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Vicki Andree/Belleview Christian College

God's Race

What is the answer to the stress and trouble of today's world? Each of us can have relief from it. The steps are straightforward:
Seek His Face. Embrace His Grace. Run the Race.
By Vicki Andree
Have you read the paper lately? I don't read the paper, but I see the headlines on the Internet. The Top Stories from the Associated Press of Jul 15, 5:56pm MT, are as follows:

Dow Down 45 After 439-Point Drop
Senate Passes Business Fraud Bill
Lindh Pleads Guilty, Faces 20 Years
WorldCom Exec Didn't Want § Probe
Report: Bin Laden Alive, Healthy

 Top Stories from July 15th tell us that the stock market is down, business fraud is up. American citizens are fighting against their own country. The Securities Exchange Commission is investigating the latest corporate scam and terrorist leader Bin Laden is said to be alive and well. It seems as though the world is continuing to hurl down a steep grade to hell. In fact, to some extent that is true. As Christians it is difficult to watch the corruption around us. There seems to be no escape because it touches our very lives every day. Perhaps we know too much. If we didn't know what was right and what was wrong it wouldn't bother us. But the fact is that we do know right from wrong and it breaks our hearts to watch while people destroy themselves and others. 

Then there is the issue of how all this affects us as individuals.   Have you noticed that everyone seems to be very busy these days? Have you tried to get together with someone lately? Invariably they pull out their calendar to see if they can 'fit you in'. The conversation goes something like this:

"Oh, Hi! It's so good to see you."

"You, too! I wanted to see your wedding pictures."

"Oh, uh, that was four years ago, but great. Let's get together on Tuesday morning."

"OK. Well, let me check my calendar. Oh no, Tuesday morning I have a dental appointment. How about Tuesday afternoon? Oops, I can't do it then because I promised I would take down the Christmas decorations. How about Wednesday?"

"Wednesday I work out in the morning, then every Wednesday afternoon I need take my dog, Fifi, for a pedicure. How's your Thursday?"

"Thursday is tight. It's near the end of the week so I usually need to play catch-up that day. You know, get to the work I should have done earlier in the week so that I can go home early on Friday."

 "Yeah. Friday's out. Getting ready for the weekend." "Well, yeah. We'll get together sometime soon. Give me a call."

"Better yet, I'll call you!"


Nobody ever calls. They are too busy.

 It seems that we have so much to do. The days are just not long enough. Everyone is totally involved in their own thing. People are so busy working for this cause or that cause or - even for their church that they don't have time to listen. I often wonder how we can hear the cry of the lost over the din of activity. Sometimes we're so busy that we don't have time to listen to our families. Worse yet, we're so busy that we don't have time to listen to God. What's more, if He did speak to us I wonder if we would have time to recognize His voice.

 You're probably asking yourself what all this busyness has to do with the plight of our country today. It's really quite simple. How we live daily on an individual basis filters to those headlines I read earlier. If we're caught up in the same self-centeredness reflected in the headlines, we're just as guilty as those infamous names in the paper. If we're busy in the things that keep us busy instead of doing the "good deeds that God planned for us in advance" as the Scriptures tell us, then we really are contributing to the downfall of the nation. Oh, you don't believe it? Believe it.  Luke 18 contains an interesting passage of Scripture. "And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:7-8). I want you to think of this last sentence. When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth? He, God, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe and everything in it, looks for faith on the earth. He brings about justice. Let's address the question of how God expects us to live in a world like ours. How are we as Christians to live with all the dissension and buzz around us?

By the way, this is not a new situation. Corruption, greed, ambition and worldliness has been going on since the beginning of civilization. It seems like whenever a bunch of human beings get together the result is chaos.

It's interesting to note that in the year 6 and 4 BC some of the same things were happening in Jerusalem and the land we now call Israel. It was actually much worse back then. According to ancient records, the writings of that great Jewish Historian, Josephus, and the more recent nineteenth century studies of Alfred Edersheim, there was worldliness, corruption and ambition throughout the land. 

The Jews had enjoyed a time of prosperity after the revolution of the Maccabees, but that had disintegrated. Now the Romans occupied their land. Herod the Great was appointed to rule. He did horrible things. He made daily life for the Jews difficult. He taxed them heavily. He paid false homage to their God while politically bowing to the desires of the Romans. He spilled the blood of Jew and Gentile alike at his whim. When he was told that there was a possibility that the Messiah had been born he ordered all the baby boys age two and under slaughtered. Joseph was warned in a dream to go to Egypt and hide there with Jesus until the danger was over. In this act you can see the plight of the Christ Child, and the provision of God in that terrifying time. 
 Jesus was born into a world of turmoil. He grew up and began His ministry in the cruelest of times. In spite of the wickedness and ignorance in the world He came to save the world and not to condemn it. John 3:17 quotes Jesus saying, "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him" (John 3:17 NIV). 
 In a world of turmoil He spoke gently and told the people the same truth that holds today. In John chapter 16, verse 33, Jesus said, "I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." Jesus came to us. He taught us how to live. He died on the cross for the sins of the world. He rose again so that we might be saved. 

He left His disciples with a command to go and teach and preach and baptize throughout all nations. Then He told them that He would do the work in the heart of the new believer and that no one would come "unless the Father draws him." I mention this because in our zeal to do things for the Lord we tend to forget that He is in charge. While we live in perilous times, we also have a great God and Savior who cares about our every need. As we watch the news unfolding around us fear tugs at us. We long for peace in a chaotic world. But friends, we can have peace. We do have peace. He has given us peace. All we need do is tap into it. I propose three ways to do just that.


Seek His Face. 

 When David brought the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem there was great celebration because God was going to be residing in their midst once again. David sings a song of thanksgiving to God. Part of the song goes like this: 
Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; Talk of all His wondrous works!

Glory in His holy name; Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the LORD! 

Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face evermore! (1 Chr 16:9-11 NKJV).

 Seek His Face. This phrase is mentioned again in Psalm 105. 

(Ps. 105:1 NKJV) Oh, give thanks to the LORD! Call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples!

(Ps. 105:2 NKJV) Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; Talk of all His wondrous works!

(Ps. 105:3 NKJV) Glory in His holy name; Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the LORD!

(Ps. 105:4 NKJV) Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face evermore!

 In the Book of Acts, chapter 17, verses 24-28 we read: "God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men's hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, 'For we are also His offspring.'" Here it says that we are to 'grope' for Him. That word is a word we usually associate with darkness. It is used to describe feeling our way through the darkness. We are to reach out of the darkness to seek Him.

 Seeking the Lord is more than reading the Bible and praying. Certainly reading the Bible and praying is important, but it's an attitude. Seeking Him is finding Him. It's looking for Him in the Scriptures, in our prayers, in our churches, in nature, in ourselves. Seeking Him is desiring Him with all of your heart. Seeking Him is wanting to know everything you can find out about Him. Seeking His Face is to want to know every spot and crinkle on that glorious Face. Seeking Him is wanting to know Him through and through. Seeking Him is falling in love with Him! 
 And when that finally happens you are going to find Him there, arms open and full of grace. 

That brings us to my second point:

Embrace the Grace.

 Grace is one of my favorite words. I don't know if you have favorite words, but grace is way at the top of my list. I believe it's a misunderstood word. I've heard it explained as an acrostic. That would be a word for each letter. It's begins with G for God's, then R for Riches, A for at, C for Christ's, E for Expense - God's riches at Christ's expense. How could a perfect man go to the cross, accept the sins of the world and die for people He didn't even know? How could a man born in the year 4 BC know you or me? Psalm 139 reveals that He knew us before we were even born! And because of that He already loved us. In Hebrews we are told to "Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who, for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning it's shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Because He loved us, it was for the "joy set before Him" that He did it. 
 That leads us to Jesus the Creator. The Book of John begins: In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God. And the Word was God. Through Him all things were made. Without Him nothing was made that has been made.

 The Word here is Jesus! Jesus is God. He created us. He loves us. He loves us so much that He's willing to forgive us and not only that, He want us to have life and to have it abundantly! The only way we can attain that abundant life is through His grace.
 God's ways are not our ways. God's ways are certainly not the ways of the world. As Christians we should be asking Him day after day to show us His ways. He showed us the unparalleled grace of love when He died on the cross. In this way He took our sins and made a way for us to have a relationship with Him. Now, having believed on Him and with the knowledge that He is our Strong Tower, we must desire to walk in His ways.
 God's grace is very large. He forgives our sins, but it's more than that. We can live in His grace. We can trust Him to live through us everyday.  We can rest in His grace while He outwardly works through us. The more we surrender to Him, the more His grace abounds.

And my third proposal is that we

 Run the Race.

 We've talked about "Seek His Face" and "Embrace the Grace".  Now I want to talk to you about "Run the Race". It seems a bit out of context. After we've surrendered ourselves to Him and stand open to receive His grace, running a race seems like quite a contrast. But it isn't. 
When you run a race you train for it. You work hard to exercise those muscles you will need to win the race. Athletes will tell you that they begin training months, even years before an event. For instance, most professional ice skaters begin at a very young age! 
 Remember, God's ways are not our ways. God's ways are His ways and they are the way we ask Him to lead us. We will begin training for this race in the same way we will begin each race - by doing nothing. Well, not exactly by doing nothing, but by doing what God tells us to do in His Word. Psalm 46:10 states, "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!" Be still and know that I am God! What a marvelous and unique way to run a race! 
But when you think about it, it makes so much sense. It's an exercise in faith. Faith in God and in His unfailing power will win the race. And the race itself is different from what the world defines as a race. The Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, which - by the way - I have had since I first went to college back in 1963 ( I always have to smile when I pick it up because it's still a New Collegiate Dictionary) says, a race is to go or to move at top speed or out of control. OK, then. The race we're running is not to move at top speed and especially not out of control! 
Our race concerns the good deeds that God has prepared for us to do in advance that the Scriptures talk about. In order to do these good deeds we must have faith. We must believe that God is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe and everything in it and also that He is the final Victor. Be Still and know that I am God. There's our push-up, our jog around the park, our training for those deeds to come. It's also the answer as to how we can deal with those headlines we read earlier. It's the way we can deal our day to day busyness. It's how we can live with any situation life hands us. The notes in the Life Application NIV put it like this:

 War and destruction are inevitable, but so is God's final victory. At that time all will stand quietly before the Lord Almighty. How proper, then, for us to be still now, reverently honoring him and His power and majesty. Take time each day to be still and to exalt God.
 Seek His Face. Embrace the Grace. Run the Race.

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