This week’s short message by Pastor Eric Stetson. Watch the video or read text below.
Many Christians believe that all we need to do is worship Jesus, instead of following in his footsteps. Salvation begins with recognizing Jesus as Lord, but that’s not the end of it. God loves us just the way we are, and He doesn’t condemn us forever for our shortcomings during one mortal life, but that doesn’t mean He wants us to sit on our butts instead of taking up our cross and pursuing spiritual discipline.
The Apostle Paul was a very religious man — in fact he was one of the greatest leaders of early Christianity — but he wrote that even he hadn’t yet qualified for the resurrection into eternal glory with the Lord Jesus Christ. Instead of resting on the laurels of his already considerable spiritual attainments, he said, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” [Phil. 3:14]
Paul often used athletic metaphors to describe the process of growing into the image of Christ. “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training,” said Paul. “They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” [1 Cor. 9:25]
Earth is like a gymnasium for the soul. We’re here to strengthen our spiritual muscles and endurance, so that when we take the field, we can win the victory for God over the forces of sin and evil. That’s what Jesus did in his life, and when he ascended the cross, crowned with thorns, he was in truth receiving the laurel crown of an Olympic champion — the ultimate gold medalist in the stadium of God’s Kingdom.
Through sports, we train the physical body — and likewise God calls us to develop the soul. Although it may take us many trips to the metaphorical gymnasium to come close to the level of Christ, as any good athlete knows, the greatest triumph is always to keep striving for your personal best.