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FIRST-PERSON: On the way to the finish line


EL CAJON, Calif. (BP)–Jumping from their seats, the spectators in Athens, Greece, roared, “Nike! Nike!”

“What does that mean?” asked James.

“That means victory,” answered the judge. That afternoon, James Connolly stood on the victor’s stand and received the first place medal — the first Olympic champion in 1,500 years and America’s first Olympic hero.

James had dreamed of Harvard, working multiple jobs for years to save the tuition. But when news came of the rebirth of the ancient Olympics, he took all his college funds and went to Greece to become an Olympic jumper.

At age 27 in 1896, James Connolly embodied the Olympic motto, “Swifter, Higher, Stronger” and the words of Father Henry Didon, “You who wish to surpass yourself, fashion your body and spirit to discover the best of yourself, strive always to go one step further than you were aiming for.”

Paul embraced that attitude in Philippians 3:13-14: “One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal. …”


What does it take to run for Christ?

Make up your mind to do it. When we decide to follow Christ, all else becomes secondary. “What things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ” (Philippians 3:7). Some things we give up entirely — sinful lifestyles, unhealthy habits, unholy relationships. Other things we place on the altar of God’s will, saying, “Lord, these are for Your service.” There may be sacrifice and hardship, but the Lord wants to give you “a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Make up your mind to pursue Christ with all your heart. “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

Stick with the training. We need to know the rules of the game, so study your Bible every day. And we need to develop our spiritual muscles, so exercise every day — exercising godliness, self-control, righteousness and leadership. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27: “Run in such a way that you may obtain [the prize]…. I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”

This means we intentionally apply the truths we find in our Bibles to everyday life. We say “no” to other opportunities and demands in order to make room for Christian activities. We wake up early on Sunday mornings and go to church. We wake up early through the week to have our morning devotions. We seek opportunities to serve the Lord. We love. We forgive. We exercise faith, trusting God when things go badly in life. We memorize Scripture so that we can offer others an encouraging word.

The Bible says, “Spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness. Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next” (1 Timothy 4:7-8).

Run for the prize — persevere. Don’t give up. Have you tried repeatedly to have your daily quiet time? To trust God with that anxious care or weakness? Be determined, and sooner or later you will work through to victory. The Bible says:

— “Never give up. Eagerly follow the Holy Spirit and serve the Lord” (Romans 12:11).

— “We never give up. Our bodies are gradually dying, but we ourselves are being made stronger each day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).

— “Always pray and do not give up” (Luke 18:1).

It’s time to say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13) and then begin to run the race with endurance (Hebrews 12:1). Get back into shape. Be swifter, higher, stronger for Christ and His Kingdom. Exercise godliness, and don’t give up. Sooner or later, you’ll hear the roar of the crowd: “Nike! Nike! Nike!” For the Bible says, “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).
David Jeremiah is the founder of Turning Point for God, senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif., and chancellor of San Diego Christian College (formerly Christian Heritage College). For more information on Turning Point, visit www.TurningPointOnline.org.