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Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. — 1 Corinthians 9:24The main goal of all believers should be to find God’s plan for their lives and then to go after it with all their might and strength. But most Christians have never even awakened to the fact that God has a special race for them to run! This is why Paul asked the Corinthians, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but only one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.” Paul teaches us here that we are in a “race.” The word “race” is the Greek word stadion, which later became our word stadium. However, it first described a race course that was 600 feet in length or one-eighth of a Roman mile — the exact length that was used in the Olympics of the ancient world and in the Isthmian Games that were held near the city of Corinth. Because Paul was highly educated, he knew precisely what he was doing when he used a word that described the Olympic race course of his day. As noted above, eventually the word stadion became the word for a stadium, a place where athletic competitions were held. Since this is the picture Paul has in his mind as he uses the word “race,” let’s stop to consider the Olympic competitions and competitors of that time. The winners of the Olympic competitions were rewarded both materially and with great honor; however, if you study the Olympic champions in the ancient world, you will see that the primary emphasis of reward was not on material wealth, but on the distinguished honor bestowed on the winners. These people were only able to achieve victory in the Olympic games by being disciplined, balanced, and committed to excellence; for these qualities, they were held in high regard. They became revered as heroes, gods, or icons in their society. Respect, honor, notoriety, and fame became their lifelong reward. In addition to these ideas, it is also important to note that the word “race,” from the Greek word stadion, depicted the huge arena where athletic competitions were held. Paul uses this word to tell us that when we enter the race of faith, it puts us in the center of the arena. People see us as we walk by faith. They know of our struggles, and they watch as spectators to see if we will win our battles. We must always keep in mind, therefore, that we’re not running a private race of faith, but a race that has influence on many people’s lives. Hence, Paul urges us to run our race in a way that encourages the bystanders who are watching from the sidelines to jump into the race themselves and pursue their destiny in God! By using these ideas, Paul was communicating to the Corinthians (and to us) that we need to see ourselves as spiritual Olympic competitors! This life we lead is no game; it is the most serious competition we will ever face in this world. The rewards of a life well lived are enormous. Not only will God materially reward us as we are faithful to His call, but He also reserves eternal rewards of honor and glory for those of us who run our race well in this life (Romans 2:10). It is interesting that Paul says, “…They which run in a race run all….” Notice particularly the emphasis “run all.” It means every believer is in some kind of race. A believer may not have awakened to the race he is in yet, or perhaps the race hasn’t yet been revealed to him. Nevertheless, the fact remains that God has a specific plan for every individual. Our task is to find the divine plan for our lives; to get in shape so we can start running our race; and then to run like mad so we can finish in first place! That’s why Paul exhorted us, “…Run, that ye may obtain” (1 Corinthians 9:24). You see, runners have one thought foremost in their minds — the finish line! With this analogy in mind, Paul tells you to run your spiritual race with all your might, keeping your focus on the goal — the divine call on your life as God has revealed it to you. You may ask, “How long am I supposed to keep running and trying to reach my God-given goals?” The answer is until you “obtain” what God called you to do! The word “obtain” is the Greek word katalambano, which is a compound of two words, kata and lambano. The word kata describes something that is coming downward, and the word lambano means to take or to seize something. When compounded together into one word, katalambano means to grab hold of, to seize, to wrestle, to pull down, and to finally make a desired object your very own. This is the picture of someone who finally sees what he wants — and instead of letting that goal he desires slip away, he pounces on it, seizing it and latching hold of it with all his might! Paul uses this word katalambano to depict the attitude of a runner who is running with all his energy, straining forward as he keeps his focus fixed on the finish line. At last the runner reaches the goal, and the prize is now his! He gave that race all he had to give, and it paid off! Had he approached the race with a casual, lazy attitude, the prize would have gone to another. But because he ran to obtain that prize, in the end that’s exactly what he did! There is no doubt that you have a divine purpose for your life, something God has called you to do. God has marvelous ideas and plans for your life! The question is this: Do you want to fulfill His plans for you? If your answer is truly yes, then set your heart on your goal. Don’t be half-hearted, mealy-mouthed, touchy, or easily discouraged. It’s time for you to develop some resolve! Do you see yourself as someone who is running the spiritual Olympic event of his or her life? Or are you simply “jogging for Jesus”? If you’re serious about fulfilling God’s plan for your life, it’s time to shift into high gear and to start putting all your spiritual, mental, and physical energies into getting the job done. You have to remove all distractions and commit yourself to a life of discipline, balance, and devotion.
Your attitude must be, “I’m going to run this race, and I’m going to WIN it! I’m not going to live my whole life missing out on what God has for me! No matter what inconvenience I endure, what price I have to pay, or what adjustments I have to make, I am going to faithfully run my race so that one day I can obtain the prize — the fulfillment of God’s call on my life!”
My Prayer for Today
Lord, I want to set my eyes on the finish line and never lose my focus until I know that I’ve accomplished the task You have given me to do. I know it’s going to take all my spiritual, mental, and physical energies to get this job done. So I am turning to You now, Holy Spirit, and I’m asking You to empower me and to help me make it all the way to the completion of the dream You have given to me!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I declare that I have a divine purpose in life! I am not half-hearted, mealy-mouthed, touchy, or easily discouraged. I am like a runner who is seriously running a race. Because I’m serious about achieving God’s plan for my life, I am shifting into high gear and putting all my spiritual, mental, and physical energies into getting the job done.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer1. Do you know what race you are supposed to be running in your life? 2. Are you running that race with 100 percent of your effort, or are you just half-heartedly jogging along in your life? 3. For you to achieve what God has told you to do, what changes of attitude and behavior do you need to make in your life? Write these changes down so you can pray about them!
As I write to you this month, Denise and I are preparing to return home to Moscow from the United States — and what a fruitful time it has been as we’ve traveled and ministered, visited with many of our partners in our various meetings, reacquainted ourselves with old friends, and spent precious time with family members in this part of the world whom we dearly miss when we’re away.
Also during this trip to the U.S., Denise and I have conducted several interviews for television, radio, and social media. In most of those sessions, I talked about my new book No Room for Compromise, A Light in Darkness, Volume Two and how Jesus’ prophetic message to the church at Pergamum from the book of Revelation is so PERTINENT to the Church today, in this hour.
Denise also recently wrote a book entitled, Who Stole Cinderella? The Art of ‘Happily Ever After‘, and women of all ages are interested in this book! I personally have read it word for word FOUR TIMES, and I can truthfully tell you that reading Who Stole Cinderella? will be a very worthwhile, life-changing experience for anyone! It was an honor for me to write the foreword for this book. In it, I said that Denise’s testimony and her transparency in sharing personal details of her life were almost disarming. And I was right there sharing life with her through it all!
Thank you for letting me talk to you about our trip to the U.S. Now I want to get into the teaching part of this letter and offer you some encouragement as well. But first, I must seriously ask you: Have you ever been through a time when you were tempted to give up on something you were praying about because you hadn’t received the answer you were seeking? Be honest!
We’ve all been through those times when we prayed, believed, and waited — yet the answer seemed like it was never going to come. In such moments, what should we do? Should we throw up our hands in exasperation and walk away from the answer we’re praying for as though it’s never going to manifest? How long should we hang in there and keep believing for that answer to come to pass?
Believers everywhere encounter this type of situation on occasion. They pray, fully believing, yet the answer seems slow in coming. This occurrence is so common that Denise and I receive thousands of letters from television viewers in our part of the world who frequently ask:
- How long should I continue believing God for the answer to my prayer to come to pass?
- Is there anything special I should be doing while I’m waiting for God to answer my prayer?
- What attitude should I maintain while I continue to wait for my answer?
These are good questions to ask. So what should you do if you’ve prayed in faith but haven’t seen the manifestation of your answer as quickly as you wanted to see it?
In Colossians 4:2, the apostle Paul gives very solid advice to you and me when we find ourselves in this kind of circumstance. By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, He says, “Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving.”
In this verse, Paul explicitly tells us three things:
- How long we should keep praying. (He said, “Continue….”)
- What kind of expectation we must have when we pray. (Paul said we’re to “watch.”)
- What kind of attitude we must maintain while we wait for the answer to come. (We’re to continue in prayer, watching with thanksgiving.)
Paul starts out in Colossians 4:2 by saying, “Continue in prayer…,” so let’s begin this month by looking at the word “continue.”
The word “continue” comes from the Greek word proskartereo, which is a compound of the words pros and kartereo. The word pros means to or toward, and the word kartereo comes from the word karteros, which is the Greek word meaning to be strong; to be stout; to bear up; to have fortitude; or to be steadfast. It gives the idea of something that is strong, robust, tough, solid, or heavy-duty!
But when kartereo is compounded with the word pros, as in Colossians 4:2, the new word depicts a strong, solid, never-give-up type of leaning toward an object. It pictures someone who so fiercely wants something that he is relentlessly leaning forward toward that object — pressing toward it, devoted to the goal of obtaining it, and busily engaged in activities that will bring the object of his desire to him.
The use of this word proskartereo emphatically means that the apostle Paul is urging us:
- To stay forward-directed and focused in prayer.
- To keep pressing into the Spirit.
- To resolutely refuse to give up until we have obtained that for which we are praying.
The use of proskartereo assuredly tells us that there will be times when answers do not come quickly! Hence, we can assume that some answers will come only if we are tenaciously determined to continue in prayer until we receive the answers we seek. God requires us to stay spiritually strong — pushing forward and continually engaging in robust prayer until we see the manifestation of our answers. I don’t know about you — but that really encourages me!
Without a doubt, Paul affirms that we must “continue in prayer” during those times when we don’t get our answers as quickly as we had hoped. Next month, we’re going to look at that word “prayer,” and I think you’ll be surprised at its meaning. God desires intimate, face-to-face contact with you — you will not want to miss next month’s teaching!
A day never passes that I don’t think about and pray for all the friends and partners who stand with us as we seek to fulfill this huge assignment God has given us. I wish I knew how to express more fully how grateful we are that you decided to sign up for my monthly letters and connect a little more closely with us.
Until next month, how can Denise and I and our team be praying for you? We pray for our partners fervently and diligently every day, but it thrills our hearts to hear from you about the specific things that are on your heart. And we love to hear reports of your answers to prayer as well. We are so thankful to be partnering with you!
We love you and thank God for you!
Rick and Denise Renner
along with Paul, Philip, and Joel and their families
And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly…. — Romans 16:20Are you tired of the devil blocking your way and causing all kinds of disruptions and problems in your life, such as problems in your relationships, financial woes, or health problems? How would you like to lift your foot high and then slam it down as hard as you can on top of the devil — pounding, hammering, trouncing, crushing, and smattering him to bits under your feet? Does that sound like something you wish you could do? Believe it or not, the apostle Paul encourages you to do exactly that! In Romans 16:20 he writes, “And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly….” The word “bruise” is taken from the Greek word suntribo, a word that significantly presents this notion of trampling the devil under your feet. The word was historically used to denote the act of smashing grapes into wine. However, it was also used to refer to the act of snapping, breaking, and crushing bones. In fact, it pictures bones that have been utterly crushed beyond recognition. This word suntribo is used in Mark 5:4 where the Bible tells us about the demon-possessed man of the Gadarenes. It says, “Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces.…” The phrase “broken in pieces” is this same word suntribo. Although bound in chains and fetters, the demonized man was sufficiently energized by the demons to be able to crush those fetters to pieces. The use of the word suntribo in this verse portrays a demon-possessed man releasing so much rage and violence that he was able to obliterate, smash, demolish, and reduce those fetters to nothing. When he was finished, the fetters fell to the ground in a heap, twisted and deformed — so broken that they would never be used to hold anyone captive again. Now Paul uses this same word in Romans 16:20 when he says we are to “bruise” Satan under our feet. However, notice that Paul says we are to bruise him under our feet “shortly.” This word “shortly” is extremely important because it takes the whole picture to the next level. It tells us what attitude we must demonstrate the next time the devil tries to get in our way or block our path. The word “shortly” comes from a military term that described the way Roman soldiers marched in formation. They were instructed by their commanders, “You are Roman soldiers! Lift your feet high, stomp loud, and let everyone know you are coming through town. The sound of the stomping and pounding of your feet is the signal to let everyone know they need to get out of your way. And if someone is foolish enough to stand in your way — even if someone falls down in front of you — don’t you dare stop to ask them to move! Just keep marching, stomping, and pounding, even if it means you have to walk right over them!” So when Paul uses the word “shortly,” he is referring to the pounding, stomping, crushing steps of a Roman soldier. And remember, Roman soldiers wore shoes that were spiked with nails on the bottom (see March 15). When a challenger stood in front of them — or if a person fell in their path — these soldiers would simply ignore the obstacle and keep marching, stomping, and pounding along their way, leaving the challenger or unfortunate person completely obliterated and trampled beyond recognition — an ugly, bloody sight. What does all this mean for you and me today? It means the next time the devil tries to get in your way or block your path, you shouldn’t stop to politely ask him to move. If the enemy is stupid enough to challenge you and tries to hinder your plans, God tells you what to do in this verse: “Just keep walking! If the devil tries to stop you, just raise your feet high, pound down as hard as you can, and stomp all over him as you march forward. Crush and bruise him beyond recognition!” However, it is important to point out that this smashing and crushing of Satan must be done in cooperation with God. Alone you are no match for this archenemy. That’s the reason Paul says, “…The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet….” In other words, this is a joint partnership between you and God. By yourself, you could never keep Satan subdued. But with God as your Partner, the devil has no chance of ever slipping out from under your heel!
Romans 16:20 suggests this idea:
“The God of peace will smash and completely obliterate Satan under your feet! If Satan tries to get in your way or to block your path, then it’s time for you to act like a soldier — lift your feet high, stomp and pound down hard, crushing the enemy under your feet and leaving him in a heap, trampled beyond recognition, as you march on….”The glorious truth is that Jesus already completely destroyed Satan’s power over you through His death and resurrection. The devil was utterly smashed, crushed, and bruised when Jesus was victoriously raised from the dead (see January 31, February 11, February 28). Your God-given mission now is to reinforce the victory already won and to demonstrate just how miserably defeated Satan already is! The enemy may try to lord himself over you; he may attempt to exert his foul influence over your life. However, he is merely using empty threats and illusions to feed fear into your mind. Never forget — the only place that rightfully belongs to the devil is the small space of ground right under your feet! Jesus accomplished a total, complete, and perfect work through the Cross of Calvary and His resurrection from the dead. That means your healing, your miracle, or your financial blessing already belongs to you! The victory is already yours!
My Prayer for TodayLord, the next time the devil tries to get in my way or to block my path, help me to raise my feet high, pound down as hard as I can, and stomp all over him as I march forward unhindered to do Your will. I thank You that because of Your victory, Satan has no right to exercise this kind of control over my life anymore! With You working as my Partner, I can stare that old enemy in the face and command him to move. And if he tries to put up a fight, I can push him out of the way and walk on through!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for TodayI boldly declare that Jesus destroyed Satan’s power over me! Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, the devil was utterly smashed, crushed, and bruised. Now my God-given mission is to reinforce that glorious victory and to demonstrate just how miserably defeated Satan already is. The enemy may try to lord himself over me, but he has no authority to exercise any control in my life!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer1. Do you see yourself as a victorious soldier in the army of God? 2. Are your problems under your feet today, or do you feel like you are constantly under the heel of your problems? 3. What are you going to do to turn this situation around? Write down ideas about what actions you can take to start winning the victory over the devil’s attacks in your life.
Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth…. — Ephesians 6:14Roman soldiers were dressed in beautiful armor! From head to toe, they were covered with various pieces of weaponry that were designed to protect them and equip them for fighting. But of all these pieces, one piece was more important than all the others. That vital and most important piece of weaponry was the Roman soldier’s loinbelt. A loinbelt didn’t look important. Certainly no soldier would have written home and told his parents, “Wow, I’ve got the most incredible loinbelt!” He might have told them about his shield, his sword, or his breastplate, but no one got excited about the loinbelt. Nevertheless, it was the Roman soldier’s most important piece of weaponry. Why was this so? Because the loinbelt held many of the other pieces of weaponry together. If a soldier’s loinbelt wasn’t in place, he was in big trouble. This is even true with modern clothing. For example, the belt I wear around my waist is not something people notice. They might mention my tie, my suit, my shirt, my sweater, and even my shoes. But to date, I’ve never had anyone walk up to me and say with excitement, “Wow, what a belt!” However, my belt is very important! If I removed it, I’d find out how important it is, because my pants would fall off! That makes my belt quite a vital part of my attire! In the same way, the Roman soldier’s loinbelt was the piece of armor that held all the other pieces together. His sword hung in a scabbard that was clipped to the side of his loinbelt. When not in use, his shield was hung on a special clip on the other side of his loinbelt. The pouch that carried his arrows rested on a small ledge attached to his loinbelt on his backside. Even his breastplate was attached in some places to his loinbelt. Accordingly, the soldier’s ability to use his other pieces of weaponry depended on his loinbelt. If he had no loinbelt, he had no place to attach his massive shield or to hang his sword. Without a loinbelt, there was nothing to rest his lance upon and nothing to keep his breastplate from flapping in the wind. The armor of a Roman soldier would literally come apart, piece by piece, if he didn’t have the loinbelt around his waist. You can see why the loinbelt was absolutely essential to the Roman soldier in order for him to be confident in battle. With that belt securely fastened, he could be assured that all the other pieces of his equipment would stay in place, enabling him to move quickly and fight with great fury. Thus, the loinbelt was the most vital part of all the weaponry the Roman soldier wore. Now consider all this in light of Ephesians 6:14, where Paul says, “Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth….” For the child of God, the loinbelt of his spiritual armor is the written Word of God — the truth. When God’s Word has a central place in your life, you will have a sense of righteousness that covers you like a mighty breastplate. When God’s Word is operating in your life, it gives you the sword you need — that rhema word quickened to your heart by the Holy Spirit (see February 22). When God’s Word dominates your thinking, it gives you peace that protects you from the attacks of the adversary and shields your mind like a powerful helmet. As long as the loinbelt of truth — the Word of God — is central in your life, the rest of your spiritual armor will be effective. But the moment you begin to ignore God’s Word and cease to apply it to your life on a daily basis, you’ll start to lose your sense of righteousness and peace. You’ll find that the devil will start attacking your mind more and more, trying to fill it with lies and vain imaginations. You see, when you remove God’s Word from its rightful place at the very core of your life, it won’t be long until you will begin to spiritually come apart at the seams! If you want to stay clothed in your spiritual armor, you must begin by taking up God’s Word and permanently affixing it to your life. You have to give the Word a central place and dominant role in your life, allowing it to be the “loinbelt” that holds the rest of your weaponry together. So as you go about your daily routine today and every day, keep your “loinbelt of truth” fully attached and operative in every situation you face. Let the Bible be the governor, the law, the ruler, the “final say-so” in your life!
My Prayer for TodayLord, I know that Your Word is the most important weapon You have given to me. Forgive me for the times I have not made it a priority in my life. Today I make the decision to never ignore Your Word again. Holy Spirit, help me stay true to this decision. Please remind me every day to open my Bible and take the time needed to wrap that Word around my life!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for TodayBecause God’s Word has a central place in my life, I have a sense of righteousness that covers me like a mighty breastplate. God’s Word is operating in my life, giving me a powerful sword to wield against the enemy — that rhema word quickened by the Spirit of God to my heart in my time of need. And because God’s Word also dominates my thinking, I have peace that protects me from the attacks of the adversary and shields my mind like a powerful helmet.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer1. Does the Word of God really have a central role in your life, or is reading your Bible something you do once in a while when it’s convenient to you? 2. Was there a time in your life when you devoured the Word of God? What kind of fruit did that period of time produce in your life? Take the time to write down your answers and really think about them. 3. What changes do you need to make in your schedule now to give God’s Word the central place it ought to have in your life?
If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. — John 15:7
Exactly how bold can you dare to be in prayer? Do you have the right to come into the Presence of God and make certain demands of Him? What are your rights, your limitations, and your boundaries when it comes to the issue of prayer?
Jesus used an attention-grabbing word in John 15:7 when He was speaking to the disciples about prayer. The King James Version says, “…Ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” The Greek word “ask” destroys any religious suggestion that we are lowly worms who have no right to come into the Presence of God. It also destroys the picture that we must pitifully beg and plead for the things we need of the Lord. You see, the word “ask” is the Greek word aiteo, a word that means to be adamant in requesting and demanding assistance to meet tangible needs, such as food, shelter, money, and so forth.Although this word aiteo means to demand or to insist, it does not give a believer license to be arrogant or rude in his approach to God. In fact, in the New Testament, the word aiteo is used to portray a person addressing a superior. The person may insist or demand that a certain need be met, but he approaches and speaks to his superior with respect and honor. Additionally, the word aiteo expresses the idea that one possesses a full expectation to receive what was firmly requested. There is no doubt that this word describes someone who prays authoritatively, in a sense demanding something from God. This person knows what he needs and is so filled with faith that he isn’t afraid to boldly come into God’s Presence to ask and expect to receive what he has requested. Some people are disturbed by this idea of “demanding” something from God. However, they wouldn’t find this particular concept of prayer so disturbing if they kept it in context with the entire verse. The first part of John 15:7 gives the key: “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you….” Jesus knew that if His words take up permanent residency in your heart and mind, you will never ask for something that is out of line with His will for your life. His Word will so transform your mind that your prayers will always be in accordance with what He has already said. In fact, this transformation process is what gives you the confidence to boldly come into God’s Presence and make your requests known! You ask boldly because you already know it is what He wants to do! When you know you are praying according to the will of God, you don’t have to sheepishly utter your requests. Rather, you can boldly assert your faith and expect God to move on your behalf! To tell the truth, God wants you to act boldly and courageously in prayer. He wants you to seize His will for your life and demand that it come into manifestation! He’s just waiting for you to ask! And don’t think that you can only come to God for spiritual blessings. As noted earlier, the word aiteo used in John 15:7 primarily has to do with requesting things of a physical and material nature, such as food, clothes, shelter, money, and so forth. Jesus plainly stated in Matthew 6:33 that if we seek the Kingdom of God first, God will see to it that all the material things we need are provided. On the other hand, James 4:2 teaches that believers often do not have what they need because they don’t ask! Philippians 4:6 says, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” The word translated “request” is also the word aiteo. By using aiteo in this verse, Paul also urges us to be bold, authoritative, and commanding. However, he underscores the point that our approach to God must not be rude and arrogant but rather filled with gratefulness and thanksgiving. This means we should have a thankful, grateful heart as we come to make our requests known. As you allow God’s Word to take an authoritative role in your heart and mind and you give that Word the freedom to transform your thinking, your mind will become renewed to God’s will. When that happens, it will cause you to pray in accordance with His plan for your life. Once you are in this position, you are ready to experience this aiteo kind of prayer. That’s when you can begin to boldly, courageously, and confidently move into higher realms of prayer to obtain the petition you desire of God! As you make your bold requests known to God, take the time to show your respect by thanking Him for all He has done in your life!
My Prayer for Today
Lord, I’m so glad that I can be bold and straight to the point when I come into Your Presence. I am so thankful that You want me to boldly present my needs to You and expect You to answer my requests. Jesus told me to boldly ask, so it is right for me to do just that! Today I come before You to tell You about some big needs I have in my life — and because I know You want to bless and help me, I am releasing my faith, fully expecting to receive what I request of You today!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for TodayI confess that I am bold when I come to God in prayer. Because Jesus beckons me to come to the Father with bold, frank, and confident requests, I make my needs known to God and fully expect Him to answer me. He is my Father, and I am His child. He WANTS me to be bold enough to ask Him to meet my needs, and He promises never to withhold any good thing from me!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!