I thought being a Chritian was all sunshine and rainbows, what happened? Is this the victorious Christian life I signed up for? What is God's plan for my life? What's my destiny? Knowing our destination and the direction we are heading in are essential to planning every journey. I travel a lot and I know how to prepare for every trip. I have my trusty check list, my itinerary, I know what time I have to be at the airport, what time my flight departs. Wouldn't it be great if everything in our Christian life was all planned out to the smallest detail? It sure would make it a lot easier. But then, as with any trip, every rarely goes as planned. My passport mysteriously grows legs and runs off to hide somewhere, I seem to have misplaced the phone number of the hotel I'm staying at; if there's one thing you can expect, it's the unexpected. Our responsibility as youth leaders and teachers and ministers is to help guide our youth in dealing with the choices they have to make every day - to point them in the direction of their eternal destiny. That's no easy task. The best description I've found in the Bible about our Christian walk is one that Paul wrote about running the race. And that's the focus of this study.
What's this destiny thing you keep mentioning?
The race Paul was describing was probably the Isthmian games, one of the most famous of the Greek athletic festivals held near Corinth. In ancient times they were held every other year and created a sense of brotherhood. Games like these were the greatest gatherings of people in the Greek culture. Wars were temporarily stopped in order to participate in the games. Only pure blooded Greeks, who had done nothing to forfeit their citizenship, were allowed to participate in the games. For ten months competitors trained and avoided things that might hurt their chances for victory. The prize was a pine wreath from a sacred grove nearby, that didn't last very long, but victory was also one of the greatest honors a Greek could receive. The victor was often welcomed home with the same honor as a victorious general, the wall of his town being thrown down that he might pass inside as a conqueror. His statue was often set up by his fellow citizens. Yet in time he was forgotten and his glory, like the twisted pine branch, faded away. Winning was everything and losers in the games received no mercy. "The Wreath or Death!" was the motto of the participants and in many events, the loser actually did die.
Beginning the day you accepted Christ as Savior and Lord, you were destined to win. Yet the race in which Christians run lasts a lifetime. Your training does not come ten months prior to the race, but during the race. Your assurance of victory lies not within your abilities, but in your decisions. Each decision you make along the course of the race affects your future. You can choose to give God your best like Abel, or give him your leftovers like Cain. You can choose to follow God like Abraham, or drift from God like Lot. You can choose to flee from sexual temptations like Joseph or give in to them like King David. You can choose to be a spokesman for God like Samuel, or you can try to ignore wickedness like Eli.
You can choose your own destiny. You can choose to be victorious or you can choose to fall short of the goal. The losers are those that do not run the race. For these, the motto of the Greek participants, "The Wreath or Death!" also holds true. Yet a Christians reward will not be a temporary pine wreath, but the Kingdom of God.
These lessons are designed to help youth in their spiritual development and it doesn't matter if they're pre-believers, new Christians, mature in the faith, or backslided. This study is meant to reach out to youth at any level, at any point in their spiritual race.
My desire is for you to be able to use this tool to challenge your youth to take that next bold step of faith to love God more, to be more disciplined in their pursuit of the King. In the race, many lose their way - I myself have experienced a crisis of faith. If we're honest with ourselves, I believe everyone of us have. I pray that those youth who have been sidetracked and hurt will find restoration through this study and that they will no longer stand defeated and truly be victorious winners in the Kingdom of God.