by Lisa Hall, international prayer coordinator
I love to watch the Olympic Games and see world-class athletes compete against one another. I admire the Olympians’ focus, endurance and determination to sacrifice so much in order to win a prize.
But there is another competition going on within our world – not one of mental and physical skill but of ideas. When Jesus made the bold claim that he himself was truth and the only way to God (John 14:6), he set himself against those holding to all other belief systems, whether they believe there is no objective standard of truth or instead believe other paths also lead to God.
As we look at Jesus and his early followers, we see that they faced real consequences in living out their beliefs before a culture that thought differently. They faced opposition, loss of status, physical abuse, confiscation of property and, like Christ, even death for some. Paul shared with Timothy that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). Have you, too, experienced persecution as a believer in Jesus? How did you respond?
If we know that persecution is to be expected for believers, how do we prepare for it? I think back to the Olympic athletes who go through years of training, following the advice of their coaches, studying what former champions have done and keeping their eyes focused on the goal. It brings to mind:
“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. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Heb. 12:1-3).
Just as runners do not weigh themselves down with heavy clothing for the race, we are to throw off the things in our lives that are getting in the way of faithfully following Jesus. What is distracting you from following Jesus completely? What is weighing you down that needs to be released in order for you to experience the freedom that God desires for you?
Most importantly, we need to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and persevere in the path God has for our lives:
- Coming to God daily, listening for him to speak through his Word and responding with an open heart in obedience (Phil. 4:9).
- Putting on the spiritual armor so that we can stand (Eph. 6:10-19).
- Learning to love our enemies and forgive those who persecute us (Matt. 5:44).
- Determining to follow Christ no matter the circumstances (Mark 8:34).
- Realizing we are not alone. God is always with us (Deut. 31:8), and he has given us the body of Christ to encourage and support one another. This is why we pray for one another!
- Understanding that Jesus experienced hardship and every temptation that we face (Heb. 4:15) yet was without sin. His response gives us courage and strengthens our faith. The joy of the Lord is our strength (Neh. 8:10).
- Knowing that the kingdom of God will prevail. The God we serve is sovereign Lord over all creation and time, and he is victorious! (Col. 1:16-17)
So, may I encourage you, friend, to keep your eyes focused on Jesus and with joy endure faithfully to the end? He is worth the cost, for he is our prize.