Racing to Win: 5 Principles to Remember When Preparing for Ministry
If you’re not a pastor, missionary, or Bible teacher, you may not have given much thought to preparing for ministry. But the truth is that if you are a follower of Christ, you are already in full-time ministry. Whether you are a pastor, a teacher, a nurse, an accountant, or a stay-at-home mom… you are called to represent Christ to everyone He has placed in your life.
Pastors and teachers are wonderful (and we need them), but every believer is called to share Christ’s love, not just those in church leadership. Not all of us are called to be pastors or missionaries, but we are all called to serve, love others, and share the Gospel with those around us.
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Paul often used running to illustrate our Christian walk. And just like training for an upcoming marathon, we must be well-trained and prepared.
Here are 5 running principles that are useful when preparing for ministry:
1) Are you willing to do the work?
Running is hard. For me personally, my only opportunity to train is early in the morning before my kids wake up. It takes everything in me to get out of bed that early and put on my running shoes. And more often than not, I am physically exhausted and want more than anything to sleep in!
I have learned, however, that getting out of bed is the toughest part. Once my shoes are on and I begin to warm up, I am ready to run. I have never once finished a training run and regretted it. I always feel energized and very thankful that I somehow found the strength to make it happen.
In ministry, our “training” involves prayer and Bible study. It involves taking the time to build relationships and serving others. It also involves obedience to God’s Word.
We need to practice what we preach and be willing to do the work.
2) Who are you competing against?
When I tell people I’m running in a race, I often hear the question, “Are you going to win?” It’s natural to think that way, but many runners define “winning” differently than simply being the first to cross the finish line (with the exception of elite-level athletes of course). Runners typically train to run farther or faster than they ever have. In other words, they compete against themselves.
When entering races with hundreds or even thousands of competitors, we are most likely trying to beat our own personal records rather than trying to be the first across the finish line. (It’s one of the many reasons why I love the sport!)
In our day-to-day lives, it’s easy to be competitive with others. We do it all the time whether we realize it or not. Ministry is not about the numbers. It’s about living by the guidance of the Holy Spirit and accomplishing the tasks that God has set before us. Every believer has a different ministry and purpose in the body of Christ, so trying to compete with one another is pointless.
Instead, we should be encouraging each other to victory.
3) What about the crown?
When Paul talks about running to win, he really means it! On numerous occasions, God’s Word promises heavenly rewards for those who serve Him during their time here on earth. (2 Timothy 4:7-8) The Bible even tells us to store up “treasure” in heaven. (Matthew 6:19-21)
It is okay to anticipate and to be excited about these rewards. Paul certainly was! He was excited, however, because of Who the rewards were coming from. He was seeking God’s approval, not man’s.
We need to work for the applause of our Creator, not our peers.
4) Who do you rely on to sustain you?
Running is an endurance sport. The only way to build endurance is to practice enduring. We have to train our bodies to go the distance. In the same way, our Christian walk is more like a marathon than a short-distance sprint. God will often take us through times of enduring so that we build our strength for what He ultimately has planned for our lives. It is crucial that during these times we learn to rely on Him to get us through.
God promises to be our source of new strength. He won’t let us faint.
5) Will you pass the baton?
Individually, we are all running our own race to the finish line. But collectively as the body of Christ, we are all in this race together. I once heard it said that too many ministries are busy twirling their batons (to entertain and gain applause) instead of passing them on. Our purpose should be to reach the lost as well as encourage and train new believers to walk in their God-given ministries.
We are called to make disciples, and the main purpose of a disciple is to make more disciples. Our ministries should always include training new ministers of the faith. (Every believer is called into ministry – right?)
It’s not just about getting people saved; it’s about training them to go out and lead even more to the good news of our King.
*Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.
**Photo by Ben White at ChristianPics.co