by Marjorie Truesdale

A surprising statement I understand Billy Graham said often “I want to finish strong!” In my younger years, I was puzzled, wondering why such an icon of godly character would say such a thing. Now that I am older, I understand what he was saying. The truth is that none of us, no matter how long we have been with the Lord, have a “slide home free” pass. In fact, even the apostle Paul said, “. . . my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me…” (Acts 20:24b)

As I spent time the first week of January asking the Lord His agenda for me this year, I found myself parked in Psalm 103. Verses 17 & 18 especially caught my attention with these phrases: Fear Him, Keep His Covenant, and Obey His Law. Several days later I highlighted Psalm 119:112 “My heart is set on keeping your degrees to the very end.” I think His plan is clear. Now is the living it out for the next 12 months.

What will winning look like? NOT more ministry. NOT looking really great to others. (That leads to legalism). Winning is working toward the goal “to be conformed to the image of Jesus.” (Romans 8:29) Sound impossible? The awesome reality is that I have a Coach who will help me. His name is Holy Spirit. “… to help you and be with you forever.” John 14:16

The following seven points is a list I have made to help me run to WIN!

1. I need to submit to strict training.
      Paul lived during the days of the Greek games we call the Olympics. Often in his writing he refers to “the race”. The following verses are only one sample of a frequent metaphor. “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. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-25

      I need to be in conversation every day with Coach, asking Him how I’m doing, and what do I need
to change.
      But did I tell you there is a coach from the other team I used to play for? He sends out scouts daily to attempt to get me come back to his team. His ambassadors shout: “That’s too hard! You’re too busy! You’ll miss all the fun! People are going to think you are weird! Who wants to hang around with people who are holier than thou’?

2. I need to run every day.
      I plan to study the Rule Book, Not just to read it, but do what it says. “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” James 1:22-25 “Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules.” 2 Timothy 2:5 I also ask Coach what things I need to delete from my schedule in order to “run every day.”

3. Get rid of weights.
      It’s not just activities, there are offenses to God I need to choose to get rid of in my life. “Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,” Hebrews 12:1 “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry . . . You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices” Colossians 3:5-9 I think the Coach is serious!

4. Wear the appropriate clothing.
      On a daily basis, the below items the coach wants to see me “dressed out” in. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:12-13 The only way to achieve the goal being conformed to His image.

Seventh Inning Stretch

The other coach is still pursuing me, wanting me to lose. Three ways he works overtime are:
      Distraction – Even with ministry opportunities.
      Discouragement – When I don’t seem to be making any progress.
      Temptation – Money, power, and sex.
            (Developed in The Power of The Blood by Bob Sorge).

5. Don’t allow the body to dictate.
      Food is a big one for me. Sleep can be another. As Paul said: “I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:27 “many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. . . . their god is their stomach, . . . Their mind is set on earthly things.” Philippians 3:18b-19 Watching swimmers and ice figure skaters is a living example of those who don’t let their body be in charge.

6. Train with others.
      A year ago I spent several months with a group of gal friends, reading Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges. It impacted my life! As the book brought up important issues, we shared our struggles and prayed with and for each other. King Solomon said “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17 “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up . . . Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 Alone, we tend to be like little children, NOT look in the mirror, and never know we have chocolate all over our face.

7. Keep eyes on the goal.
      My short term goal for this year, which came to me as I read Psalm 71:18 (my 71st year) is “Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.” Keeping my goals where I can read them often, remind me to re-focus. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and Perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3

Recommended Books
Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges
Practice of Godliness by Jerry Bridges
Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis – A classic fiction
Strategy of Satan by Warren Wiersbe – Very helpful handbook for the Christian on the battlefield who
      wants to WIN!

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