As I write this Jasmine’s basketball team is competing in the Bill Gibson Coaches’ Classic. They won their first game this morning but it promises to be a long exciting weekend of bouncing balls and shuffling feet. Jasmine enjoys playing basketball but enjoys winning more. I understand that, I don’t like anything about losing. People often say it isn’t about winning its about how you play the game, but that is usually said by people who have just lost the game, winners never say things like that. Winners know the point of the game is to win. Yes, you should play the game fairly, you never really win anything by cheating, but winning is the goal.
Saint Paul it seems agrees. In 1 Corinthians 9:24 he 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. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we are imperishable. 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.”
The season of Lent is one of repentance. It is not a season of feeling bad about ourselves or putting ourselves down because we are such bad sinners. It is a season that as we realize we are such bad sinners we also repent of it and go to the foot of the cross to receive God’s forgiveness through the sacrifice and blood of Jesus. It is a season that we refocus our Christian lives to run the race that God has called to us run and to run it to win, not to just show up or to just compete or to just place, but to win. In this race, there is only one winner, second place is just the first loser. The great thing about this race though is that we do not run it under our own power, it is the power of Christ in us that carries us to victory. In fact, Jesus has already won this race for us, through our faith the trophy is ours in Christ. All believers in Christ are winners. During this season though we are called to train like winners.
In Lent, we have a chance to get rid of some of the things, temptations, and sins that lead us away from Jesus, that disrupt our spiritual growth. So, I challenge you during the days of Lent to go into spiritual training. Develop some spiritual routines like reading the Bible and times of prayer, maybe avoiding that TV show that tempts you. Spend some time with Coach Jesus working out.
A year ago Jasmine was competing at a track meet and they were selling a shirt that said, “I am the reason your coach makes you train so hard.” I wanted to buy that for her but Jasmine is much humbler about her abilities than I am of them and she said she wouldn’t wear it. I challenge you though to be that person. Open your Bible, or close your eyes and fold your hands and begin training. See you at the starting line.