A Lesson From Dan Jansen
by David M. Trexler
At Lillehammer, Norway, Dan Jansen, an American speed skater, slipped at the 500 meter race. He failed to win a medal. Dan was very disappointed. Dan has tried to win a medal at seven races during four Winter Olympics. Dan fell twice at Calgary, Alberta, in 1988. His beloved sister died of cancer only a few days before that race. Again, Dan failed at Albertville, France, in 1992. He refused to give up until he won a gold medal for the 1,000 meter race February 18, 1994.
Jansen's failures and success remind me of our Christian struggle with sin. Abraham, whom God called, failed several times. But Abraham finally succeeded when he had the greatest test of his life. He obeyed God when he was willing to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. David was a man who loved God. But David sinned again and again when he was king of Israel. Elijah, a brave and fiery prophet, lost his faith when Queen Jezebel was angry and planned to kill him. Peter, Jesus' outspoken disciple, denied his Master three times. Paul was one of the greatest missionaries of all time. But Paul complained about his failures as a Christian.
The Bible tells about many human failures, but there are many successes. The Bible is the lesson book for all of us on how to deal with sin. Many Christians experience frustrations and failures when they try to live for God. Sad to say, many Christians just give up being Christians, or they develop a false righteousness-by-faith doctrine.
Paul says, "Surely, you know that many runners take part in a race, but only one [runner] of them wins the prize. Run, then, in such a way as to win the prize. Every athlete in training submits to [follows] strict discipline, in order to be crowned with a wreath that will not last; but we do it for one that will last forever" (1 Corinthians 9:24, 25, TEV). What is strict discipline in our Christian life?
Jesus says, "You study the Scriptures [the Bible], because you think that in them [the Bible] you will find eternal life" (John 5:39, TEV). Prayer also is part of strict discipline. Paul says ".. . pray at all times, be thankful in all circumstances. This is what God wants from you in your life in union with Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:17, 18, TEV). We keep our good relationship with God through studying the Bible and praying. God's word and prayer are an important part of our lives for victory over the power of sin. Runners exercise every day and eat the right kind of food to win the race. So we as Christians must have spiritual exercise. "But you, my friends, keep on building yourselves up on your most sacred faith. Pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, and keep yourselves in the love of God, as you wait for our Lord Jesus Christ in his [Jesus'] mercy to give you eternal life.... To him [Jesus] who is able to keep you from falling [sinning] and to bring you faultless and joyful before his [Jesus'] glorious presence" (Jude 20,21,24,TEV).
If we fail and sin, we must come to Jesus for forgiveness of our sins. Read 1 John 2:1 and 1:9. Finally, "do not throw away your confidence [faith]; it [faith] will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere [be patient] so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he [God] has promised [eternal life]" (Hebrews 10:35, 36, NIV).