Years ago, I was on a 15-mile run along the coast with one of my unchurched buddies when the conversation turned to faith.
He asked, “Will a relationship with God help my running?”
Translation: What’s in it for me?
People don’t always say it, but that’s their question. Listen close and you’ll hear it a hundred times a day in a hundred different ways. We can’t help it; we’re egocentric by nature.
When pondering what to write for this column I considered sharing my journey to faith, getting expelled from and reinstated to school, running on U.S. teams, training in Kenya, and even my time on reality TV. But if my 32 years have taught me anything it’s this: It’s not about me. John 3:30. So, I’ll bypass the aforementioned and press on to something that’s been weighing on my heart: the doctrine of prosperity.
Does God want us to succeed? Yes, but that begs the question: What is success? Take a look at the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25. The master gives five talents to the first servant, two to the next and one to the last, each according to his ability. The master leaves, returns and settles accounts. One by one the servants come. The first servant’s five became 10, and the master responds, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” The next servant comes, his two became four, and he gets the exact same response, “Well done…”
Stop. Rewind, reread and rethink. Jesus is giving an inside look into God’s economy. 10 = 4. Success is predicated on what the Master has entrusted, not where we finish, the team we’re on or how much money we possess. “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Success is being faithful.
Lately, the prosperity sentiment has pervaded our culture. We’ve been force-fed a cotton-candy gospel by perpetually polite preachers telling us how God can grant our wildest wish and whim.
“My relationship with the Lord changed for the better the day I realized I'm not Aladdin and He's not the genie."
My relationship with the Lord changed for the better the day I realized I’m not Aladdin and He’s not the genie. The question isn’t, “What can God do for me?” It’s the other way around.
When we present a prosperity doctrine, all we’re doing is handing men a magic lamp to carry on their journey. They hold onto it calling it their “faith,” hoping the genie will grant their wishes, but what happens when the genie doesn’t come through? What happens when they rub the lamp and their flat road suddenly becomes a hill and their once sunlit travels grow dark and desolate? They soon realize that the genie is far more interested in serving his own purposes rather than the traveling man’s.
Transformation is what God is after—conforming us and changing us into the image of his Son. What was the Lord doing blinding Saul of Tarsus for three days? Three days of transformation. Three days that would spawn the greatest evangelist the world has ever known in the apostle Paul.
Having faith doesn’t make things easier; it just gives us hope in the midst of the darkness. Hope is a good thing; sometimes it’s the best thing. Hope has no limits. Hope is what got Paul through the beatings, the nights in prison, shipwrecks, torment, torture and trials. A hope in His Savior King. The hope he penned in his letter to the Romans: “And we know that all things work together for good for those that love God...” And to the Corinthians: “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” A hope that James echoed: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” *
Should we expect less than Paul?
We all want happiness, triumph, sunshine and success, but those don’t change us. Trials, defeats, darkness and failures do.
St. Augustine said, “God had one Son on Earth without sin, but never one without suffering.” Should we expect less than God’s own Son? What was in it for Jesus? Honoring his Dad, serving and saving mankind. A man born to die, a man faithful through suffering, a man faithful unto death. The God who left eternity and entered time to restore mankind’s relationship with the Father.
Our faith isn’t about what God can do for us; it’s about what He’s already done.
In John 10:10 Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” We find this abundant, full life when we offer our gifts to faithfully serve our King.
For more from Josh Cox, visit his Web site (joshcox.com) or read his blog at joshcox.thefinalsprint.com.
|ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Josh Cox|
Occupation: Elite Runner
Born: Aug. 9, 1975
Birthplace: Jacksonville, FL
•2:13 marathon PR
•1:03 half marathon PR
•3-time Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier
•3-time U.S. National Team member
•Youngest qualifier for the 2000 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials
•Top American at the World Track & Field Championships (2001)
•Currently, when he’s not running, writing or reporting for Runner’s World, Cox is pursuing an M.A. in Christian Apologetics at Talbot School of Theology.
--For more stories about faith and sport, visit www.sharingthevictory.com, the official magazine of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. To subscribe to STV, click here.
*Romans 8:28 (NKJV), 2 Corinthians 4:17 (NKJV), James 1:2-3 (NIV)
Photos courtesy of PowerBar.