"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize." - 1 Corinthians 9:24
I was never much of a runner. I played multiple sports growing up, and most of them required decent speed – in bursts. I was pretty good at that – bursts of speed – but I was never much for prolonged, disciplined endurance. In the past month I have taken up running again as a form of exercise. I’ve stuck with it, and plan to continue, but I have to admit - I really don’t like it. I never have been a fan of running just to run, even if a prize is waiting at the end. Therefore, the illustration from the apostle Paul above is not the most poignant illustration for me. “Do you not know that in reading all readers read in order to finish the book? Read in such a way as to finish the book” works well for me, as does “Do you not know that in a museum tour all the tourists observe in order to enhance their knowledge of the subject? Tour in such a way as to gain the most information.” The best illustrations for me are a bit nerdier than Paul’s sweat soaked visuals.
All things being equal, however, I do get Paul’s point, and I hope you do too. We are called to put forth effort as it relates to our faith and walk with Christ. We “strike a blow to our body and make it our slave so that, after preaching to others, we ourselves will not be disqualified for the prize,” to pluralize what Paul states later in this chapter concerning himself. Our faith is action based, requiring commitment, purpose, and endurance.
Ten years ago LifePoint put together its first Make an Impact Day. We took a chance and planned it for November, and we were blessed to have a singularly perfect day. Sunny and in the 70’s. About 600 people (almost the entire congregation at that time) went out into Indy and impacted our community and the ministries that serve here. We returned to share lunch together and some of our stories. One week prior to that event my father passed away in Illinois. I was physically and emotionally spent. I had spent my first six months as the lead pastor at LifePoint making trips back and forth to my hometown almost every week to help care for him. Honestly, I was not ready to “make an impact” anywhere. Nevertheless, God showed up, not just for me, but for our church family. It was a great day of hands-on ministry! I was refreshed and rejuvenated, and there was a profound sense of excitement within our congregation.
We have had other Make an Impact Days since that Saturday in November 2009, and all of them have had their highlights, but that one still stands out to me. I always look forward to these opportunities to get busy in the service of the Lord. This year we go out to be “Impact Makers.” We probably won’t change the world - it’s just practical ministry. Yes, some will have the opportunity to share the gospel verbally, which happens every time we do this project, but everyone will have the opportunity to lay groundwork for gospel ministry in the areas they serve. It is a unique opportunity to serve and to spread the fame of Jesus to those who are impacted, believers and non-believers alike. We get to partner with other Christians in Indianapolis who are, like us, trying to reach our city. I hope you will take the opportunity to serve if you are able, and I hope you will get excited about our missions emphasis this year. Sunday is the last day to sign up to serve.
BOXING THE AIR
Although Paul utilizes the helpful visual of running to make his point to the Christians in ancient Corinth, he reminds them that he himself does not “run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.” In other words, Paul always had a purpose in mind when it came to his faith. He made his body a slave, telling it what it would do rather than letting his body dictate how and when he would serve. How he would do ministry. How he would follow Christ.
So it must be with us, friends. We control how we will engage in our faith, not our bodies (and not other people), with few exceptions. Let’s be purposeful in our faith. Let’s prepare ourselves for this fight - this race. Let’s dictate, to the best of our abilities, how we will engage, and not be dictated to. We fight three main foes in our lives according to Ephesians chapter two: 1) the influence of this world, 2) the devil, and 3) ourselves. We must steel our minds and our bodies, and go out with hope and confidence in Christ. One small way of doing this is getting out and doing something physically to engage our faith (for those who are physically able). Make an Impact Day can help serve that purpose. If at all possible, on September 14, get out there and do it.
Grace and peace,