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One of the most embarrassing and proudest moments of my life happened in the early 1980s when I was running track for the University of Tennessee. I was elated to make it to the finals of the 200-meter dash where I raced against world-class sprinters, some of whom were already household names.
When the race started, I exploded out of the blocks, then moved swiftly around the curve. Then things suddenly changed. Those world-class sprinters evidently had a gear I did not. Coming out of the curve, they pulled away from me like I was standing still. A few seconds later, I ran through the finish line…in last place. I was devastated and mortified by my performance—that is, until I heard my time. You see, although I came in dead last, I ran the fastest 200 meters I’d ever run! When the announcer called my name as the last-place finisher, I jumped for joy! Most people thought I lost that day, but to me and to God, I was a winner!
GOD’S DEFINITION OF WINNING
Winning is not what you have done
compared to someone else.
Winning is what you have done compared
to what you were created to do.
Mark 12:30 sums up the formula for a winning Christian life this way: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
Just after this verse, Jesus offers another important command. It’s of such importance that He mentions it after the greatest command of all. “The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these,” (Mark 12:31, NIV).
For Christians, “winning” means giving ourselves totally to the Lord—100%—and letting His love overflow through us onto others.
So how do we win the race God has set before us and become all that God has created us to be, and help others do the same?
Great athletes study the lives of those who have gone before them. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rogers studied his predecessor, Brett Favre. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Steve Young studied Joe Montana. In the same way, if you want to please God, study the lives of faithful Christ followers, both on your own and with those whom you are discipling.
Hebrews 12:1 refers to a “huge crowd of witnesses” when talking about living a life of faith. This is a great place to start when reading about the lives of heroes of the faith and how to model their faithful steps in our own lives.
LOOK AT YOUR OWN LIFE
“Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us,” (Hebrews 12:1b). A life of discipleship can easily be paralleled with running. Just like today, Greek runners dressed as lightly as possible so clothes didn’t slow them down. As Christians, we should be eager to rid ourselves of all that hinders our Christian lives. This applies to anything preventing us from doing our best for Jesus Christ.
LOOK AT THE LIFE OF CHRIST
To become all we need to be, our ultimate example is the Lord Himself, Jesus Christ. Look at what Hebrews 12:2-3 says: “We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting Him, He endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now He is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility He endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.”
Jesus is the epitome of a winner! As you run your race and disciple others to step more fully into their God-given assignments, remember this: God will give you the grace to run your race. What is last place to man can be first place to God.
Prayer: Jesus, help me carry Your definition of winning into every race You set before me. Amen.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Lee Allen Jenkins is the founder and senior pastor of Eagles Nest Church in Alpharetta, Georgia. He is also the president of Lee Jenkins Group, a consulting firm that helps churches grow stronger organizationally and financially. A proud graduate of the University of Tennessee, he was the campus leader of FCA for the Vols and a standout on the football and track teams. Following graduation, Jenkins was drafted by the New York Giants, but when injuries cut his football career short, he ventured into the financial services industry. He had a stellar 25-year career and reached the level of Vice President of Investments at two major Wall Street firms. Jenkins is a best-selling author and a popular speaker at churches, conferences and business events. He has been happily married to the love of his life, Martica, for over 32 years, and they have three grown children.
Photos courtesy of Craig Obrist