Soldiers, Athletes & Farmers: A Biblical Look at the Spiritual Life

2017 Messages

We can inaccurately anticipate that the spiritual life will be easy, up and to the right, when we accept Jesus. This is not the case. Today Blake Holmes shows us 3 pictures of the spiritual life from 2 Timothy 2:1-6. We'll see what we should expect along the way as the spiritual life is like a war, a race, and a farm.

Blake HolmesJun 25, 20172 Timothy 2:1-6; 2 Timothy 2:3-4; 2 Timothy 2:5; 2 Timothy 2:6; 2 Timothy 2:7

It has been said that our greatest frustrations come from unmet expectations. I think that's true. Let me tell you a silly story to illustrate this point. I had the opportunity several years ago to go to Israel. You know that means a very long plane ride. I was excited about my trip, but I'm thinking, "How do I spend 10-plus hours from Dallas to Israel on a plane?"

This was during the time when Downton Abbey was very popular, and everybody was watching that show. Now come on. True confessions here. We're family. How many of you watched Downton Abbey? Look at that. That's a ton of folks. Well, that's what I heard. Everybody is like, "Oh, you have to watch this show."

So I was waiting for the flight, because I was like, "I'm going to just empty my computer of all the memory, I'm going to download a whole season, and I'm going to be set," because I was told this is a great show set during World War II and I'm going to love it. Everybody was watching it except for me, of course. So I'm like, "I'm set."

So I get on the plane, and I have hours ahead of me. I'm pretty excited. I put my noise-cancelling headphones on, turn on my computer, grab my Coke, and I'm about 30 minutes into this thing. I look over to my wife and I go, "Hey, when is it going to start moving a little bit?" She looks at me and goes, "It's great. Just keep watching." I finish the first hour. Bumper again. "Hey, hour is up. I'm okay. I mean, I have hours left on this flight, but when is it going to start moving?"

You know, World War II. I'm thinking Band of Brothers 2.0, and I'm stuck in a love story, is what's happening here, with men in tuxedos, not in uniform. And it's the wrong war, for Pete's sake! It's World War I, of which you don't even see anything. You see, I had this picture in my mind that I'm going to be watching Band of Brothers 2.0, that there's going to be action and it's going to be exciting, and it's men in tuxedos.

I'm thinking to myself, "This is a long flight with nothing to do now." Not even a book. Our greatest frustrations come from unmet expectations. I had this picture in my mind that I was going to be captivated for 10 hours, and in reality I felt stuck. Now this is a silly story to illustrate a point, but what happens when we have a picture in our minds of what we think the spiritual life is supposed to look like?

When we trust in Christ, this is what I think happens. I think the picture we have in our minds… We may not verbalize this, we may not admit it out loud, but I think we have this hunch that our temptations are going to somehow lessen or maybe even disappear. I think we have this picture in our minds that every worship service is going to be this emotional high, that every quiet time…

We're told that when we get up early in the morning… It always has to be early in the morning. You love Jesus, so you're going to get up early in the morning. You have your coffee and your favorite chair. You have your iPod. You're listening to worship music and reading your Bible, and you're just thinking it's like Shane & Shane are singing "Liberty" in your ears, personally, in your living room.

You think it's going to be this emotional high. Temptations are going to go away. Every prayer is going to be answered. God is going to protect you and your loved ones from sickness and danger. I mean, everything generally is going to go up and to the right. That's what we think. We may not admit that, but it is a little bit of what we assume. It is what is often sold from many pulpits and charlatans on TV.

They give you a picture that's very different from reality, because the problem is reality begins to set in, and your temptations do not disappear. Far from it. In fact, many of them heighten. Every worship service is not an emotional high. There will be times you'll feel like your prayers are just bouncing off the ceiling and you'll wonder where God is. You read your Bible, and you have nothing. "I've got nothing. I don't even understand that. It doesn't make sense to me. I quit."

Friends start to desert you. Then what happens is, tragically, disillusionment starts to set in. Sometimes as I sit in front of people and listen to them, they become angry at God. "God, you didn't fulfill my expectation for what this was supposed to be like. I've trusted you. Everything is supposed to be good. Everything is supposed to be up and to the right with the wind at my back." That's not reality.

This morning, I'm going to talk to you about three pictures the Bible paints of the spiritual life. I want to remind you what the Bible says, the expectation we should set in our minds. Now I want to be really clear. This is not a message about how to have a relationship with Jesus Christ and to receive his forgiveness. This is not about the grace that's extended to us and how we can come to know the one true God by receiving his grace, not because of what we've done but because of what he has done for us. That is easy.

You don't have to do anything to earn God's love. Nothing. You're a rebel. You're a sinner, and the wages of sin is death. You've rebelled against him, and if you'll just repent and come to him and go, "Hey, I'm broken. I can't do anything on my own. I need to be forgiven," then you will be freely forgiven. You are loved. You're accepted as a child of God. This is a message about what it looks like, once you have received Christ, to start walking with him.

This is about living in the tension of the already and the not yet. This is about how we walk with Jesus and become more conformed like him and what we should expect along the way. That's what this message is: the sanctification process. Justification is you are freed from the penalty of sin. That happens when you trust in Christ. Sanctification is becoming increasingly more like him, hopefully being freed from the power of sin until, ultimately, when you are glorified and freed from the presence of sin. That's the salvation umbrella, if you will.

I'm talking about what it looks like to grow and walk with Jesus in a fallen world. I want you to turn to 2 Timothy, chapter 2. I want to set the context for you. Whenever you read a passage of Scripture, you don't want to just pull out a verse and read meaning into the verse. You want to draw the meaning out. In order to do that, you have to understand the larger context. Every verse is written in the context of every paragraph; paragraph, chapter; chapter, book; and then 65 other books. There are 66 books.

It's all tied together to tell one story about one man, Jesus Christ, and how God loves us and desires a relationship with us. There's a particular context of 2 Timothy that's important for us to see. During this time when Paul, who wrote this book, is writing, the Roman emperor's name is Nero, and there's a great fire that has broken out in Rome. Nero has decided, because he has received some of the blame, to blame Christians. Because of that, Christians are being persecuted. It is not in vogue to claim the name of Christ.

Men and women are being persecuted and are facing death because of Nero's persecution. Paul is no exception. He's writing from a prison cell to his young protégé, Timothy, a young minister he has raised up. He calls him a child in the faith. "My son, my child in the faith, I'm writing to you," who was sent to Ephesus to plant a church. He's going to write to him, because he knows he's facing execution.

In chapter 1, verse 8, he says, "Hey, don't be ashamed of me or of the gospel, Timothy." He even goes on to say, "Share in the sufferings of following Christ." He's setting Timothy's expectations. "This is what it's going to look like to be a leader in the church. Don't be ashamed of me. Don't be ashamed of the gospel. Share in suffering. Guard the good deposit entrusted to you. You've been entrusted with much. You've been invested in by your grandmother, your mother, by me, your family." Chapter 1 closes with Paul saying, "Don't be like the men who deserted me in Asia."

"When things got tough, people quit. Don't do that, Timothy." Then in chapter 2, where we are going to look, he says, "You then…" Then being in light of all that I just shared with you. "You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus…" This idea of being strengthened… It's not a one-time event but a continual going back to over and over. Find strength. Find grace. Remain dependent upon the grace that is found in Christ.

"…and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.""Hey, I'm about to die. Timothy, it's your job to take everything I have taught you and pass it on to faithful men who are going to teach others also. This thing is going to spread." Then we get to the verses where I want to look specifically, verses 3-6. We're just looking at these few verses, because it's here that we see that the spiritual life is like a war (verses 3-4), like a race (verse 5), and like a farm (verse 6).

"Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him." That does not sound like Christianity, a relationship with the Lord here on earth that's just up and to the right. He says, "No, it's a war," and he calls him a soldier. "You're a soldier in this war, Timothy. Expect opposition."

Look at what he says in verse 5. "An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.""Hey, it's a race. You're an athlete. You're going to have to persevere." Verse 6: "It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops." It is like a working farm. It is hard work.

We have a picture in our minds of what the spiritual life is to look like, and yet reality sets in, and then we start to wonder, "Hey, is there something wrong with me? Do I lack faith? Am I the only one who's struggling? Am I the only one who's tired? Am I the only one who feels beat up?" The answer is no. Some of you today have come in here because you're tired. Some of you are struggling to remain steadfast, and you're the ones I want to speak to this morning.

1._ The spiritual life is like a war, and we need the mentality of a soldier_. Notice what he says about the good soldier. "Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him." A friend of mine is a veteran. He did two tours of combat in Afghanistan. I've never served my country. I went to him and said, "Hey, I want to hear your perspective. When you read this passage, what do you think?"

He had a great response. He goes, "I know probably people read this, and they go, 'Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ…' Hey, there's no question you're facing death, but I don't think it's always to that extreme. Being a soldier, you have to get comfortable being uncomfortable." That's just what happens. When you enlist, you're immediately put in a room with a bunch of guys away from all of the creature comforts. Your time is not your own, and it's meant to be uncomfortable, because the mission is uncomfortable.

You begin to adapt to the reality that, "This is hard." He says he doesn't get entangled in civilian pursuits. Why? Because his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. About this time every year, because Fourth of July is around the corner, I call my friends who have served and who are currently serving. I'm fortunate enough to know many, many even who are a part of this church. There's a part of me that feels a little ashamed and embarrassed that I've never worn the uniform and other men have on my behalf.

While I'm at Rangers games and eating barbecue, singing "The Star Spangled Banner," there are people who have suffered tremendously for my freedom. I just call them and say, "Hey man, I just want to thank you. I want to thank you again for doing what I wasn't willing to do. You chose to not get entangled in civilian pursuits. I'm over here at Rangers games and barbecues, giving a nod to the flag. You're putting on a uniform, leaving your family for a year, with a thankless job, focused on the mission at hand."

Paul is going to give you a picture. Do you want to know what the spiritual life is like? It's like a war, and you're a soldier in it. You need to readjust your expectation, because it's not always up and to the right. It's hard. J.C. Ryle in his book called Holiness, which I highly recommend to you, wrote this.

"The true Christian is called to be a soldier, and must behave as such from the day of his conversion to the day of his death. He is not meant to live a life of religious ease…and security. He must never imagine for a moment that he can sleep and doze along the way to heaven, like one traveling in an easy carriage. […] If the Bible is the rule of his faith and practice, he will find his course laid down very plainly in this matter. He must 'fight.'"

The spiritual life is like a war, and we need the mentality of a soldier, but the problem is we are so easily distracted. Notice what Paul says. He says he's not entangled in civilian pursuits. His aim is to please the one who enlisted him. We cannot be distracted, but we are. We're distracted by stuff and appearances and accomplishments. We're distracted by all of the material things we see that are visible in front of us, and we are blind to the war that is happening around us.

We want the latest countertops we saw on Fixer Upper. We want shiplap across our walls. (I learned that word this week and was dared to say it. I didn't even know what it was.) We want stuff. We're distracted by appearance, how we look. Before we even get our hearts right with God, we're coming in… We're like, "How do I look? How do I look?" Even when we go to church. By accomplishments… We're focused on if our kids are going to win the Little League World Series, how fast they're running, how strong they are.

Do you know what I want? I want a boat. I can't tell you how many times I looked at different websites this week, looking at boats. I'm preparing for this message, kind of on short notice (thank you, Todd), and I find myself going back looking at boats, distracted. Listen. There's nothing wrong with boats. There's nothing wrong with shiplap (I said it again) and looking good, but there is a problem when it distracts us from the mission.

We fail to understand the battle that is going on around us for our devotion, for our hearts, for our attention. It's interesting that 2 Timothy ends in chapter 4, verse 10… It says, "For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica." That's interesting, because in Colossians 4, Paul ends that book by saying, "Hey, Luke, the beloved physician, greets you, as does Demas." Demas was right there with him.

What happens to Demas? He gets distracted. Paul very explicitly says, "…in love with this present world, has deserted me…" He has tapped out, rung the bell, quit, deserted. You see, we live in a war, and you are a soldier in that war if you have trusted in Christ. You have an Enemy, an Adversary, who comes to steal, kill, and destroy. Although forgiven, you are not done yet, and there is an old man in you, an old nature, your flesh, which wars against the Spirit.

There is a world around you, an orderly system of beliefs, values, and traditions that oppose the will of God. We live in a war, but we are distracted by the stuff, by the things we see, and we don't realize the war going on around us. There has never been a time this reality has been more clear to me than 10 years ago this week. Ten years ago this week, I received a phone call. Many of you have heard the story.

I was told by my son's pediatrician that at 4 years old he was diagnosed with leukemia. That's cancer. Four years old. There's no parent in the world who wants to hear that their son or daughter has cancer. I remember 10 years ago this week… I've been doing a lot of reflecting on this time. My son (I always need to remember to say this) is doing great. I did a whole conference talking about this and left that out and had to go up the next day and say, "Oh yeah, my son? He's doing great."

This week I've been reflecting on that time, not so much as to how far he has come, which I celebrate, but I've been reflecting on the night where I was alone in the hospital room with him. He was asleep, and he looked terrible. He was so sick. This nurse comes in, and she has on something over her hair. She has goggles on, rubber gloves, a gown, and something to cover her feet. I look at her, and I'm like, "What are you doing?"

It's like routine for her. She takes this tray that has been sealed and opens it, makes this terrible noise, and she's pulling out this medicine. She goes, "Well, I'm about to administer his chemotherapy, and I can't let any of that get on my skin." You don't want to know what it's like as a dad to hear a nurse tell you that she can't put that on her skin but she's going to put it in your son. Let me tell you something. That's a war.

I started to recognize… It's like a bomb goes off in your house. Somebody walks into your house, sets off a timer on a bomb, walks out quietly, and…Boom! Your home goes up. It's like the movies. It is like Band of Brothers. It's like when the guy is disoriented, and he's trying to say something, and he can't hear what's being said to him, and the world is spinning like that. That's what it was like.

I recognized that night how desperate I was, and there was a war for my devotion and my affection and my beliefs that went on that night. "Hey, what are you going to believe right now, Blake? What are you going to believe about me?" Everything in my experience said, "This is a farce. This is a joke." I was awakened to the reality that, "Hey, this isn't just a medical war I'm in right now. I'm in a spiritual war as to what I believe." In 2 Corinthians, chapter 10, Paul says:

"For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…"

How are you doing in the war for your devotion? Do you have the mentality of a soldier? I want to encourage you to have the courage to turn to those you love, who you trust, who are in your Community Group, your family members, and just ask the honest, open question… Have humility to ask them, "What is distracting me right now from being on mission?" Have the boldness and courage to look at those around you and go, "Hey, can I ask you something? When you look at my life, what do you think is distracting me from living on mission?"

We don't want to ask that question, but for Christians who are weary and tired, you need to know that we do live in the tension between the already and the not yet. I know we live in a war right now, but there is a time where victory is inevitable for us. It has been won through Christ, his death and his resurrection, and we experience life here on this earth, that we can be an ambassador in this war to proclaim the good news of Christ. But make no mistake about it. Victory is inevitable, so we have hope in the midst of war.

2._ The spiritual life is like a race, and we need the heart of an athlete_. Notice what Paul says. "An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules." I learned something this week. Paul would have had in the back of his mind the idea of the Olympics. Every Olympic athlete was to abide by three rules, which is probably what Paul is referring to here. What were the rules? Well, during that time, there were rules of birth, training, and competition.

One must have been born Greek, he must prepare at least 10 months and swear to that before a statue of Zeus in order to compete as an athlete, and he must agree to abide by the rules of the game. Every Olympic athlete. The same is true in the spiritual life. Although not needing to be born Greek, we need to be born again if we're going to win, if you will, in the spiritual life. We need to believe in who Jesus is, acknowledge our need for him, and receive his grace, but then we must discipline ourselves for godliness. Paul says that in 1 Timothy.

Although forgiven, although a new creation… We have been declared righteous. We are freed from the penalty of sin. We are increasingly growing, cooperating with the Spirit, yielding to the Spirit, walking in obedience to become more like him in the spiritual life. We're not done yet. We must discipline ourselves. We must obey God's Word. Paul, taking this same metaphor in another book, 1 Corinthians 9, says:

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified."

The spiritual life is like a war and like a race. We need the mentality of a soldier and we need the heart of an athlete, but our problem is we lack discipline. I hear it all the time. We wonder why we haven't grown. It's because we lack discipline. I mean, let's just be honest. We want to look like an athlete, but we don't want to live like an athlete. I want to look like an athlete, but I don't want to wake up early and train like an athlete.

I want to look like an athlete, but I want to eat doughnuts with the kids on Saturday morning. I don't want to train like an athlete. Who wants to live like that? We want to look godly, but we don't want to live godly. I want you to think of me as being godly, but I don't always want to discipline myself for godliness. I don't want to confess sin. I don't want to ask for forgiveness. I don't want to give generously. I don't want to serve when it's inconvenient. I'd rather be comfortable and do what I want to do.

I don't want to read the Bible when I'm tired. I don't want to get up and pray. I want to go on about my day and do what I want to do in my flesh. If you are sitting there going, "Why am I not growing?" it's because you lack discipline. Again, this isn't about how we have a relationship with God. It's not about earning God's love. It's not about making God love us more. It's about participating, cooperating with God's Spirit, yielding with him, and running the race, because the spiritual life is hard.

D.A. Carson wrote, "People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated."

That's true. We wonder why we aren't growing. It's because we lack discipline. Why are we not in good shape? It's because we won't take a lap. It is as true in the spiritual life as it is in the athletic world. Here's the thing, though. Some of us are doing all we can to remain disciplined. Some of us are running as hard as we can, and we're tired. I get that. Some of us in here haven't taken a lap. Others of us in here are running marathons, and we're exhausted.

What I want to encourage you to do is evaluate where you are in your spiritual life right now. Take the time to reflect and go, "Hey, let's take an honest assessment. Where am I in the spiritual life? What's going on? What are the obstacles I am facing right now, and who can I ask, who can I invite to help me? What steps do I need to take in order to grow and persevere?" Those are the questions we should all be asking ourselves.

Evaluate where you are in your journey. Determine the steps you should take. Identify those barriers. What are those things that are going to keep you from growing? And invite others to help you. The Christian life is not meant to be lived alone. It's not a program we're calling you to. "Get in Community Groups." We're calling you to a means of grace that God intends for you to enjoy, because you need it.

Just a few weeks ago, I had the privilege, because as I shared with you, it has been 10 years since my son was diagnosed with cancer… I had the privilege of training with Team In Training, which is the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's fund-raising arm, to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I gathered with about a dozen friends, many from this church, and we trained for a 100-mile bike ride. Not around White Rock, as great as that is, but around Lake Tahoe.

I'd never been to Lake Tahoe, but let me tell you something. You can't capture Lake Tahoe in a picture. I have pictures. I wasn't even going to put them up here, because that doesn't capture it. Lake Tahoe is beautiful. But do you know what Lake Tahoe has? Altitude and elevation, and at mile eight they have what you call the switchbacks. Everybody feels strong up until mile eight, and then you start doing this. Back and forth, back and forth, straight up. That's mile eight.

I had trained, and I was ready for that. I felt pretty good. Then you get to mile 80 at a place called Spooner. (Who names their town Spooner?) I won't forget when I got to Spooner, because there was this guy (I'll just say it), who maybe should have been on his bike, with his shirt off, waving it above his head, going, "Welcome to Spooner!" Right where I saw him, we take a right, and it's an eight-mile climb straight up. Straight up, eight miles.

We all knew that was coming. That is when the race started. I was with my friends, and one of my friends looked at me and goes, "Blake, we have 20 miles left. Twenty miles is less than a training ride. We're going to ride together. We're all going to get up these eight miles together. We're just going to put it in an easy gear, and we're just going to keep going. We can all do this."

Do you know how great it is to have friends surrounding you on your bike when you're tired of sitting there for seven hours on your bike? You get tired of pedaling. Worse than tired of pedaling, your butt gets tired of sitting…in all of the wrong places. Enough on that. But to have a friend say to you, "Hey, we're going to do this…" You need friends around you who are going to look at you and say, "Hey, you can do this. Keep pedaling. I know you're tired." You need the discipline and the perseverance of an athlete.

3._ The spiritual life is like a farm, and we need the patience of a farmer. Verse 6: "It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops." Think about the life of a farmer. He must work hard every day, and he has to trust that the Lord is going to bring the rain and grow those crops. He can do _his part, but in the end it's not all up to him, no matter how hard he works.

I remember when I was with one of my closest friends, and I was living in East Texas at the time. I grew up in Highland Park. There are no farms in Highland Park. I know nothing about farming. I was with my friend who actually grew up on a farm. I remember we were trying to get this stupid trailer out from the side of this yard and get this gate open, and everything was going wrong. I think we broke the trailer, got it stuck, and the gate didn't work. I mean, it was a comedy of errors.

I remember my friend kind of takes his wrench and throws it down in exasperation, and he goes, "Holmes, you want to know what farming is like? This is farming. If it can go wrong, it will go wrong." That's farming. It's just one thing breaking after another, and you're constantly fixing it. You're constantly rigging it to make things work. You're overcoming frustrations. You have to be patient.

The problem is if the spiritual life is like farming and it requires patience, I hate to wait, and you hate to wait too. That's why you honk at the people in front of you who are on their phone when the light turns green. They're on their phone. The light turns green. Honk! I don't blame you. Like, get off your phone. When the light turns green, be ready to go. I'm with you. Why is it that it takes so long to get off a plane? We all know we've landed. We all know we have to exit. Why does it take that long to get off a plane?

This is what God has to do in working in my heart. True confessions. We hate to wait. The same is true in the spiritual world. We want change to happen overnight. I want to change yesterday. Many of you have come to Christ recently, and you're sitting there going, "Why can't this change faster?" Let me answer that for you. It's because spiritual change, growth, and maturity doesn't happen overnight.

Spiritual growth occurs slowly over a long period of time. It is a constant dance between trust and obey, trust and obey, over a long period of time. As Eugene Peterson says in his book, it is a "long obedience in the same direction." If you're frustrated because you don't understand, "Why isn't my heart changing? Why isn't my life changing faster?" or if you're critical of others and looking at them, wondering why they don't change faster, be careful. Spiritual life is like farming, and it requires patience.

What you can do is focus on only what you can control. I encourage you to focus on only what you can control. Do your part. Focus on your attitude. Focus on your obedience. Remain grateful. Remain humble. Obey. Remain steadfast and patient. As we say in re:generation and re|engage, draw the circle around yourself and fix everything in it. That's where you need to be and the posture you need to have.

In verse 7, Paul ends this little section and says, "Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything." This is like a verse to just say, "Hey, I've just shared with you the three pictures of the spiritual life, and you need to hit 'pause' and just consider and stop. Think about this for a second." That's what he says. "Hey, Timothy, think over what I just said, and the Lord will give you understanding in everything."

You have a picture in your mind of what the spiritual life has to look like, and if it's different than a war, a race, and a farm, then it is not a biblical picture. It is a fight that requires the mentality of a soldier, a race that requires the discipline of an athlete, and a farm that requires the patience and trust of a farmer. But make no mistake about it, gang. For those who are tired, weary, beat up, shot, tired of waiting, the war has been won, and there is a crown that awaits every runner in this room, and there's a crop that will grow for those who hang on. Let's pray.

Father in heaven, I thank you for the reminder to me this week of what the spiritual life really is to look like. I pray for the person here who's wrestling with disillusionment. It feels like they've been cheated. They got a raw deal. They're wondering what's wrong with them. Do they lack faith? The reality is none of that is true. Your Word has been very clear that as long as we remain in this world, we remain in a war, and it's a race that requires discipline, and it's like farming and requires patience.

Would you help us to hold on? Would you help us to run and to fight and to remain steadfast? Lord, thank you that you never leave us. Thank you, Lord, that your Spirit empowers us. Thank you for your Word that instructs us and the people around us who encourage us. In Christ's name, amen.