It's State Track weekend and I'm preaching about following Jesus through cross-bearing, so I thought I'd share some thoughts....
I’ve always run distance races. Looking back, I believe I did this for two reasons.
1) I am mostly legs.
2) I liked to win.
From my earliest days racing, most signed up to run the 100 or jump or throw, but few signed up to run the 1 mile and 2 mile; so in the worst case scenario, I’m at least placing.
Once high school track started, I really started running the distance; 4 miles every meet.
The day started with the 2 mile run (8 laps), then the 2 mile relay (2 laps), then the 800 meter run (2 laps), and then to cap it off and bore people before the mile relay, the day ended with the mile run (4 laps).
Do you know why I was able to do that every Saturday in the spring?
I was able to say “yes” to 2 laps, 2 more laps, and then 4 more laps,
because I’d already given my big “YES” to 8 laps.
In my head every Saturday I’m thinking, after running 8 laps:
“Two more laps? Ok. I already did 8.”
“Oh, two more laps again? I already did 8.”
“Wow! 4 more laps now? I already did 8.”
By giving the big “YES” to the hardest race (this illustration isn’t perfect because the 800 is actually the hardest race and the hellscape of track and field, but you get the point) I could do the rest of the small “yeses”.
That’s what the call to martyrdom in scripture is about.
A big YES to "take up your cross (Matt. 16:24)" covers the small yeses along the way.
By giving the big YES to martyrdom, we’re simultaneously giving the small yes to not consuming porn (1 Thess. 4:2).
By giving the big YES to martyrdom, we’re simultaneously giving the small yes to resisting gossip (Rom. 12:9)
By giving the big YES to martyrdom, we’re simultaneously giving the small yes to gather with the church for mutual encoruagment in the race (Heb. 10:25).
Think about it. If we can’t follow Jesus four blocks to the church building once a week (a comically small yes), what makes us think we’ll follow him to the gallows (a great big giant YES)?
If we can’t confess Him as Lord to our neighbor who is a nice guy (a small yes), what makes us think we’ll confess him as Lord on the guillotine* (a big YES)?
Or like the Lord posed to Jeremiah,
“(Jeremiah 12:5) If you have raced with men on foot (a small yes), and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses (a big YES)?
If we can’t say yes to 8 laps, what makes us think we’ll be able to say yes to 2?
Dalton Thomas, in his book “Unto Death” writes:
"Though not every believer is called to give a martyr-witness, every believer is called to embrace a martyr-mentality, every church a martyr-mandate, and every minister a martyr-theology. Whether we live or die is ultimately in the hands of our Master, and if we have not entrusted Him with that decision, we may be deluding ourselves into assuming we are His bondservants when in fact we are not."
Jesus teaches us to give Him the big YES first, and then let the little yeses fall into place.
Because really, what’s a few more laps after 8?
*I don't know why every "Rapture movie" has a guillotine, but they do :)