Going to the Mat

Olympics Going to the mat5

Do you know what it means to go to the mat? It means to struggle or fight until either victorious or defeated. Paul said in Philippians 3:13-14,“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize …”.

Many of you are watching on TV the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. These athletes trained hard to get there. In fact, these athletes have trained for years, persevering and enduring both physical and mental hardship in order to be able to win a medal.

Marlene Moncho, Pastor of Spiritual Development & Family at Zarephath Christian Church, drew a parallel between athletes in training and the Christian’s spiritual fight. “Spiritual growth comes through going to the mat, resistance training, foot work and punching the bag, beating against the flesh, exercising our faith, as most of our growth does not come from Easy-Street or Broad Street, but it comes from the Narrow-Street as we walk with the Lord.”

Whether you are trying to hold a marriage together, or you are facing financial struggles, or you are facing insurmountable problems at work, or you are suffering physically in your body, this is the training ground where you go to the mat and learn to be strong.

So when you are tempted to give up and succumb to your deepest worries and afflictions, press on toward the goal of winning your challenges by fervently (serious in intention, purpose, or effort; sincerely zealous) praying, reading the Word, praising God, and putting on the whole armor of God that you might be able to stand against the schemes of the devil (Ephesians 6:11).

“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” (I Corinthians 9:24). In this verse, the believer’s life is defined in terms of athletic metaphors. Paul  compares himself to runners who competed in the Isthmian games. These games were held every two years in Greece near Corinth. Unlike today’s Olympic Games where the winner is awarded gold, silver and bronze for first, second and third place, respectively, in the Isthmian games there was only one winner. Vince Lombardi, legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers, impressed this winning attitude in his football players when he said, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing”. Lombardi, however, was misquoted according to James A. Michener.  What he intended to say was “Winning isn’t everything. The will to win is the only thing.”  In other words, make every effort to win, “straining toward what is ahead” (Philippians 3:4, NIV).  GOD’s Word translation says “Brothers and sisters, I can’t consider myself a winner yet. This is what I do: I don’t look back, I lengthen my stride, and I run straight toward the goal to win the prize that God’s heavenly call offers in Christ Jesus”.

In the Isthmian games, those who won the race were awarded a crown of dried celery as their prize, a prize that Paul described as “one that will not last” (verse 25). But for the believer, he focuses their attention towards heaven with the goal of receiving an imperishable crown”.  There is the greatest encouragement, therefore —

Train hard,

Persevere with all your strength, and

Never give up.

I recently read a post by Marlene Moncho that inspires and encourages us to grow stronger regardless of our circumstances by keeping our eyes heavenward. Were it not for her struggles, she said, her deeper growth in Christ would not have been possible.  “Recently, I had gone through a window of not feeling well, and went through a series of hospital scans. Having a history of cancer, of course that concerns ….”  (CONTINUE READING GETTING STRONG NOW) by Marlene Moncho.

 

Copyright 2016 by Bill Hutzel

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America Out of Gas – A lesson on patience

In 1973, AMERICA WAS OUT OF GAS!  This gas station in Potlach, Washington turned their gas station into a religious meeting hall. The caption might have read, “People do not live by bread gas alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God”.

In 1973, I drove a forest green ‘68 Volkswagen Beetle. It wasn’t luxurious, nor comfortable, or have air conditioning, but I still loved my car!  It didn’t take much to fill it up either, nor was it expensive (relatively speaking). With gas prices at 25 cents to 31 cents a gallon, who cared if your car got less than 13 miles a gallon anyway.

TodayIsEvenDayBut what good was it if you couldn’t get gas?  In October of 1973, an oil embargo crisis caused by the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries, tested people’s patience to no end.  All oil exports to America were halted, and gas prices shot up, on average, to 38.5 cents a gallon. Odd-even rationing was mandated, meaning if the last digit of your license plate was even you could only get gas on even-numbered days.

If you had to wait at the pumps to fill up your tank, yimg0000659Aou hoped that they did not run out of gas before it was your turn. Some gas stations posted flags where green meant they had gas, and red meant that they were out of gas.

Tempers ran hot.  Fights broke out with customers who tried cutting in the line. And it was common for thieves to siphon your gas tank if they couldn’t get any at the pump.

In 1973, the mobile phone was invented, but most people would not have owned one, and would not have had the distraction of talking on the phone or texting to pass the time. So maybe you brought a good book to read. gas_line505x618Or if you were in college, like me, you might have used the time to study. As I was a music major in college, it was impractical for me to practice my flute in the car, so I brought my drum sticks. If you just so happened to be in line with me, you might have observed me practicing rudimentary flams, drags, and paradiddles (Right-Left-Right-Right, Left-Right-Left-Left) on the dashboard of my car. Banging on the dashboard (same cathartic effect that screaming into a pillow has) also tended to relieve my stress of having to wait in around-the-block lines with waits of 1 to 2 hours, especially when you were soooooooo on the brink of losing it. Streaking was a fad that was also quite cathartic, although I don’t recall seeing anyone do it at the gas pumps.

Oh, and that long trip to Vermont you were planning? Well, fuhgeddaboudit! Instead, you now worried about running out of gas and getting stranded.

So the next time you find yourself being impatient, try to get ahold of yourself and know that “The only way genuine patience can be acquired is by enduring the very trials that seem so unbearable today” (F.B. Meyer).

“Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. (Romans 12:12, HCSB)

Copyright 2016 by Bill Hutzel

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