In the 1988 Olympics the men’s final of the 100 meters featured a major showdown. Carl Lewis of the USA versus Ben Johnson of Canada. Lewis was much heralded and had won many times but this race for the world’s fastest man took a different turn, in more ways than one ! Johnson crossed the finish line first and in record time, he cruised ahead of the vaunted Carl Lewis, America’s star, buuuuut there soon was revealed a problem. Johnson had been found out that he was “doping”. Taking performance enhancing drugs, the Olympic committee rightly stripped Johnson of his gold medal and awarded it to the silver medalist, Carl Lewis ! Johnson had run his race and brought the results but he’d chosen to ignore the rule book !!
As Paul was winding down his writing career he told Timothy, “And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.” (2Tim.2:5). It is interesting here that the word for “strive” is the Greek athleo from which we get athletics. The Greeks had the ancient Olympic games and they also had rules, so Paul was alluding to competing in an athletic contest and he was saying that if an athlete competed in a race, for example, and didn’t do so “lawfully” or properly or agreeable to the rules then he wouldn’t, like Ben Johnson, be “crowned” or wear the gold medal or here the “stephanos” (victor’s crown) !
We also have a rule book in the Bible. It tells us that today God wants His children to serve Him in and through the local church. I have mentioned in our church often to “spell out these rules” that the overwhelming majority of even the titles of our New Testament books are about and to local churches (Acts starts by showing us how they began, Romans to the local churches there, Corinthians, Colossians, Ephesians, Philippians, – you get the picture ! Even the pastoral epistles being addressed to men initially (Timothy and Titus) were written why? to organize the local churches !!). Paul didn’t spend his years as a Christian in a “Christian coffee shop” having fun as he wanted, he helped to develop LOCAL churches and when he came back home to Antioch he reengaged in his local congregation. So how does this apply to you and I today? We must involve ourselves with our church. We start by JOINING it which shows God and others your COMMITMENT to His work locally (Acts 2:41). We FAITHFULLY ATTEND (Heb.10:25) not pick and choose when we want to show up. We GIVE of our time, talent and tithes to support it. As God has given you a talent(s) He expects you to help build up your church with that talent. And when we GIVE, we give our BEST as it is God’s work. Instead of complaining about what my church doesnt have, I contribute to give it what it should have ! And I thank God for what it does have. PRAY for your church: the Pastor, each other, the services, its outreach, its finances, etc.
A lot of Christians give to various causes in some way, they even give to parachurch ministries (those not connected to a local church) but when it’s all said and done you’d better be giving of yourself in a way that accords with the rules. The world may think you’re a great success and you might even see people impacted for Christ but at what cost to God? He will be the final Judge and will He say “well done thou good and FAITHFUL servant”? Or will you lose the reward? The local church is to be the “pillar and ground of the truth” (1Tim.3:15). Our world needs a good steady foundation of truth and they need to see it in YOU as a member of such a support ! Don’t leave God’s local church in the dust or you will be the one left in the dust in the end !