I remember my first hurdle race. I was in seventh grade, near the end of May on a warm spring day. Ahead of me were rows and rows of hurdles. The gun went off and there I went. Right up to the first hurdle…
Pause for a moment. For anyone who has never ran the hurdles, there is nothing like running as fast as you can towards an immovable object with the hope that you will clear it. The only problem is, there is a built in sense of fear of getting over that object.
Resume. I panicked. I was on the outside lane, so I sidestepped the hurdle. Just one hurdle. I found my rhythm again and cleared the next hurdle and the next. I passed all the girls to come in first place. Except… I was disqualified, because I did not clear the first hurdle. In order to win in a hurdle race, you have to clear all the hurdles. Which I did not.
Nice story Morgan, you might be thinking. But what does this have to do with anything? I’ve been thinking about another race that we are in as Christians. In 1 Corinthians, Paul talks about this race and his efforts to win: “I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.” (9:27 NLT).
Paul feared disqualification. Huh? What does that mean? Did he fear losing his salvation? No. Then what? He feared that after he had preached to others, he would be disqualified. Paul goes on to talk about his ancestors and how they tested God by sinning, to stand strong against temptation and that during temptation, God will provide a way for us to stand under it.
Just because we are saved from sin doesn’t mean we are not still tempted by it. And to give in might cost us much. It could disqualify us from the race.
But you just said you couldn’t lose your salvation. True. I believe you cannot lose your salvation. Once you accept Jesus, you are safe in his hands. But you can lose your reputation as a follower of Christ. When people compare your words to your life, your choice to sin can cost you your witness.
No one wakes up one morning and says “Hey, I’m going to fall headlong into sin!” It’s the little choices that move us towards the big choices. Examples: the pastor who chooses to have an affair. The Christian businessman who cheats on his taxes. The youth leader who sleeps with her boyfriend. That’s why Paul says he disciplines himself like an athlete.
Ok, so this is a pretty deep post. But it’s something that has been on my heart. The little choices we make today can make a difference in the big choices we make tomorrow. Is giving in to sin worth the risk? Is it worth blowing our witness? God forgives, absolutely. But he does not promise to repair the damage done by our choices. I know of people who followed God for years to have their witness turn to ash after a choice to sin. A legacy burned to the ground by sin.
This scares me, my friends. Scares me enough to cling to God and ask him to search my heart for anything deceitful. God promises to provide a way under temptation. The question is, will I choose to follow Him? Or my own desires?
We are in a race. And there are people watching. So let us discipline ourselves and run so that those watching will turn their eyes towards Christ.