Children have it made, don’t they? No schedule, no job, no financial responsibility – just play all day, eat meals served up by someone else, carefree and leisurely … It’s tough being a child. You don’t agree with me, do you? Last night I had the privilege of remembering what it was like to be a child getting to play all day, eat meals served up by someone else, carefree and leisurely. I remember saying multiple times a day – “I’m bored. This day is boring. Nothing to do.” It’s complicated, but true that having no responsibility can be almost as distressing as having too much of it. OK – I said almost.
It was my turn to teach the Word of Life kids a short, applicable, understandable, and relatable lesson from scripture. Short? I get that and definitely had no problem with that part of the assignment – but applicable and relatable? What do children ages 5 to 10 understand and even more important, relate to? Certainly not the things I’m immersed in daily: values, purpose, goals, vision – Or are they? Child’s play is difficult because even though they don’t know it, they are building values, purpose, goals, and vision – and they are doing it every day, just like you and me. http://wp.me/p29Llt-se
Running the Race for Jesus – that’s the theme of Word of Life clubs around the world. That was our theme last night. I spread out a few labels along a path to indicate a cross country running track. The whole of life is a race and once we are at the starting line, we act, we run, we stumble, we walk, we use stepping stones, we run again, we pass milestones, we are committed till the finish line. I asked what do you think ‘START’ is? That was easy – “It’s when you’re born.” answered one young boy. The last label wasn’t as easily identified, but it spoke volumes. It was ‘FINISH’. After a few crazy looks and blank stares, the same young boy said “It’s when you become an adult!” Um, not quite, but I had to laugh out loud. This was a lesson all wrapped up in that one tiny sentence. Life is difficult from where we start to where we finish. It consists of experiences from child’s play to the responsibility of adulthood; choices and consequences; the good and the bad; then we are ‘finished’.
Here’s how we ran our race last night, turning over stepping stones long the trail to choose the characteristic and action that Jesus would want us to choose? Which choices would you make? Remember we were Running the Race for Jesus.
START – What do you think about when reading Hebrews 12:1? “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.”
I could be wrong, but I always think that great cloud of witnesses are people cheering me on from that mansion in heaven. Whether wrong or not, God made a point of telling us that we are surrounded by witnesses and he also makes it a point to tell us we can’t make any progress in our Christian race if we are weighted down with burdens. If we have a burden and don’t get rid of it, the weight becomes heavier and endurance becomes impossible.
Life is full of experiences, good and bad. The way we live is affected by attitudes and actions. How we finish is all about the choices we make and the stepping stones we use. In a gathering of children all under 10 years old choices were pretty benign, but they each had a ‘stepping stone’ representing choices, one on the front and another choice on the back. Along the trail, there are barricades and road signs put there to keep us on the right path so we don’t stray off and get lost.
- 1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” We are on the trail to finish the race and win the prize – a crown of righteousness, we have to stay on the trail.
Imagine the conversations as we toggled between right and wrong choices.
Comparison / Contentment: Contentment is the opposite of comparison. When we constantly compare what we have to things others have, we never learn to be satisfied and love what we have already. Life is never even; what we have is never equal but when we are thankful for what we have, it is enough. God promises to cover all our needs and some of our wants. God’s promises are forever.
- Hebrews 13:5 “Your conduct must be free from the love of money and you must be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you and I will never abandon you.”
Disrespectful / Obedient: Obedience is learning to say no with our hearts when our heads tempt us to do the wrong things. When we disobey our parents and our leaders, we are being disrespectful and hurt our relationships. When we are diligent in our obedience, our outlook is positive, we have natural enthusiasm. And don’t we get more enjoyment out of the day when we aren’t in timeout because we are being disciplined?
- Hebrews 13:17 “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls and will give an account for their work. Let them do this with joy and not with complaints, for this would be no advantage for you.”
Arguing / Listening: If we choose to listen instead of argue, we will find a solution to our differences much more quickly – and we get to keep our friendships.
- Proverbs 4:1 “Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding.”
Fighting / Understanding: Sometimes it’s tough to turn off the urge to fight back. Nobody wants to have their idea rejected. Nobody wakes up in the morning wishing someone would pick a fight with them. It’s a challenge to be understood and it’s a challenge to understand the thoughts of someone else. God tells us that we are wise when we try to understand the thoughts and ideas of others. Be wise. Instead of standing up for your idea, stand down quietly and gain understanding.
- Proverbs 4:7 “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.”
Prideful / Humble: Being prideful is sin, but it’s one of those tricky actions. We need to take pride in doing our best. If we are rewarded, we should be thankful that we were recognized, but not parade it around and show off to our friends who didn’t win an award. Then when does pride become a sin? Pride is destructive when we are boastful, think we are better than someone else, or feel like we deserve to be praised. Pride is sin when we compare something that belongs to someone else and assess its value lower than ours. It could be a toy, an award, a house, a car, a talent, a job, or anything comparison-enabled. God says pride is wrong and he allows us to feel its oppression when we get off the trail and start to be proud and boastful. When we are prideful it takes up so much of our spirit, there is no room for God.
- Proverbs 16:18 “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
- Psalm 10:4 “In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.”
Lying / Truthful: We all know what lying is and it is never OK. Recently I read an article titled, “When is it OK to Lie?” There were a few arguments for telling the ‘little white lie’, but the Bible says lying is deceitful and will cause us to stumble. Lying will distract us from the trail, make us confused, and our Race for Jesus will not be effective.
- Galatians 5:7 “ You were running well; who prevented you from obeying the truth?”
- Psalm 45:4 “In your majesty ride forth victoriously in the cause of truth, humility and justice; let your right hand achieve awesome deeds.”
Anger / Peaceful: We witness the effects of anger every day. Impatient people, prideful people, stubborn people, selfish people – anger is their natural reaction. Instead we are told to be slow to become angry. Anger should not be our first reaction, it should be our last resort. God calls us to seek peace and be peacemakers.
- James 1:19 “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,”
- Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.”
- Hebrews 12:14 “Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness, for without it no one will see the Lord.”
FINISH - When we came to the end of the lesson, we had pretended to run cross country through fields, over rocks, through dark tunnels, but we learned about how to make choices that are wise, thoughtful, and effective in Running the Race for Jesus.
- 2 Timothy 4: 8 “There is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day.”
- Philippians 2:16 “Holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain”
Do you think every child made the right choices, touched the correct stepping stone, and stayed on the right track to the Finish? Even at their young age, they know that child’s play presents difficult choices. Where are we as adults? Difficult choices. By the way, the kids chose correctly every time.
Just thinking here – but could Proverbs 19:1-2 provide a little insight? “Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity than one who is perverse in his speech and is a fool. It is dangerous to have zeal without knowledge, and the one who acts hastily makes poor choices.”
Hebrews 12:1-3 in the Message translation sums it up like this: Discipline in a Long-Distance Race
1-3 Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!
Sometimes don’t you just want to wave your White Flag and surrender everything to God of the Universe? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e1jgD69WzMY