Athletes train for years in order to compete at the Olympic level. The performances we’re watching on our televisions result from those amazing Olympians who prepared in spite of injuries, obstacles and self doubt. Speedskater Dan Jansen’s 1994 gold medal victory in the 1000 meter race in Lillehammer was dedicated to his late sister, Jane. He had fallen short in the 1988 games in Calgary, skating just hours after her passing from leukemia. Dan fell short of the gold medal again in 1992 in Albertville. Training and perseverance led him in 1994 to the one and only Olympic gold medal of his remarkable career.
Living the Christian life is difficult. There are many times when we fall and many times when we fail. Circumstances, not of our own making, will also discourage and defeat believers. The Bible tells us, “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” (Hebrews 10: 36)
We struggle to keep moving forward in life for many reasons. If failure is a problem, you’ll do well to remember our 16th President. He failed in business twice. He lost the election for legislature in 1832 and in 1834. He was defeated for Speaker in 1838 and for Elector in 1840. He was defeated for congress in 1843 and 1848. He was defeated for Senate in 1855 and 1858. In 1856 he lost in the election for Vice President. Yet in 1860 Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States. His failures were never final. He kept moving forward and so should we.
Believers need to keep our focus upon Jesus rather than our shortcomings. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2) Jesus is the perfect example of someone who did not give up in spite of opposition and suffering. His goal of self-sacrifice for the sins of the world enabled Jesus to persevere. We’re to sacrifice ourselves as well – not for a medal but for the well-being of others. By serving others we’re serving Jesus! (See Matthew 25:40) Our eyes are to be on the Lord!
As we draw nearer to Holy Week we recall the three denials by Peter just hours after Jesus’ arrest. “‘You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?’ she asked Peter. He replied, ‘I am not.’ (John 18:17) “Meanwhile, Simon Peter was still standing there warming himself. So they asked him, ‘You aren’t one of his disciples too, are you?’ He denied it, saying, ‘I am not.’ One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, ‘Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?’ Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow.” (John 18:25-27) Simon Peter’s failure wasn’t final. God made sure of it.
This man who failed was restored by Jesus after the resurrection and went on to run an amazing race for the Lord. He would never forget the Lord’s words to him which kept him focused for the rest of his life. To Simon Peter Jesus had said, “…‘Feed my lambs.’” (John 21:15) Peter would one day write, “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care….” (I Peter 5:2) We should never stop caring for one another. The Good Shepherd wants us to keep moving – together! Let’s never stop. Let’s persevere like Jesus! Let’s persevere for Jesus!
Pastor Ken Atchison
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com.