Monday, October 28, 2013

Competing Well

Friends of Faith:
I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. 2 Tm 4: 7
I will start where I left off a week ago: “it must be okay, because everyone else is doing it.”

If I am obeying a law, because it is the law and everyone else is doing it, but not because it is right by God, then maybe the law is unjust. Maybe I am not competing as well as I should.
Or maybe I am looking at the wrong finish line—social status, the number of “friends” I have, wealth or even health...

Maybe the law is one I shouldn’t be obeying—maybe the law was made by man (myself, a friend or a politician) and not by God.
When I finish, will I be at the true finish line? Will I have kept true to the one God, the one faith?

The way to know whether the law is God’s or man’s is to pray, read scripture, and to ask for God’s will (to listen to and be aware of the Spirit of God within us), and then to seek the advice and guidance of the Church’s interpretation. How does the Church of God speak about the “law” in question?
For he is a God who always repays and will give back to you sevenfold.  But offer no bribes; these he does not accept! Do not trust in sacrifice of the fruits of extortion. For he is a God of justice, who shows no partiality.  He shows no partiality to the weak but hears the grievance of the oppressed. ....  Those who serve God to please him are accepted; their petition reaches the clouds. Sir 35: 13-16, 20

To compete well—but not to bribe or be part of the pity party:  don’t do just what is required (a job for pay), or serve on a committee because it is a part of the job (obligation), or obey just because the law/commandments say we should or shouldn’t (to avoid punishment).  Compete Well—Serve  instead because it is right to visit a shut-in you don’t know (someone besides your grandma)....the thankful smile and warm hug are a well won competition.
To finish the race—to be rewarded not because we did the right thing, but because we did the right thing  for the right reason. It is not about the “how” we did it, but the “why” we did it.

To keep the faith—to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him—because it is the right way, not because it is the way we will get what we want. To pray for God’s will and then to trust that God knows what is best for us—even if it means we will have to be patient,  do without, suffer, or give up what we have “earned.”
After all, everything we have is a blessing from him—nothing is really ours, he is not showing us partiality because we have “done” nothing extraordinary.

In yesterday’s gospel:  Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.  "Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.  The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, 'O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity -- greedy, dishonest, adulterous -- or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’ But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, 'O God, be merciful to me a sinner.' I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted." Lk 18: 9-14
Is the competition to win justification here on earth (health or wealth or friendships), or is it to win justification in heaven?

Am I the Pharisee who thinks he is impressing God by doing better than everyone else? Or am I the tax collector willing to admit my wrongs, praying with my heart and soul to know God’s will, doing what he asks of me, and asking for God’s mercy and compassion when I fail?
Heavenly Father: You have promised to rescue me from every evil threat and to bring me safely to your heavenly kingdom. (2 Tm 4: 18) Help me to open my heart and listen to the Spirit within so that I may not “just” finish, but that I may compete wisely and keep the faith always. To Him be the glory, forever and ever, Amen.

I want my finish to be by thanking God for the blessings He pours out on me; offering Him any suffering with acceptance and true sacrifice; holding true to HIS truth even when it is unpopular with conventional wisdom; and unselfishly giving to the beggar, the “least,” the lonely and the broken hearted my earthly riches (time and talents).
Compete well, Finish strong, and Keep the faith,

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