Frances and I are charter members of the NCBA (the National CrossBounce Association). Truth be told, we are the only members of this august sports league.
Oh, you haven't heard of CrossBounce? Well, neither has anyone else. Until now. CrossBounce is a team competition Frances and I developed that involves bouncing a lacrosse ball to each other while doing our long walks. We actually originated the game several years ago using a children's rubber ball. Not long ago, however, we found a lacrosse ball during one of our pedestrian journeys. We didn't know what it was - nobody in the Deep South knows anything about lacrosse - but the ball bounced well and we replaced our original equipment with the better caroming rubber sphere. The rules of the game simply involve bouncing the ball to each other as we walk. We must catch the ball on the first bounce and then bounce it back to our teammate. The current NCBA world record is 2,000 tosses and catches without a drop, set yesterday during an eight mile trek. We'll seek to extend that today when we walk, and yes I know you're deeply impressed. :):):)
I share this with you to raise the matter of competition, that is, spiritual competition. The New Testament actually speaks of such a thing. Before addressing this, however, the point must be made that our salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ does not involve competition in any manner. God's grace as received by faith constitutes the freest gift ever given, as purchased by the highest cost ever remitted. "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us… Ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" (Titus 3:5; I Peter 1:18-19). Any notion of works regarding salvation cancels consideration and discussion before we even begin. We rather go forth with a Gospel message that proclaims, "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price" (Isaiah 55:1).
Interestingly, however, the Apostle Paul does raise the issue of competition regarding the lives of those who have freely received God's grace in the Lord Jesus.
"Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway" (I Corinthians 9:24-27).
Note that Paul spiritually runs a race. He views himself as a competitor who diligently seeks an incorruptible crown, and who is willing to make the sacrifices necessary to obtain his goal. He keeps his body under subjection, as does any athlete who trains in order to compete. Again, note that the Apostle does not allude in this case to the free gift of his salvation, but rather to the subsequent life to be lived amid much spiritual opposition. Paul primarily refers to a matter of attitude and perspective. He desires to be guided by an internal intensity of devotion to God very much akin to the sensibilities of competition. This readies the heart and mind for the sacrifices necessary to run and win "the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith" (Hebrews 12:1-2). Certainly we do well to join our brother of old, sharing his intensity and awareness that honoring the Lord Jesus involves making the sacrifices required to run for Him.
Our little game, CrossBounce, makes me think of such things. Hopefully, the consideration will also lead to response, as enabled by the Holy Spirit. Our Heavenly Father calls us to view ourselves as engaged in a life, His life, that involves much commitment, devotion, and the willingness to forego some things for the obtaining of greater things. His Son provides the example, His Spirit the empowering, and His Word the guide whereby we "lay aside every weight" in order to run more surely and more successfully for the glory of the Lord Jesus (Hebrews 12:1).
"They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings as eagles. They shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint."
Weekly Memory Verse
"In the world ye shall have tribulation. But be of good cheer. I have overcome the world."