And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus.
Luke 5:11 NLT
My dad, Jim Ballinger, is 64, and he is an Ironman. In fact, he is training for Ironman Florida right now. We talked yesterday and he shared with me that the training that he does is tougher mentally than it is physically. He explained that he has no one training with him this time and the long sessions can feel lonely at times. I asked if he ever tries listening to something in one ear while he trains, but he explained that the distraction is too dangerous since there are situations that come up that you must be prepared for our you could be caught up in an accident. Other people aren’t very mindful or aware enough to look out for someone riding a bike 100 miles or running a long distance as they train for an event that seems foreign or impossible to most of the world.
A few hours earlier, my wife and I had run into, Mark Foster, a great friend, pastor, and fellow child of the One True God in the produce section at Ingles as we gathered our groceries for the week. Our discussion was on the focus and dedication that it takes to successfully walk in the Spirit and to “Go and sin no more.” But our conversation was about that it is possible with great focus and dedication and training, that we are not yet perfect, but our goal is to strive after perfection – to live our lives as a sacrifice, making Christ our addiction, seeking first the Kingdom of God.
The parallels between training for an Ironman and training for our final destination to be proven before Christ as a good and faithful servant have never been so clear to me as now. As I study this Word of God and learn to recognize those things in my own life that are tricks of the enemy, I become equipped with the tools to battle and overcome those temptations in my life. And for most temptations, they flee from me once I am equipped in that area. But some return. And some return with stronger friends, and I must continue to learn and grow and equip myself for battle.
Some would say, but your salvation is complete, the battle is already won, Christ has completed the work – to which I would say, “Yes, I am His and He is mine. That work is done and He is faithful and true. My salvation is complete. But my testimony is not.” You see, if I make it only about my own salvation, if I take this heaven ticket, place it in my back pocket for the day I die, and do nothing for the Kingdom of God, if I turn back from the plow and try to use have as an excuse to remain in sin, not battling to see sin overcome in my life, not sharing this gospel with others who are lost, not making disciples and baptizing in His name, then how can I say that I’ve “left everything and followed Jesus”?
And as we train and as we grow in discernment, being equipped with more understanding of how to recognize and battle the tricks and traps of the enemy, those areas of our lives that need correction – unfortunately this healing to our spiritual eyes also comes with the ability to see it in others. And while we are called to use it to strive for righteousness ourselves and do battle against those things in our lives that would spill our garments, our testimony to the Lord – it can create division and separation and isolation from the world. We can find ourselves on a long, narrow road, seemingly running forever, with no brothers or sisters running beside us to the end – but Christ is always with us.
You see, we are not just meant to look at our own salvation and celebrate when so many of our brothers and sisters are either lost in the darkness or are still soiling their garments. If we only use the grace that we’ve received to remain the same as the world in every other aspect of our lives other than a once a week praise and worship and a check to someone else who is serving the Lord, then how precious and valuable can we say that the Lord is to us? Are we not like Israel, turning back to our idols in this world? Loving wealth, comfort, pleasure, sports, hobbies, loved ones, more than we love God who died for us and offers us His hand in eternity?
So let’s lay down everything. Let’s set our sights on serving the Lord. Let’s count the cost and realize that Christ is the ONLY thing of value that we can cling to. Let’s get addicted to Christ.
And let’s train radically, to the world as if we were racing for the impossible. Let’s set our eyes upon striving for the righteousness of a life where we “go and sin no more”. But let’s remember even when we slip that He will catch us.
Today, I ask you, are your eyes set firmly upon your Lord and Savior? Are you training to show yourself approved? Or are you caught up in the distraction?
Strive for perfection, not so that you may be found perfect (because you are not), but so that the Lord may be honored in your continued effort, and so that your life shines as a living and undeniable testimony to others that the Lord has touched you, has changed you, and is doing a mighty work in you and through you. Do not worry about the stumbles, even when visible to others – let the discipline you receive even be a testimony and a warning for others. Better that the Lord be honored as faithful and true than for me to shrink back from running the race to my best.