Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense.—Winston Churchill
You've heard it before: aim at nothing, and you'll end up hitting nothing.
Anything we accomplish in life requires intentionality. We set goals for ourselves—in our jobs, in our daily lives—to determine a direction. We make to-do lists of what we think will be essential to complete and check them off, and when we do, we feel a sense of gratification, and maybe pride, when we reach our goals. Why should our approach to spiritual goals be any different?
But to be intentional means we have to exercise a little discipline. Paul likens it to training as an athlete.
"So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified."—1 Corinthians 9:26-27
One | We run with purpose
A lot of people, consciously or subconsciously, believe in a cause-and-effect dynamic to most everything. In other words, "you get back what you put in" an idea loosely based in the Laws of Reciprocity, which in a nutshell states that "whatever you put out into the universe will eventually find its way back to you."
But this isn't our Christian worldview—not at all. We hold that God alone controls the universe, the world, and everything in it. As imperfect beings, however, we do recognize that the way we live can result in negative consequences for ourselves and sometimes for others. But we are motivated by God's grace and directed by His Holy Spirit knowing we should put effort into living our lives to fulfill His purpose and spread His good news of the Gospel—to give our "all," a championship effort, to (as I like to say) to live "all in."
Look at what Paul wrote in a letter to the church at Colossae:
"And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."—Colossians 1:9-14
Two | Discipline is needed
This means as "spiritual athletes in training" then, we must commit to disciplines that work in unison with the Holy Spirit. We cannot ignore the needed discipline. Read what Paul says:
"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it."—1 Corinthians 9:24
As we know, old habits die hard, so it benefits us to work out every single day. We must build up our resistance to sin, develop the capacity to say "no," and to improve the way we run with daily discipline. To the Romans, Paul wrote:
"Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace."—Romans 6:12-14
Word of warning! God's grace does not, of course, give us a license to sin! Notice what Paul also states:
"What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness."—Romans 6:15-18
Discipline is needed as we run the spiritual race.
Three | Never disqualified
Our belief is founded in the grace God extends, evidenced by the effort we give. While our effort does not save us, it is evidence of our radical belief. It's only by the power of the Holy Spirit, however, that we can walk a Christ-like walk. Still, it's a choice we must make every day, to keep turning our hearts (and bodies) to live according to God's promises.
"For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."—2 Peter 1:5-8
God sees our hearts and our desire to please Him, and even in our weakest moments, He never gives up on us. So we must stand firm and never give up on ourselves. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we persevere—and like Paul, we are never disqualified.
Vince Miller is an author and speaker to men around the world on topics that include manhood, masculinity, fatherhood, mentorship, and leadership. He has authored 18 different books for men and is hosted on major video platforms like RightNow Media and Faithlife TV. He hosts a weekly podcast, writes weekly articles, and provides daily thoughts from God's Word all just for men. He is a 27-year ministry veteran and the founder of Resolute a Men's Ministry Platform that provides bible studies aimed at building better men found at www.beresolute.org. See his latest book and small group study Called to Act: 5 Uncomplicated Disciplines for Men.
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