So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. 1 Corinthians 15:58
My daughter, Sally, has been competing in Ironman events since 2010 with the dream of qualifying for Kona. The Kona Ironman is the Holy Grail of the sport. The only way to compete in Kona is by qualifying at a sanctioned Ironman race, or by invitation. It is very difficult to earn a spot at Kona as evidenced by the fact that were only 50 spots available at the Ironman Wisconsin on September 7, 2014 for over 2,200 athletes.
Sally hired a coach after her second Ironman when she realized there would be little chance of training adequately to qualify for Kona without help. And so she has been on a tireless journey since that time to achieve her goal. There have been many weeks and even months when it seemed impossible to keep training. She had some successes in reaching milestones along the way. But there were plenty of failures as well. But on September 7, she reached her goal by running her race, trusting her coach’s plan, and staying focused for the entire 10 hours, 51 minutes, and 54 seconds that it took her to complete the race. This was quite an improvement from her Ironman time of 12 hours, 56 minutes, and 55 seconds in 2011.
Making it to Kona is all about the training and sticking with the coach’s plan. The same is true with God’s Kingdom. The only difference is that there are as many spots for God’s Kingdom as there are people. God wants EVERYONE! He does not want to exclude anyone. We are all called to the Kingdom of God. But what does it look like for us to live in His Kingdom? Paul tells us to “be strong and immovable.” This is easier than making it to Kona because our Coach is the Rock. He is strong. He is immovable. And when you allow Him access to your heart, He gives you all the strength and stability necessary to live in His Kingdom.
The amazing thing about God’s Kingdom is that we are invited to live in it today! We don’t have to wait for the prize. But we do need to submit to Jesus. When we listen to His voice, hear His plan for our lives, and allow Him to lead us every step of the way, we are living the dream! I have found that as I keep my eyes on Jesus, He supplies everything I need to make it through the race of life. Making it to Kona is pretty cool. But living in the Kingdom of God is absolutely out of this world even as we live in this world.
Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green. They will declare, “The Lord is just! He is my rock! There is no evil in him!” Psalm 92:14-15
With a recurrence of chest pain less than two years after bypass surgery, I must admit that I felt “over the hill.” It’s easy to allow physical challenges to cause discouragement and even despair. But the Psalmist reminds us that we can produce spiritual fruit no matter how old we get and what physical ailments we have. In fact, our spiritual fruit depends only upon our desire to allow the Holy Spirit to dwell within our heart. Such a heart open to the Spirit “produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
The way to remain vital regardless of the physical challenges and ailments that may befall us is to live from the heart given to Jesus. He is my Rock. He is my Righteousness. He is my Strength. And He is all of these things because I am in love with Him. I have found a peace that passes all understanding in the midst of my recurrent chest pain. I have discovered a vitality that only comes from a heart devoted to Jesus. When I allow the Holy Spirit to dwell within me, the desires of my heart become His desires. The burden of dietary restriction has disappeared because I truly want to eat what is best for a heart that has the Spirit of God in it.
I have discovered that recurrent chest pain has been a blessing. My despair has turned into hope, my fear has turned into courage, my self-pity has turned into self-awareness, my frailty has turned into vitality, and my foundation in quicksand has turned into a foundation on the Rock. What a difference it makes to surrender your heart completely to Jesus. Perhaps for the first time in my life I understand what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:10 because I have experienced it, “That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
What weakness do you have that will reveal your vitality?
Listen to me, all who hope for deliverance—all who seek the Lord! Consider the rock from which you were cut, the quarry from which you were mined. Isaiah 51:1
I love shopping for granite countertops. There are so many colors and patterns in the various granite slabs that come from all over the world. Granite has different characteristics depending upon its origin. Some granite is very porous while others are stronger and more stain resistant. The quality of the granite is dependent upon the quarry from which it was obtained.
Humans are the same way. Sometimes we are strong and stain resistant while other times we are porous to temptations and discouragements. And yet we were made in the image of God. We were actually cut from the Rock. Our Rock is Jesus! (See 1 Corinthians 10:4) Our quarry is God’s kingdom! We can only become porous when we turn away from God and trust in our own strength rather than in His power.
In my journey toward heart health, I have found a renewed assurance that brings peace and joy into my heart in the realization that I am actually cut from the Rock. No matter how physically sick I may be, I know that Jesus is in me. No matter what happens in the future, I know that I am always connected to Jesus, a part of Him. Even if my heart fails, I am in His heart. Even if my heart misses a beat, nothing can separate me from His heart of love. You see, I am created from HIS quarry and cut from THE Rock. I don’t know about you, but that is incredibly powerful news. This changes everything. Nothing else matters. Why? Because I know from where I came and to whom I am connected.
I now know when I become porous and succumb to discouragement when chest pain recurs or life’s circumstances don’t go my way that I am actually made of granite that is strong and stain resistant. I know He made me from the quarry of His kingdom. I know I was created to worship Him and not my own desires. I know that in Him I have all the power of the universe at my disposal. This gives me the resolve I need to stay in His will. No wonder Paul says in Romans 8:38, “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.” Nothing, nothing, nothing can separate me from God because I was cut from the Rock, Jesus! And so were you!
When you feel separated from God, read Isaiah 51:1 and Romans 8:38. Remember that you are a child of God. That you are a part of Him. That He loves you. And that He longs to be with you. You were cut from quite a Rock. A Rock that changes everything!