1 Corinthians 9-10, Psalm 145
At age 8, Michael Phelps wrote down his goal that he wanted to be in the Olympics, then set a series of short term and long term goals. During his teen years he went through a 5 year streak, over 1800 days, when he trained every single day, including Sunday's and Holidays. He stated then that it was his competitive nature, "not wanting to lose", "wanting to do something that no one else has done before". Everything in his life is set up to accomplish these goals including his sleep times and meals. He wakes up at 6am, eats 12,000 calories per day separated evenly over 3 meals. He swims at least 80,000 meters or 50 miles per week, which is now spread over 2 sessions, 5-6 hours/day, 6x/week. He lifts weights 3x/ week. As a result, he finished with 28 Olympic medals, 23 gold, far more than any other Olympian. Michael Phelps focused his entire life and committed himself to these extremes for something which is perishable, that he can not take with him beyond the grave. How much harder should we be striving for that which does not perish, for that which goes beyond the grave.
Paul had one focus: eternity and sharing the gospel message to everyone that he could. In 1 Corinthians 9:12, he said, "...Nevertheless we have not used this right"(payment for his preaching), "but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ." He goes on in 9:24-27 to describe his approach to his life, "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. ...Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified." Paul was consumed and focused, not allowing distractions to prevent him from the goal that God had planned for his life. He goes on in chapter 10 to explain that all the Israelites had this opportunity and had seen the marvelous miracles of God. But he writes in 10:5, "But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness." He goes on in the next paragraph to explain where we go wrong: "And do not become idolaters" (v.7), "Nor let us commit sexual immorality" (v.8), "nor let us tempt Christ" (v.9), "nor complain" (v.10).
So we must all ask ourselves, are we so focused on what God has planned for our lives that we are willing to commit like Michael Phelps for that which is perishable or Paul for that which is imperishable? If not, why not? Most of us will never fulfill what God has planned for us, trading His glorious treasures for earthly trinkets. Most spend their days complaining about the weather; hating their jobs; being unsatisfied with their spouses, children, house, and income. Most spend little time in prayer, Scripture reading, worship, fellowship and evangelism, and even when doing are distracted on other things. If we look at our life as a pie, we must ask ourselves whether we are giving God a sliver of our lives, or are we allowing Him to be the filling which permeates every part and every moment in our days. This is how we become one with Him. The distractions and temptations are real to take us from our goal, but if we keep our focus on Him we can overcome. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:12-13, "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it." Jesus knows how difficult the path is for us, so tells His disciples in Matthew 19:26, "...With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley: