the ‘Minnesota Miracle,’ “I give everything to God,” Stefon Diggs told Fox Sports. He thanked his coaches and teammates for giving him the opportunity, then pointed to God, “God did the rest, He put me here. And I’m just thankful.” Afterwards, Case Keenum, the quarterback who threw the pass, said, “God is so good.”

https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/entertainment/2018/january/god-is-so-good-meet-the-backup-qb-who-led-the-vikings-to-a-stunning-win-and-still-puts-jesus-first


Here is Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa on the overtime victory:


In this interview, Tua says, “You know, with God all things are possible! That’s what happened tonight.”


If you watched the Georgia/Oklahoma game, Georgia quarterback, Jake Fromm, said basically the same thing in his interview after the game. So did Eagles quarterback, Nick Foles, after their win over the Falcons.


Now consider these two ideas together: 

The game could have gone either way based on not just big plays but on many “little things,” God being credited for the victory – either implied or specifically stated.


When you listen to these players and consider the teeter-totter way that these games could have gone, how do you factor God’s involvement in the game? Do you see God orchestrating the events for the winners as some of these players imply or do you chalk it up to pure coincidence, just a random series of events?


I bring this up not so much to settle the question of “Does God care who wins?” but to ask you to consider the question more deeply. (The answer is more important than you think.)


As I have considered the question and asked others to do the same, I have found troubling implications to the “No” answer and to the “Yes” answer, ones that either trivialize sports or God.  


I also bring this up because I have found this to be a very personal issue, not just something theoretical to be argued about in bars or on sports talk shows. To illustrate this point, ask the question, “Does God care who wins?” at your next lunch or breakfast. If your experience is like mine, the conversation will quickly get very lively.  


If you are tracking with me and wrestle with this question, maybe even unsure of your answer to the question, “Does God care who wins?” or want to examine more carefully the troubling implications of either of the “No” or “Yes” answer, I would point you to a book I wrote last summer titled Does God Care Who Wins?


Here are a couple of reactions from readers:


“I received the book yesterday and read it cover to cover last night! Thank you so much, I loved it…Appreciated the blend of story-telling, scripture, deep theological truth, specific quotes and stories from athletes and practical implications. Really well done and a really helpful resource that I can see lots of uses for.”  

Collegiate Soccer Coach


“I finished “Does God Care Who Wins?” on the plane Sunday… could not put it down…..Seriously, you did an amazing job addressing a question asked by millions but not answered my many, and if so, not with the thought and care you did….Going to be passing this book along to family and friends for the rest of my life… so glad God had you write this.”

Businessman and Serious Golfer


“I have been an athlete and a NAIA collegiate volleyball coach who regularly and intentionally led a counter-cultural, positive, collegiate Christian sports team for 13 years. I have naively answered that question “Does God Care Who Wins?” with this answer: ‘God doesn’t care who wins. He cares about the athletes, coaches, referees and spectators at the game. He cares how we experience the game and the relationships we continue to build with those we play with, but he doesn’t impact the outcome of a game.’ 
I held that general view (with minor alterations over the years) until I read Bob’s book.  I must acknowledge that the insights Bob shared about our God, and how He cares about us, and he therefore cares about what we care about, dramatically changed my own answer to the question raised in his book title.  What a paradigm shift!”

College Professor – Health & Exercise Science


I ask you again to consider the questions, “If the game could have gone either way, what role does God play in the outcome?  Does he actually care who wins?” 



For more – Does God Care Who Wins? Is available on Amazon – http://amzn.to/2zTvb68

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This is a question we often ask sports ministers in our coaching sessions with them. We usually frame it something like this – “If we are talking three years from now and we were to ask you, ‘How is it going?’ If you would then reply something like ‘God has done amazing things in our ministry in the last three years?’ We would then ask, “What has happened?’

 

At this point, we listen and furiously record the answers.   We have learned that, when we ask the question, what most often comes out are the things God has placed on these sports ministers’ hearts. In most cases, these ideas have lain dormant waiting for the opportunity to arise. When that is true, it doesn’t take much to dislodge them into the spoken word.

 

It is a beautiful experience to be a part of.

 

Recently, I had such a conversation with a sports minister at a church in the Midwest of the United States. Here is what I heard:

 

“God has taught us how to love one another – a rich deep real love for each other so that this place is a place where broken, disenfranchised, and tired people come and feel like they belong, where they are loved and cared for. Because of that, God has brought a steady stream of these broken people to our volleyball, futsal and basketball initiatives where they have felt embraced and experienced real life change. Because of this work of God, our gym has gained a reputation as a gym unlike any other in the care and concern we have for the people who come.”

 

“Also, God has made this a place where coaches, parents, and athletes have rejected a compartmentalized view of life and understood how their faith and sports/fitness integrate so that now they now live their whole life under the banner of the glory of God. These people are not only experiencing this themselves but they are also sharing this with others, imparting this perspective to others – disciples making disciples in our leagues and classes.”

 

“Lastly, this movement hasn’t stayed here but has spilled out into our community as we have seen God raise up coaches and players that have gone into schools and community recreation and lived out that love and integration, influencing the entire sports community here.”

 

It took us a little bit of time to get to this, but, as I read these three paragraphs back to him, it moved both of us as we actually started to envision this and think God might possibly do something like what was described there.

 

Have you ever thought of this question? Whether you are in ministry vocationally or not, if you haven’t, give it some mental energy. In fact, sit with someone you trust and ask them to listen to your answers and give feedback.

 

Who knows? This exercise just might be God’s way of prying loose what he has placed in your heart for you to pursue!

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Today is one of those days.

 

I don’t know about you but for me there are some days when the brokenness of the world, the loss of goodness all around me, eclipses the redemption God is authoring through His Son. When that happens, I wrestle with discouragement and feel overwhelmed with the prospects of dealing with that loss.

 

On the eve of Thanksgiving in this country, on the day when I am reminded to be thankful, I awake struggling.  

 

As I wrestle through this, I remember the Apostle Paul and his experience with this wrestling. In his letter to the Corinthians, that we call 2 Corinthians, there are two themes Paul tries to drive home – Comfort in Struggle, Strength in Weakness. With the first theme, several times in this letter, he honestly and vulnerably tells the reader of those struggles.

 

One of those places is in chapter 6 where he says – As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger…through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” (verses 3-10)

 

In the middle of these verses, Paul says he is “sorrowful but always rejoicing.” When I first ran across this passage, I was intrigued by the combination of these two ideas. Paul had sorrow but not only sorrow. He rejoiced. But he didn’t just rejoice. He rejoices in the midst of his sorrow.

 

Sorrow and joy. A strange combination but one Paul says co-existed in his life. This reminder encouraged me this morning.

 

It helped me move beyond the experience of the brokenness and my discouragement. It reminded me that my experience of brokenness is not all that defines my life. Alongside that brokenness I do see the redemption Jesus Christ is bringing.

 

As I thought about this, I was reminded of

 

  • The redemption I see taking place through the movement of God in and through local churches using sports, rec, and fitness.
  • The local church leaders who see sports, rec, and fitness not as irrelevant or as an end but as a key means to glorify God.
  • The local churches who strive to glorify God by using sports, rec, and fitness as a bridge to connect and a laboratory to transform – both people and the realm of sports, rec, and fitness.
  • The local churches who even this year for the first time have picked up the tool of sports, rec, or fitness toward these ends.
  • The sports, rec, and fitness ministers who embrace gospel centricity as critical for keeping their efforts focused on this movement and ministry and avoiding the tendency toward just doing activity and running programs.
  • Those involved in the REACHgathering and especially the Foundational Partners who have this movement on their hearts.
  • The International Sports Coalition (ISC) and all who are a part of it for all their efforts to fuel this movement around the world
  • Those I have the privilege of knowing and, in some cases, journeying with who stir me with their creativity, their courage, and their determination, who in many cases have made great sacrifices to be a part of this movement but think it nothing and “count everything as loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus”

 

Jesus is making all things new. This list reminds me of that reality and enables me to be like Paul and be “sorrowful but always rejoicing.”

 

How about you? What about the movement causes you to rejoice amidst the sorrows of your life or the world around you?

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“Of course, we pray for victory.”

 

This response came in answer to a series of questions from Christianity Today to the Houston Astros Spanish-speaking Chaplain, Juan Jesus Alaniz. The article ran during the 2017 World Series between the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers that the Astros eventually won in the 7th game.

 

After that particular comment, the interviewer asked Juan directly, “So you pray that they’ll win?” He responded, “Oh yeah. We’re more than conquerors in Christ Jesus.”

 

“Should we pray to win?” Just as with Juan, this is a common question asked of Sports Chaplains, athletes and coaches who declare themselves Christians, or anyone who is in Sports Ministry in general. I want to take a stab at this question and, in doing so, reflect on what can happen if we don’t pray and what can happen if we do.

 

What if we don’t pray for wins?

Any athlete or coach is competing because he or she wants to win. That person may or may not want to win at all costs, but the heart desire of competitors is to be honored for their skill. This reality is shown by our longing for trophies like the one that went to the Astros.

 

With this in mind, if we don’t pray for the win, I would question how well we are acknowledging the desires of our heart. I would wonder just how honest we are being with ourselves or with God about what we really want.

 

If we do acknowledge this desire to win but don’t pray, we may be closing the door on the possibility through this prayer for God’s transforming power to change our hearts. This is significant. The Story of Redemption tells us we were made for glory and honor but lost that glory when we turned from God. Since that day, our hearts have been searching for glory, apart from God, seen so clearly in the realm of sports and our thirst for championships. Even when a person turns to God in response to his offer to redeem and restore them to glory in Christ, we still struggle with establishing this glory on our own.

 

Our prayer for winning may be an expression of that struggle. We may find through our prayer just how badly we want to win. Our prayer may actually expose the self-centered nature of our desire to win and of our request. This realization could open us to our need for turning away from that self-centeredness to God and the pursuit of his will rather than our own.

 

If we don’t pray, we may miss the opportunity for this needed transformation.

 

This exposing nature of prayer is one of the reasons the Scriptures has verses like the following:

 

“Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication,

let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6

Notice, the writer speaks about WHAT to pray. “In everything” includes the game that is about to be played.

 

He also speaks about HOW to pray. “By prayer and supplication” implies a worshipful asking. Worshipful would include coming to God believing he hears our prayers and cares about our prayers. Asking would, in that faith, offer what is on our hearts to him, including our desire to win.

 

If you don’t pray, let me ask you, “Why don’t you pray to win?”

 

I have asked others this question and their answers typically boil down to two:

  • “God doesn’t care who wins anyway so why pray.”
  • “It is too risky to open up that desire. God may deny, even squash it.”

 

If you resonate with the first answer, I would ask to think about how you know he doesn’t care and point you to a larger treatise of this subject in Chapter 2 of the book Does God Care Who Wins?

 

If you resonate with the second answer, I would ask you to consider your view of God in light of the above verse and the one immediately following it:

 

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,

will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

 

When the writer mentions the “peace of God” and guarding your “hearts and minds in Christ Jesus,” he wants us to see the heart of God for prayer. Prayer is designed to bring us face to face with God, with the result being peace and deepened connection, not fear and distance. Not praying about winning removes us from that audience and the transformational nature of it.

 

What if we do pray for wins?

If we pray for the win and win, we ought to be free to embrace the win but careful not to let it establish something about our identity. God doesn’t answer the winners’ prayers because they are more deserving of the affirmative answer than the other team’s prayer. God answers these prayers because the wins and the losses are a part of his will, his kingdom coming to “earth as it is heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)

 

With this in mind, winners are free to acknowledge God’s sovereignty over all of creation, including the game, and accept His will with grace and humility embracing and enjoying the glory that comes from winning. At the same time, they should also acknowledge the win as undeserved and just a taste, an echo, of the real glory promised us in Christ, received at the consummation of all things. (Colossians 1:27 – Christ in you the hope of glory.)

 

This perspective is important because of the temptation for the winners to let the win establish something about their identity or the quality of their prayers. If we are honest, we can admit an awareness of that temptation and even our succumbing to it by thinking we prayed better or are better when we win. This reality lies deep in our hearts even though it is wrong and is a great distortion of the gospel of Jesus Christ (For a further exposition of this idea, see Chapter 3 of the book Does God Care Who Wins?)

 

The opposite side of this reality is just as prevalent. If we pray and lose, we can easily think God didn’t answer our prayer because there is something wrong with our prayer. Or worse, there is something wrong with us! Both of these ideas of deserved defeat are just as much a distortion of the gospel and God’s ways for his children as the distortion of deserved victory.  

 

If we pray and lose, we are instead called to acknowledge God’s sovereignty over all creation, including our game, and trust that God had a higher, better purpose in answering our prayer the way he did. We can accept God’s will with grace and humility, allowing the disappointment to be real and owned. We can acknowledge and allow that disappointment to move us toward longing for the undeserved glory that will one day be ours in Christ at the consummation.

 

Should we pray to win? Absolutely.

 

How we pray to win matters. We should pray with an open, humble heart, willing to submit to God’s work of transformation of our hearts and our prayers and God’s good, acceptable and perfect will for us whether we win or lose.  

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I might say this to someone I think has too high an opinion of themselves or their abilities. “Get a grip” would be my reminder that they aren’t or can’t.  My exhortation would be a call to come back to reality.

Someone else might use it for someone who seems to be lost in fear or anxiety.  “Get a grip” would be an attempt to calm them down from their unrealistic emotions, to awaken them to look more carefully and truthfully at the situation.


“Get a grip!”  I would also use this phrase to paraphrase what I think the Apostle Paul says to his friends in Corinth as he closes out his first letter to them, what we call 1Corinthians.

“Brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you,

which you received and on which you have taken your stand.

By this gospel you are saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you.

Otherwise, you have believed in vain.”

1Corinthians 15:1,2 NIV

Paul is writing to his fellow Christians in Corinth reminding them of the saving power of the gospel.  Here, Paul emphasizes the power of the gospel to save them not only from the penalty of sin past but also of the power of sin present.  He does so by using the present tense for the verb “saved” when he says “by this gospel you are saved.”  In the ESV, this phrase is translated “you are being saved.”

However, Paul wants these same Corinthians to understand this power for saving them from the power of sin is not automatically experienced. “By this gospel you are saved, if…”  This power is conditioned upon something from the Corinthians.  They must “hold fast” to the gospel to experience the power of the gospel to overcome the power of sin presently.

In other words, they have to keep a grip on the gospel.  The picture Paul is trying to draw here is that of having a grip on something and having someone trying to yank it out of that grasp.  The picture is of a tug of war.  In this case, what is being pulled back and forth is the gospel.

This is not some theoretical or inconsequential game.  What is at stake in this tugging is our ability to live in victory over the power of sin.  That victory depends on our keeping our grip on the gospel.

Paul understood this and exhorts his readers to “Get a grip!”  Be careful to not misunderstand what I am saying by using this exhortation.  I am not calling for greater human effort in our battle with sin.  Rather, this is a call to keep our grip on the gospel and the power of God found there, for “the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (again present tense) Romans 1:16.

Paul understood the need for the power of God through the gospel.  He also understood something about getting this grip.  He knew it involved regular reminders about the gospel.  This is why he says to the Corinthians, “I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you.”

They tended to forget.  So do we.  Just like them, we need to remember the gospel.  In light of this reality, author Jerry Bridges says it this way – “Preach the gospel to yourself everyday.”  (For more ideas of how you might “get a grip,” listen to this audio from a Church at Charlotte Adult Fellowship Class I recently taught.)

Where are you struggling these days in your battle with sin?  The key to your battle, to my and all believers’ battle, is the gospel and the power of God found there.  Experiencing that power involves holding on to the great truths of this gospel.

This is why there is such an ongoing tug of war going on for the gospel in all our lives.  Having heard Paul’s words, can you recognize that battle in your heart for your grip of the gospel?  In the light of that reality, resist that tug.  Pull back.  Fight against the forces that would steal the gospel from you and “GET A GRIP!!”

 

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