Follow Him Forward

Follow Forward
“Do not say, ‘Why were the old days better than these days?’ for it is not wise to ask that.” –Ecclesiastes 7:10
As we proceed into the election and a pivotal point (one of many) for “we the people” who determine the direction of our great country, let us ponder this verse. Are we trying to grasp at “better days” in memory past? Are we trying to return to simpler times when this country better suited our own comforts and preferences? Not only is it foolish to desire yesterday and miss the blessing of today (Psa 96:2), but we overlook the errors of our past (Deu 9:7). We cannot dwell in regret (2Co 7:10, but if we do not learn from our history (Ecc 1:9-11), then we despise God’s mercies (Lam 3:23) and return to our vomit (Pro 26:11).
We cannot keep looking back as if we can return to Eden—that way is blocked (Gen 3:24). Nor should we think we can find our own way forward, thinking ourselves god, determining our own responsibility and trying to captain our own destiny (Jer 10:23). Rather, we must set our eyes upon the One who has carried us thus far (Deu 1:31) and will see us through till the end (John 6:39).
Jesus is our only Hope (Titus 2:13). Jesus is the only one we should seek to make great (Phi 3:8). Jesus is the only one who can rescue and save (Acts 4:12). Focus on Him and follow Him forward.
“Instead I am single-minded: Forgetting the things that are behind and reaching out for the things that are ahead, with this goal in mind, I strive toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” –Philippians 3:13b-14
Billy Neal
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No Days Off

My oldest son is a sports enthusiast, athletically talented and drawn to anything that resembles a ball. And in a family that has very little experience or interest in organized sports, he is proof that nurture may direct a child, but it is the Lord who formed him uniquely in the womb.

One of his recent interest has been the YouTube show “No Days Off,” a series of documentaries that highlights young athletes who are performing at levels above their peers. Raw talent may be exhibited in each to some degree, but it is their level of commitment to the sport and to their own fitness that is breathtaking. At twelve, ten, or eight years old, these kids are out practicing every single day, physically training their bodies to endure the rigors of the sport, and even enlisting personal trainers to teach them the finer details and keep their motivation elevated. And they take joy in every minute of their pursuit.

What a witness to other athletes to step up their commitment to their own athletic development and raise the level of their love for the sport.

Perhaps there is something here for the Christian.

I am reminded of Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church, where he likens the Christian to the athlete.

“Do you not know that all the runners in a stadium compete, but only one receives the prize? So run to win. Each competitor must exercise self-control in everything. They do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one.”
-1Corinthians 9:24-25

And what is our prize? Is it to stretch our bodies to new heights, until age or injury eventually ruins what we have worked so hard to build? Is it merely self-exaltation, demonstrating to the public masses what we can personally achieve, immortalizing our lives into meaningless statistics? Or is it to fill a shelf with plastic trophies destined for the landfill?

Or is it something greater?

No, we seek a true treasure of priceless worth (Mat 13:44-46). Jesus Christ—in whom is eternal life (1Jo 5:11; Joh 6:47; Rom 6:23). Not simply long existence, but abundant life (Joh 10:10). For He is the substance of life (Joh 6:48), and knowing Him is life itself (Joh 17:3). He is so glorious a reward, that death is gain (Phi 1:21), and even the sufferings of this life are not fit to be compared (Rom 8:18) with eternity with Him.

But do our lives demonstrate this worth? Or are these young athletes putting our passion to shame?

Do we pursue holiness (Heb 12:14), devoting ourselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship (Act 2:42) so that we can obey all that Christ has commanded us—out of love for Him (Joh 14:15; 1Jo 5:3)? Do we glorify God, even in the most mundane rituals of life—whether eating or drinking (1Co 10:31), sitting in our house, or walking down the road (Deu 6:6-9)? Do we praise him continually (Act 2:46-47), for both the good and the bad (1Th 5:18), because we trust Him so much (Rom 8:28)? Do we so selflessly live that all our possessions are turned over to the Lord (Act 2:44-46)?

Because our pursuit is not just about our own future, but the future of others. We have been commanded to multiply and fill the earth (Gen 1:28), not with warm bodies, but obedient disciples (Mat 28:19-20). For that definition, we must hear the hard words of Christ which demand absolute surrender and radical allegiance to Him alone (Luke 14:25-33).

And we cannot multiply what we ourselves are not.

So let us consider His glory, and seek to become singular focused (Phi 3:13) on building something great (Mat 6:33)—both within ourselves (Phi 1:20), and in others (Phi 1:9-11). Through it all, loving God with our entire being (Deu 6:5), exalting Christ in both word and deed (Col 3:17), in order to lift Him high in exaltation (Psa 68:4) so that He will draw people to Himself (Joh 12:32) and add to our number daily (Act 2:47)—not lukewarm converts (Rev 3:16), but radical disciples given to a surrendered pursuit of Jesus Christ (Luk 9:24).

No days off!

Billy Neal

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