Virtual Bible Study
Schedule: May 31st 2022
Time: 8:00pm EST
Length: 60 minutes
DEVO: Start At The Finish
Utilizing the theme of running a race, and knowing where we want to be, over the next 4 days we will use God’s word, which is full of wisdom, examples, and direction from the ultimate race organizer, to see how best to run and win.
Take this and our other devotions on YouVersion.
Day1: Running with Purpose
“Therefore I run in such a way as not to run aimlessly;” 1st Corinthians 9:26.
I ran a ½ marathon about a decade ago and remembered getting ready for it. A few weeks before the race, I looked at the map and drove it to familiarize myself with the course route. It gave me an idea of what the course was like, such as elevation changes (aka hills), landmarks, etc. This pre-race reconnoiter served me well as the last two miles had one killer hill, and I could make sure I had a little gas left in the tank before I tackled it. I was prepared for it.
What if the race organizers just sent out the starting and finishing lines and said you needed to figure out where the course was and its path and obstacles yourself? I would have spent much longer finishing because I would have had to determine the correct path without the course markers or the map. Talk about running aimlessly.
I look back at my life and think about all the times I had no map, course markers, or directions. I was unprepared and running aimlessly. Without preparation, can we be ready for what life holds – marriage, kids, financial disasters, or worldwide issues like COVID? Wouldn’t it be great if we could look ahead at our marriage and find out what we could do now to avoid or ensure future events? What if we could see our kids in 35 years?
Scripture uses a variation of the word running throughout the Bible. I would imagine that given there was not a lot of transportation back then, maybe a few donkeys or oxen, your feet were what you used, and you better have an idea of where you were headed and the best way to get there! It doesn’t mean that the walk will be easy; as I ran with many hills on the course, our walk with Jesus will not be easy. Our lives will be much more complicated if we ignore Scripture and try to find the path to the finish line with no help!
Today, take time to think about Paul’s words, “Therefore I run in such a way as not to run aimlessly;” 1st Corinthians 9:26.
Are you running aimlessly?
What influences or situations in your life are causing this?
Write down where and when you feel like you are running nowhere. Then, write down what you think maybe causing this. We will use this in the coming days to develop a plan on how we can best run God’s race and win.
1 Corinthians 9:26
1 Corinthians 9:24
Day 2: Training for the Run
“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9
Training for any run can and will, almost always, be a significant benefit to you when it comes to running the event. That may seem like an obvious thing to say, but we men rarely apply this to other aspects of our lives.
Training does two things for us. First, it prepares the body. Distance running is hard on the body’s joints, and building up is essential to strengthening the joints and lessening the impact on your body’s mechanics. Secondly, it prepares the mind. The result is that when you push hard during training, your mind and body are ready for the challenge of the event itself. For my ½ marathon, I found an excellent online trainer who set a schedule for me to follow. Imagine training with no plan or physical and mental preparation.
How often do we do that in life, though? We often act as if the events in our life are new to all mankind, and we must work them out independently. I often recall the words of Solomon “What has been, it is what will be, and what has been done, it is what will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Solomon’s message was simply that what you are going through isn’t new, and you are certainly not required to go through it alone.
I used to look at the Bible as two-dimensional. The “characters” in the Bible were just part of the story. But at some point, the Holy Spirit woke me up and drew me into the lives of those who walked before me. Peter isn’t just some name in the Bible. He was a fisherman, he was married, he betrayed Jesus, and he was also the “rock” on which Jesus said His church would be built. Imagine being Peter, called to follow Jesus but also called to honor, love, and care for his wife. Sound familiar? Paul hunted Christians, met Jesus, and was transformed. His life didn’t get easier, in fact, more challenging, but with the affirmation of Jesus, and the support of the Holy Spirit, he focused on the finish – building Christ’s church.
- Who in the Bible do you most admire and relate to best?
- Why do you relate to them?
Uncommen Challenge is to look at one issue in your life, and then I want you to think about the person in the Bible you most related to. For example, maybe your job is challenging (David), perhaps you are called to follow Jesus in ministry but are worried about your family (Peter), or maybe doing the right thing is putting you in some crisis (Paul.) Take time today and write down how they tackled their challenge and start to see how you can apply their examples to your life.
Day 3: Game Over, Try Again
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” Mark 1:35
“Game Over,” the screen says, so you hit “try again.” Maybe this time you’ll be lucky! But, of course, life isn’t a video game, and there are no Jumanji resets, so what can we do to better prepare for our life challenges? Let’s start with what you do consistently every day. What routines do you have in place for the day’s challenges? Mine include an early wake-up, running shoes, a treadmill, a podcast, and Scripture. This routine wakes me up, helps me focus, and starts me off strong to meet the day’s challenges.
My wake-up routine gets me going for whatever challenges are ahead of me. It isn’t always perfect, but when I focus on the day’s challenges at the beginning of my day, I am usually better prepared to face expected and, more importantly, unexpected challenges. I look ahead, know what is coming, and use this routine to reach my goal. I’ve tried tackling my day’s goals with no plan, but I rarely succeed. What works for me is to start with where I need to be and walk backward from there while simultaneously identifying the best way to get there and the possible obstacles along the way. The better we prepare, the better we are ready.
When we review Jesus’s three-year ministry, we see that He also had an overall and daily plan. Jesus often prayed in solitude to His Father. It was part of His general routine. His actions were purposeful. Fortified with prayer, He knew what His goals for the day were to follow the will of His Father and used those goals to plan the best way to accomplish them. “And in the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, went away to a secluded place, and prayed there for a time” (Mark 1:35). We see that Jesus did this routinely, too: “but Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray” (Luke 5:16)
No doubt, as Jesus added His twelve, He made some adjustments to account for His disciples’ different personalities or needs. And, of course, if Jesus felt like He needed to pray before He started His day/His plan, that might be a good idea for us as well.
What routines do you have?
Do those routines help or hinder your daily challenges?
Look at the “steps” you take or “buttons” you push each day for today’s challenge. Do these routine things help your day? First, find one part of your routine you can drop and plan to do it for a week. Next, find one other thing you are not doing (maybe reading Scripture each morning), and plan on doing it for a week. Keep in mind that your routine is meant to help you meet your challenges prepared, not hinder your capability to satisfy them!
Day 4: Puzzling, isn't it?
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
Usually, you buy a puzzle with a picture on it and start building it by matching the pieces to the image. Unfortunately, it is far easier to do a puzzle with a picture than not. Even harder, try creating a 4,000-piece Lego set with no picture or instructions. I would bet it wouldn’t look anything like it was supposed to, not to mention how long it would take you!
Even with a picture, assembling a giant puzzle can be daunting. Our pieces interconnect in odd ways sometimes. A piece we thought looked like a tree was part of the mountain in the background. Sometimes, even our perception of the picture can be wrong, so we need to settle back and re-examine our approach. I can either look at my life, specifically all the pieces that do not come together clearly and be frustrated, angry, jealous, or discontent, or I can recognize a purpose for it all. I can acknowledge that God has put every puzzle piece in that box, and He knows where each part fits. If I assemble my life according to His picture of my life (and purpose), it will perfectly fit. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.'” Jeremiah 29:11.
Whether we have the complete picture, this puzzle of our life, no matter how daunting or complex, is beautiful in God’s eyes. Imagine that Lego box full of 4,000 pieces – some small, some big, and many varied colors. When viewed like that, it seems like a jumbled mess of separate pieces that we can never put together, especially if we don’t have a completed picture or instructions. But God doesn’t see it like that. He sees every one of those pieces aligned perfectly, and when compiled, those thousands of separate pieces become a final fantastic design. We are created perfect in Christ! “So God created mankind in His image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them,” Genesis 1:27.
The Holy Spirit guides each piece to fit together perfectly if we stop trying to jam them together!
Identify one or two pieces of the “puzzle” that don’t seem to fit in your life or are causing frustration.
Are you attempting to fit them where you want them or letting the Holy Spirit fit them?
Uncommen Challenge: Take the two things you identified as frustrating and ask God to help you see them differently. Write them down. Are you trying to assemble your puzzle independently without God’s completed picture meant just for you? Write your answer and how you plan on seeing the puzzle through His eyes instead of yours.
Day 5: The Beautiful Finish
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” Matthew 14:28
One of my favorite stories in the Bible is when Peter steps out in faith walks to Jesus on the water (Matthew 14:28). At some point, he panics and starts to sink. Jesus didn’t just stand there and scold him. Instead, he went to Peter, offered His hand, and pulled Him up. That is what Jesus does for us over and over again.
Over the last four days, we looked at the idea of the finish line or the picture behind the puzzle. We know as Christians that our eternity is guaranteed. We will cross that finish line, and God knows exactly how the puzzle fits together. For us, it’s not always clear because we often rely on our understanding. If we know where the finish line is, though, we can walk backward from that finish. We train daily for our challenges by using routines that include listening and talking with the Lord. The Holy Spirit will guide us when we are willing, and our path, while not easy, will never be walked alone.
Jesus acknowledged our journey here would be filled with trouble. Yet when you begin to adhere to the path He has set out, we can experience Joy and Love that is not of this world. Paul, even in prison, was writing letters of encouragement! Talk about finding Joy regardless of the situation. Paul was able to, like we can, “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Phil 3:14.
When we finally cross that finish line, there will be no pain, no tears or sadness, and we will find immeasurable love and joy, reunions, and the unimaginable presence of the Lord. Knowing this, even when we experience the obstacles of life – grief, anxiety, pain, sadness, loss, etc., we can finish the race by focusing on what is to come.
If you take away anything from this devotional, it should be that scripture, prayer, and a willingness to listen to the Holy Spirit are the keys to a successful walk! May God bless you with clarity, and may you have the courage to grab His hand when He reaches out!
Can you envision the finish line? What does it look like to you?
What training and routines can you put in place to get there?
Commit to staying the course. If life is hard for you now, seek His path and will. If life is easy for you now, use this time to get solid training and routine in place, as you will be knocked down at some point. Be prepared. And finally, don’t give up hope. Jesus carried the cross. He separated from His Father. Jesus rose from the dead. He did all of this for you and me. With that in mind, know He is there for you, good times and bad, sinking or floating.