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Hebrews 12:1

Our middle child is on the school’s cross country team. Cross country races involve running a three-mile course across level fields, through woods, over streams, and up hills. The goal is to run these three miles as fast as you can and, of course, the first few runners at the finish line are cheered. But the praise does not end with the winners. Every person running is applauded as they cross the finish line, and sometimes the last one across receives the most applause.

Why are all the runners congratulated, even the last one? They are shown the respect and appreciation of the crowd because they ran the race. They did it. It is great to see the first few runners complete the course so quickly, but it is equally satisfying to see every runner perform. No matter how hard the race is, no matter how often they may want to give up, participants in cross country press on. They perform consistently to the very end.

The author of Hebrews offers encouragement in our spiritual race. Who is with us? What are we to do?

As we face the challenges of our ministries we must remember that we are not alone in the work we will do for God’s kingdom. We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. They are all the believers who have lived before us, all those faithful individuals who have worked so hard to serve God. Those witnesses are the people who founded your faith denomination. They are the people who built and funded your place of worship. They are the people who started ministries before you.

But they are also the people who will join with you in your ministry. They are those who offer assistance and prayers of support. And part of that great cloud of witnesses is God Himself, the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit, moving with you as you press on to accomplish good for the kingdom of God.

A well planned and well-intentioned ministry is pointless unless we are willing to perform. And we are called to be persistent and consistent in our performance of our good work.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How will you run the race marked out for you?

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Philippians 3:12-14

One of my hobbies is collecting miniature Civil War figurines, painting them and mounting them on stands. My goal is to collect enough figurines to represent the Union Army of the Cumberland and the Confederate Army of the Tennessee. It is a long process to do this. I have been working on it diligently for about five years and I anticipate completing my goal about 10 years from now.

In his letter to the church at Philippi Paul addresses the attitude of going after a goal. What is his first comment about what he is doing? According to verse 13 where is he in the process? What is his attitude?

I would love to snap my fingers and achieve my goal in my hobby, but that is not going to happen. Will I reach my goal? I believe I will. But to do that I must work at it whenever I get the opportunity, going through the painstaking efforts involved, checking off what I have done, and planning for what I must do next.

The same is true of most ministries. Can we gather a few supplies and save souls in a matter of days? In some cases, yes, we can. But in most cases the work of God’s kingdom requires dedication, perseverance, planning and consistent performance.

It is tempting at times to give up. It is tempting at times to doubt ourselves and believe we can never really accomplish anything.

But, if we are to be in ministry – and we are – we are likely going to have to keep at the work. Making a difference in the world, helping the needy, building our church and its outreaches usually takes a long time and many people working toward the same goal. We will have setbacks from time to time, there is no doubt of that, but the best way to reach any goal is to perform the work. Keep at it. Keep doing the good deeds that make a difference.

Placing ourselves where God can use us, praying about our ministry, picturing what should be done, and planning the work are important. Let us not forget the final essential part – perform the work.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can you do today?

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Numbers 13:30-32

Before arriving at our current appointment the superintendent for our church district held a funeral. It wasn’t for any particular person. The funeral – including a donated casket and headstone – was for “I Can’t.” He was urging everyone in this symbolic gesture to say good-bye to an attitude of negativity and to embrace an attitude of consistent performance.

Before entering the Promised Land Moses sent spies into the land to get a good look at what was awaiting the Israelites. The spies returned with samples of the abundance of the land, yet they did not move forward. What did Caleb want to do? What did the other spies do to prevent it?

There are many ways to interpret what went on in Numbers 13. Some point out Caleb’s attitude of relying on God while others relied on themselves and failed to act. The fruits the spies brought back were incredibly abundant and of enormous size. They said the land flowed with milk and honey.

And yet they did not want to act. They allowed their own fears to overtake them. Their own doubts caused them to “spread a bad report” to the people. An interpretation can be that these spies told lies and fostered negative rumors about the land. Because of that the people failed to perform.

And because of their failure the Promised Land was withheld from them. God made certain that those who doubted would wander the wilderness until they died. The promise of a land of abundance was then passed on to the next generation.

We are given God’s promises for a bright future, a future of hope and success. But to reach that wonderful future, to receive the promise from God we are called to act. We are called to perform our ministries with faith, trusting that god will be with us as we go.

If we will perform our ministries, as we are called to do, then we must say farewell to the “I can’t” attitude. We must refuse to listen to those who choose not to perform and go forward with our prayers and plans to serve God’s kingdom.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What will it take for you to say “I can?”

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2 Chronicles 34:29-31

I have had parents lament to me about how difficult it is to raise children, especially in trying to have them follow the rules set up in the household. That is part of parenthood – to set the rules, enforce the rules, and live by the rules yourself. I believe consistent obedience of the rules and enforcement of the rules can help make a happy home.

Like parenting, if we are to have faith in God and we are to be Christians, then we need to be consistent in the performance of our ministries and consistent in performing as Christians. Our faith and our ministry cannot be something that is only a convenience to us. We must be faithful to God all the time.

The passage today is from the story of Josiah, a king among the Israelites. Who did Josiah call together? What did he do with them? What did the king renew?

Josiah became king when he was only eight years old, but even at that age he knew he had to perform as a faithful son of David. When still a young man he learned that his people had strayed from God’s commands. Grieved by this Josiah pledged himself and his people to the service of God.

Josiah had sweeping reforms in his land, eliminating all those who were not faithful to God. He saw that he and all those under him needed to perform as faithful believers. They needed to pledge themselves to God and remain dedicated to His ways.

We can take a lesson from this young ruler. If we will call ourselves Christians then we need to perform as Christians. We need to act as Christians and true believers under God, and that behavior needs to happen all the time.

If we feel we have strayed from God or begun to do things that are not acceptable to the Lord, then we should re-commit ourselves to God. We should be dedicated to consistently performing our ministry.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How often do you perform the ministry of a Christian?

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Joshua 1:7-8

The final step in effective ministry and work as faithful Christians is to perform consistently – to be a Christian at all times and to do ministry to the best of our ability. In our Pastor-Parish Relations meeting on Sunday the problem of poor attendance came up. Someone pointed out that it requires some commitment to attend church on a regular basis. If you miss a Sunday it’s no big deal. If you miss two Sundays you may feel a little guilty. If you miss three it is easy to miss the fourth, the fifth and so on.

Our faith requires dedication, and the commitment of faith is presented in Joshua. Joshua has taken over leadership of the Israelites from Moses and God has offered His instructions. What three things does God command in verse 7? What is commanded in verse 8? What will happen if Joshua and the Israelites obey these commands?

The Lord has given Joshua and the people of Israel some simple instructions and encouragement. They should be courageous and bold in what they do because God is with them. But they also need to remain dedicated to their faith, obeying the commands of God and studying their Scriptures.

By remaining faithful to God’s commands and immersing themselves in God’s teaching they are guaranteeing that they will have success. They will be prosperous and happy. And with this perpetual reminder of God’s presence they can be strong in what they do.

This same lesson is for us today. We are called to remain in the teachings of our God. We are to continue to worship together and study the teachings and commands of God. By remaining dedicated to our faith we can be strong and courageous in our ministry and in our living. And God will cause us to prosper.

But all of this requires that we perform consistently. As Christians and believers in God we are to live out our faith on a regular basis, turning neither to the right nor to the left. This requires daily dedication and daily discipline to prayer and holy living. By remaining dedicated to God we can perform as Christians consistently.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How often do you meditate on the word of God?