From an ‘A’ to an ‘A-Plus’

In 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul urges the church to lead holy lives. He commends them on the great love they have for others, and then he says…

Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more. (1 Thessalonians 4:10)

He’s saying, in effect, “This is an area where you’re making an A. Good job. See if you can bump it up to an A-Plus.

He’s reminding us to strengthen our strengths.

Too often our focus is limited to those things we don’t do well. We spend so much time and effort covering up our weaknesses, we neglect the task of building our strengths. We should never be content with any aspect of our personal growth; there’s room for improvement in every area.

Which things do you do well? If Paul were writing to you, or to your church, consider in which area he might say, “Way to go. Keep it up. Reach higher.”

If you, like the Thessalonians, excel in love, make it your aim to excel all the more. If you’re gifted in leadership, continue to refine your leadership skills.

And for those whose ministry is preaching and teaching, we should always be looking for ways to take our communication skills to the next level.

Excellence covers all aspects of the Christian life. Weak areas need to be made strong, to be sure. But let’s not forget that the strong areas need to be made stronger.

Today, consider what you do well, and give thought to how you may “do so more and more.” See if you can turn that A into an A-Plus.

Shizo Kanakuri

The Art of Finishing

Shizo KanakuriIn 1912, marathon runner Shizo Kanakuri was chosen to represent Japan in the Summer Olympics at Stockholm.

He began the race with the rest of the runners, but along the way was overcome with heat. He stopped at a garden party for some refreshment, but he stayed a little too long — more than an hour.

It was now, he thought, too late to get back in the race. He took a train to his hotel and caught a boat back home, too ashamed to tell anyone he was leaving.

For more than 50 years Shizo was listed as a missing person in Sweden, until a journalist finally found him; he had spent the last several decades living a quiet life in southern Japan.

In 1966 the Swedish Public Television network called him with an offer: Would you like to finish your run?

The 85 year old Kanakuri accepted, and he traveled to Stockholm to finish the race he had started so many years before. This time he crossed the finish line; his final time was 54 years, 8 months, 6 days, 8 hours, 32 minutes and 20.3 seconds.

Let’s remember that our reward is not for starting the race, it’s for finishing it. As Paul said in his farewell…

“I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me…” (Acts 20:24)

It’s never too late to get back in the race.

You can start running again today. The finish line is still where it used to be.

Lifting the Lighter Weight

Lifting the Lighter Weight

Jim Rohn said, “We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. Discipline weighs ounces — regret weighs tons.

Rohn’s quote resonates because many of our regrets stem from lack of discipline: If only I had been more diligent. If only I had been more consistent. If only I had been more persistent. If only I had been more determined. And on and on.

Regret weighs tons, but it’s foolish to bear this burden of regret longer than necessary.

Know how to get out from under it?

It’s in the first half of Rohn’s equation: Take another tug at the lighter weight of discipline.

Ask yourself: What good thing … what necessary thing … must I start doing today — and every day — if I feel like it or not?

Whether it’s a walk around the block or more time in the Word or cancelling a golf game to spend the afternoon with your kids, the short-lived pang of making a decision that doesn’t come easily is nothing compared to the relief it brings from the dread of regret — in fact, these tough decisions result in immeasurable joy.

There’s a verse in Hebrews that refers to discipline. The writer is speaking here about the discipline (correction) that God sometimes works in us, but these words also apply to the discipline we have the power to exact on ourselves.

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:15)