Thursday, August 26, 2021

Racing by the Rules

“If anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules.2 Timothy 2:5 

Tatjana Schoenmaker is a record-holding swimmer from South Africa. Her specialty is the 200-meter breaststroke. Three weeks ago, heading into the 200-meter final, she was the favorite to win gold. There was even talk of her breaking the world record that had remained unbroken since 2013. Everyone watching that 200-meter women’s final knew that Tatjana Shoenmaker was a great swimmer. What many didn’t know is that she’s also a follower of Christ. As she swam at the Olympics, underneath her outer green swim cap that identified her home country of South Africa, she wore another white swim cap. It has a blue Jesus fish on it along with the words, “Soli Deo Gloria,” which translates as “Glory to God Alone.”

Before heading to Tokyo last month, Tatjana posted this tweet: “Father God may Your will be done, may Your peace fill us up, may we praise You no matter what the outcome, may we be empowered by Your strength to give it our all and may we forever be in the awe of Your goodness.” And as it turned out, Tatjana Shoenmaker not only won Olympic gold, she became the first woman in history to swim the 200-meter breaststroke in under 2 minutes and 19 seconds.

Tatjana traveled to the Olympic Games and fought the good fight. She kept the faith and finished her race on top. Tatjana Shoenmaker did it in an Olympic swimming pool, and you and I can do it right here where God has placed us. He has called us to run the race of our lives: “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). Life is short, and we have a lot of work to do for Jesus before we croak. So, by faith, we’ve got to hustle! We’ve got to run this Jesus race with some heart. We’ve got to run this Jesus race as if lives depend on it—because they do.

In 2 Timothy 2:5 we read, “If anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules.” As I mentioned last week, there are three rules in this Jesus race. #1: Trust God. #2: Love God. #3: Obey God’s commands. Let’s take a closer look at these three life-changing rules for running a gold-medal race.

Rule #1: Trust Him—ONLY Him. (Heb. 11:6) “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” Don’t trust in Jesus AND the Pope. Don’t trust in Jesus AND Donald Trump. Don’t trust in Jesus AND your own righteousness and good works. Trust in JESUS ALONE. Jesus can not and will not share your soul’s trust with anyone. Your soul is either His completely, or it’s not His at all. You either surrender complete control of your life to Christ, or you don’t surrender it at all. Trust Him and Him alone. That’s Rule #1.

Rule #2: Love Him—ONLY Him. (Matt. 22:37-40) “Love the Lord Your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” These verses confuse a lot of people. They wonder: “If I love God with all my heart, there won’t be any part of my heart left to love anyone else.” Exactly! That’s exactly the way God wants it to be. You may ask, “What about my spouse? What about my family?” Here’s the thing: If your heart is completely God’s, you won’t have ANY part of your heart left to love people around you in your inferior, half-hearted way. God will just have to love them perfectly through you. And whose love is better—yours or God’s? Jesus can not and will not share your heart’s love with anyone else. You either love Christ completely, or you don’t love Him at all. So, love God with everything you’ve got. That’s Rule #2.

Rule #3: Obey Him—ONLY Him. (John 14:15) Jesus says it so simply in John 14:15: “If you love Me, you will obey what I command.” If you don’t obey Christ, you don’t really love Christ or trust Christ—which means you’re not IN Christ. If you don’t obey Christ, you’re on the wide road to Hell. There’s no way around it: If you want to be forgiven of your sin, if you want to be on the narrow road, if you want to go to heaven some day, you have to be ready and willing to obey … right now. Not one of these days. Not when things get less busy. Not when obeying becomes more convenient. NOW! Obeying Jesus’ commands isn’t convenient. It’s rarely popular. And it’s almost never easy. But if you’re serious about running a gold-medal race for Jesus, you will obey His commands anyway. That’s Rule #3.

You may never be an Olympian. But like Tatjana, you can finish your race strong by trusting Christ, loving Christ and obeying Christ’s commands every day of your life. Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith, and finish strong. Then, when you get to the end of your life here on earth, you’ll be able to join the Apostle Paul in saying, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7).

Dane Davis is the Pastor of Impact Christian Church. Please join us for our in-person worship service Sundays at 9 a.m. at 17746 George Blvd. in Victorville. Or, join us online at 10 a.m. on the Impact Christian Church YouTube channel or Facebook page. For more information, visit

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