“We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy…” Colossians 1:11
The air felt like April. The sun had just begun to call it a day and retreat from the sky. Preparing for my normal Friday evening routine, I got on the floor, laid on my back, and put my feet up. I looked around to make sure my 2-year-old daughter was not around because it seems that whenever I am on the ground she sees it as an invitation to use my body as a trampoline. The coast was clear.
My four-year-old son stood towering over me with his 3 feet and 7-inch frame. His kind eyes stared at me. His mouth curled to a smile as he asked me, “Daddy, why do you always do sit-ups?” I thought to myself, “Now is a great time to tell him about my first love.”
I first fell in love with track and field in the seventh grade. I continued running through high school and college and was blessed with the opportunity to compete over in Europe for a couple of weeks. I had so many good experiences with track and field, but let me be the first to say, running hurts!
I told my son about my love for track and field. I told him about my high school track coach, who was by far the best coach I have ever competed for. I looked my son in his kind eyes and said, “Son, my coach taught me the importance of working on my core as a runner. He said that before I go run there are some important disciplines I have to do and sit-ups is one of them.”
Sit-ups strengthen your core muscles, coach said. Sit-ups stabilize your body, he said. Having a strong core allows your body to compete at its optimal level, he said. I told my son, even though he doesn’t quite understand yet, “doing sit-ups so that I can have a strong core is one of the most important things I can do as a runner.”
You’re probably thinking, “What does this story have to do with the gospel?” I want to pass on what my first love, running, taught me about the One who first loved me.
For an athlete, our core is our stomach muscles. A strong core stabilizes your body and allows the rest of the body to function to the best of its ability, which allows you to compete to the best of your abilities. This idea has served me well in my role as Director of Student Ministry at Strong Tower Bible Church. When the core of the ministry is strengthened it allows the rest of the body (students) to function well and run their races with Jesus at the center.
This is why the gospel of Jesus is the core of our ministry. The gospel is our rescue story of how God rescued us from sin by dying for us. It is the beautiful story of how Jesus defeated death by being buried yet rising from the grave three days later, offering the hope of salvation for those who believe and place their faith in Him (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
That is such good news, especially in this season that has not appeared to be good to us. God’s work on the cross and his resurrection from the grave strengthens us because it secures our relationship with our Source of life and strength. God’s work gives us hope. Despite our circumstances the cross shows us that our hope in Christ wins even in seasons when it feels that our personal cross is too much to bear.
This year’s theme for our ministry is GROW. Our focus is growing in our relationship with Jesus and with each other. Our relationship with the Lord is the most important relationship we have because it impacts our relationship with others. One naturally flows from the other. Without a right relationship with Jesus, we cannot have right relationships with one another. The gospel is the core to those right relationships, reminding us that we do not run alone. We have a Savior who runs with us and we have a body of believers (the church) who also run with us.
Because of these truths, my prayer for this year is the prayer Paul prayed for the church of Colossae in Colossians 1:11,
“We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy…”
Scripture often references life as a race (i.e. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Hebrews 12:1). The gospel is vital to the lives of students as they run their race. Just like I needed to strengthen my core as a track and field athlete in order to run my race with power and endurance, we need to be strengthened in Jesus to run the race of life with power and endurance.
My coach emphasized that first and foremost we had to strengthen our core to run the race well. In the same way, in my service to students I am keeping their relationship with Jesus front and center, helping them strengthen their gospel core so that they can run this race well, with endurance in Him. He is waiting to meet us face-to-face at the finish line!