On Saturday, May 3, the Elkin High School track team, which I am privileged to help coach, traveled to the Midwest 1A Regional Championships. One has to qualify to participate in a regional meet, then the top four finishers in each event at the regionals qualifies for the 1A State Championships the following week. Those top four places in each event are coveted spots athletes from twenty schools fiercely compete to capture. Elkin was expected to capture several top four positions. We did extremely well, with twelve boys and girls qualifying to make the trip to the state championship meet.
Though Elkin was most successful, there were two races in which Buckin’ Elk runners were disqualified forfeiting the right to advance to the state meet and the medals that would have been theirs. In the 4×800 relay the Elkin girls, who were ranked second in the state, were called for initiating interference with another runner in the homestretch and were unfortunately disqualified. In the boys 3200 meter run the Elkin runner ran a superb race to capture fourth, raising his hands in triumph as he crossed the finishline; a yearlong goal reached. His elation was quickly turned to shock, disbelief and tears after learning he had been disqualified for taking steps off the track after being jostled by another runner. Those two incidents were disappointments on an otherwise most successful day. According to the judges who made those calls, both disqualifications were the result of violations that were clearly spelled out in the rule book.
All that is involved in running, the training, the competing, and following the rules, is but a microcosm of life and the Christian life. In the aftermath of those two disqualifications, two Bible verses come to my mind. One comes from 2 Timothy 2:5 where Paul tells his readers, in comparing the Christian life to that of a runner, that if anyone competes as an athlete they are not crowned unless they compete according to the rules. The other verse is found in I Corinthians 9:27 where Paul writes, “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway (disqualified).”
What did Paul mean when he said he closely adhered to the “rule book” so as not to be a “castaway?” First, the passage is not talking about fear of losing his salvation, for in the context of the passage Paul is not talking about salvation, but he is talking about Christian service. Second, the word “castaway” is from a Greek word the means “disapproval after having failed to meet the requirements.” James Stratten says of the word “castaway” that it referred to “one who had been pronounced by the judges to be disqualified for the Greek games, or one who, having been permitted to enter into the contest, fails to meet the requirements…The theological idea of reprobation does not belong to this word, it is simply intrinsic worthlessness [and uselessness] brought to light by the scrutiny of God’s eye, [and] the searching efficacy of His Word…”
Paul was speaking of His service to the Lord. Paul was careful not live in direct and intentional violation of the requirements of the Lord for his life lest he be disapproved or disqualified from being used in service by Him. Paul knew he had to abide by the rules if he was to be used effectively by the Lord, and if he didn’t he would be disqualified from being used by Him.
In the same regard, when we live in direct and intentional violation of the Word of God, He will not use us. We can’t expect to be used by the Lord if we have unclean hands, an impure pure and feet that are walking in forbidden paths of deliberate disobedience (Ps. 24:4). If we are intentionally ignoring the “rule book” of the Word of God as it relates to our lives in regard to our relationship with Him, our fellowman and ourselves, we should not wonder that His hand in service and blessing is not upon us. Obviously I am not talking about living perfectly, for that is not possible, but I am talking about intentional consistency and commitment. Paul tells the loose living Corinthians in regard to being used of the Lord, “Moreover it is required in a servant that a man be found faithful” (I Cor. 4:2).
Are we being faithful in our service? Are we abiding by the rules? Are we disciplined? Are we consistent in our living? Are we keeping our hands off the unclean things that will certainly bring about our demise in effective service to the Lord? Are we listening to the voice of our Heavenly Coach and keeping ourselves abreast of the truths in His Guide Book for our daily living and our spiritual health? If can’t we answer “yes” to these questions then why should we be surprised that we have been disqualified from effective service for the Lord and disapproved from all the rewards and blessings that go with faithfully and consistently abiding in Him.
While the Elkin runners were temporarily disappointed for being disqualified, disappoint from disqualification from an earthly race can’t be compared to the spiritual anguish, regret and disappointment of being set aside in our service to the Lord. Let us remain faithful and heed the advice of John, “Abide in Him that when He shall appear we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming” (I John 2:28).