Today’s message will be taken from 1 Corinthians 9 & Philippians 3. As you turn in your Bibles I want to show you a picture and tell you a brief story which will serve to connect us to the central truth God will remind us of today.
(Production Note: Bring up the Bull Riding picture)
I don’t suggest any of you try this for yourself. And if you are wondering, that’s a picture of me when I was much younger and perhaps a little more agile. I think I must have been about 18 or 19 at this point and if you can see the look on my face in that picture you can see that I am really concentrating on riding that bull. There is no doubt he has my attention and I am doing everything I know to stay connected.
That picture was taken in Linden, Texas. I rode that bull for 7½ seconds before he dislodged me and I hit the dirt hard just as I heard the buzzer go off. Boy was I upset … I really tried hard to stay on that bull. A couple of weeks later I entered the bull riding event at the New Boston Texas Rodeo held in celebration of Pioneer Days. I drew a big old 2 ton white Brahma bull that did not want to cooperate.
This bull kept raring up on his hind legs trying to jump up and over the chute every time we would try to get my bull rope on him. Some rodeo nuts would stick him with a cattle prod thinking that would settle him down. Meanwhile I was trying to get set down on him and get my rope tight so we could turn him out for the ride. On one of my attempts I was just about ready when he decided to try and jump over the chute gate with me on his back. My right spur got hung in my rope and I couldn’t get my leg up and even with cowboys pulling up on me trying to hoist me to safety my knee got crushed between that bulls shoulder and the chute gate. He ground it back and forth for a while before my spur let go and I was yanked up and out of there.
They passed me by and bucked a couple of other cowboys out and came back to me once the bull settled back down a bit. My brother-in-law, Steve, helped tighten the rope as I rosined it up good and hot and sticky and laid it through my hand, around the back of my glove and back through my grip again. I closed my fist down tight and pounded on it to stick the hot rosined glove together like a leather clamp. Then with one motion I quickly sat down on my hand, scooted forward, pulled my hat down, raised my free hand and gave the nod to let him out.
Unlike the bull I rode a couple of weeks earlier that I really tried hard to ride … This ride was different … On this ride - All I was looking for was an exit. Whether he knew it or not, all I wanted was off … and with the first jump he made … off I went. If they had had closed the chute gate too quickly they would have shut me inside …
I have thought about that ride so many times over the past 40 years or so and have come to realize … You’ll never ride a bucking bull when the only thing you want is off.
If all you can think about is an exit … you’re probably not gonna win!
1 Corinthians 9
24 Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!
25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.
26 So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing.
27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.
8 Everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ
9 and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.
10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death,
11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!
12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.
13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,
14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
You can’t win a race looking for the exit. It does not apply to everything but chances are it does apply to your thing: “Stop looking for the exit!”
You will never fix your marriage looking for the exit.
You will not create a better work place looking for reasons to quit.
You will not be a better witness looking for excuses to hide your light.
You won’t press through the tough times looking for places to give up.
You won’t make it to the finish line if you don’t keep your eyes on the prize
Hebrews 12:2 tells us that Jesus endured the cross for the joy before Him
2 Corinthians 4
17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,
18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Psalms 23 declares – “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death …” – not around it – not get me out … but take me through … “Yea … I will fear no evil – for God is with me!”
Often our victory over the situation comes after we gain victory in the situation.
This does not apply to everything but most likely it does apply to your thing … so I’ll encourage you again … most likely things will begin to get better if you will simply:
· Stop looking for an exit.
· Start looking at what it will take to win this thing!
I can testify that in 1982 I was on my death bed, looking for an exit, searching for a way out, trying to find a place to quit, and all I wanted to do was give up. Right about the time I decided to throw in the towel I realized that it was not all about me … and that I had been so focused on my sickness and my pain and my problems that I had almost forgotten my responsibility to my wife, my children and to the Word of God which had saved my soul.
I was fully confident that if I died I would go to heaven and be welcomed and rewarded. However, I also felt that I owed it to Jesus to not quit and take the easy way out. That night I made a declaration and spoke directly to the devil and those enemies of my life had me bound and decreed:
“Devil – I win! – By the sheer fact that I will live longer than you will. And, if you kill me you are going to have to do it with me fighting every step of the way because I’m not giving up and I’m not quitting.” Well – I’m still here. You see, our Victory is not in our healing but rather in our obedience. And, our obedience demands that we fight the good fight of faith.
So let me say a third time: Stop looking for an exit and start looking for a way to win. Obey God in all things and fight the good fight of faith.
BTW – I decided I didn’t need to end life afraid of those big bad bulls so for my 50th birthday I went to Pamplona, Spain,
and ran with the bulls and participated in the enciero, fighting 5 fresh young strong bulls in the bullring.
Then, 6 or 7 years later I decided I needed to ride another bull so I found the biggest Texas longhorn I could find and got onboard. He wasn’t so tough!
You can exit at any time … for not – fight the good fight of faith and keep running the race!