By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. 2 Peter 1:3-4
Last fall, two of my kids joined the Cross Country team for the first time. Because it is a small school, the team consists of runners in 6th - 12th grade. Whether a runner is a varsity runner or a JV runner depends on commitment and race times, not on grade-level. In fact, one of the faster varsity girls was a 12-year-old sixth grader! Having inherited my athletic ability (cough, cough), my two athletes were steadfast members of the JV team. As in football and basketball, genetics play a huge role in performing at the elite level. Although both kids worked hard and made great improvements over the season, there was never really any possibility of them running varsity. (Even the slow kids on the varsity team were freakishly fast compared to the general population.) Their friend Taylor, also a brand new runner, was a different story. She realized by the third race that she had the potential to be an excellent runner. By mid-season she was consistently running varsity. However, along with that honor came much greater pressure and a much higher level of commitment on her part to maintain her position. She chose to give up many other things in order to focus on her running, because she realized her potential for success. It would be easy to look at Taylor's level of commitment compared to my kids and say that her character is greater. While she does have a great character, it's no greater than that of many other kids on the team--varsity or JV. The difference is potential. Taylor realized that with total commitment, she could achieve a level of excellence that could win her a spot on a college team and possibly even a scholarship. In contrast, even if my kids gave total commitment and cut everything else out of life, they are not likely to get a running scholarship. Although running is great for them, it is not an area of giftedness for them. There is no motivation to sacrifice all other pursuits to focus on running, when they don't have the potential for victory. (I know, I know, just crossing the finish line is a victory, but hang with me here...) What if.... what if there were something they could do, some pill they could take, that would GUARANTEE that if they put in the training, they would be Olympic contenders? I think we'd see their motivation and commitment level sky-rocket! In 1 Corinthtians 9:24, Paul urges believers (like you and me) to "run in such a way as to win the prize." Only here, he is not talking about a physical race, but a spiritual one. Unlike running, spiritual excellence is not a matter of genetics. It's a matter of the Gospel. Yet I wonder how many Christians are content to be on the "JV" team spiritually, cheering the varsity team enthusiastically, but unwilling to give the commitment and sacrifice required to live victoriously? Although there are a multitude of reasons why, I suspect that often it's because we don't believe we have the potential for victory. We believe that no matter how hard we strive, we can't measure up. How easy it is to look at our flawed and sinful selves and assume that holiness is reserved for those rare individuals who are "naturally" spiritual. IT'S A LIE. Every believer has the potential for holiness. The Bible is very clear that EVERY follower of Christ is reborn with everything required to live a godly life and participate in God's work of restoration in this world. I have the potential to be a godly, victorious woman, despite my less than victorious past. I am more than a conqueror regardless of my natural bent, because Christ has shared HIS divine nature with me. It's not about MY ability, it's about HIS. Can you see? There is no reason for any believer to walk in defeat. We simply need to grasp the reality and the source of our potential, and then train hard because we know that victory is guaranteed.