Thursday, October 23, 2014

Three principles to live by

I thought long and hard all summer but it didn't seem to help. I wanted to be able to challenge my cross country team with something profound, something they could ponder and use to muster up strength and courage when they needed it most. Personally, I thrive on motivational and inspiration"stuff." I'm the one who cuts apart motivational calenders, posting quotes all over my office. It makes me yearn and dream and strive to accomplish the impossible. I wanted the same for my kids but kept coming up short on anything that might have that effect.

But as so often the case, God came through with the right thought for the right minute. Our church began reading our way through 1 Thessalonians. Fortunately, I didn't have to read very far. In the first chapter there it was. Let me set the stage.

Team t-shirts
Paul and his sidekicks, Silas and Timothy, wrote a letter to the church in Thessolinica. The way they begin their letter might be likened to the way a coach addresses his team or a parent setting up the kids for a frank discussion. In other words, start out with the good stuff. Encourage. Don't discourage.

So what did they say? For starters, they said this:  "We thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Thes. 1:2, 3). A few verses later, it gets even better. The writers let the church know that "you have become a model to all the believers" (vs 7) and the "your faith in God has become known everywhere" (vs 8).

Stop the presses! That's amazing. What a way for a group to be known: work produced by faith, labor prompted by love, and endurance inspired by hope. If the same could be said of me and my team, we'll be doing okay. But let's take a closer look.

Work produced by faith. If a skydiver had no faith that the meticulous packing of his shoot was going to do him any good, he might as well take a flying leap without his parachute and hope the clouds will become his trampoline. But that would be stupid, right? Right. As Christians, the faith we have in the grace of God and his saving power urges us on to work hard and carefully advance the Kingdom. The faith we are given urges us be just as meticulous as the "I don't want to die. I wanna live" skydiver in our daily work.

Labor prompted by love. What's the greatest deterrent to getting an employee to give the job all he's got or an athlete to bust a gut in practice? Lack of love. Yep. If you hate what you're doing, chances are you'll quit sooner than later. Of all people, our love for God should be enough to keep us motivated to selflessly reach out, meet people where they are, serve one another, and so become a
Team sweatshirt
testimony to the indwelling Christ.

Endurance inspired by hope. Picture this. A runner is 56 miles into a 100-mile race. The area is remote, he's puking, feet are ravaged from hours of being wet, and it feels like he is carrying a 150 pound pack. Every step is torture as he makes his way into a check point. He sits in a chair, shivering from dehydration and exhaustion. In front of him looms a huge climb up the next mountain and 44 more tortuous miles. Now, if he abandons any hope of  earning the finisher's buckle, do you think there's much chance of him getting out of that chair and proceeding on. No way! The only thing that would drive him forward is a real hope of making it to the end despite the circumstances. Believer, we can carry on because our hope in Jesus Christ is well-placed! We can--and must--endure.

My team and I are in the final weeks of our cross country season. So, what will be our legacy? What will we be remembered for? Will we be known for work produced by faith, labor prompted by love, and endurance inspired by hope? I trust that will be the case.