Friday, January 18, 2008

Serving God with a LIMP

Have you ever heard the story of John Stephen Akhwari and the 1968 Olympics in Mexico? It was on the 20th day of October when the marathon took place. The race had finished and all the medals were awarded. Only a few spectators were left as the stadium was shutting down when a lone runner, John Stephen Akhwari, limped onto the track wearing the colors of Tanzania. Although John was last in the race, the few remaining spectators applauded him. He limped off to the side with his leg bandaged from a severe fall early on in the race. He was told he would not be able to run the race, but he intended to finish, even if he had to limp his way to the end. When asked why he refused to ride in the ambulance, John Stephen Akhwari replied, "My country did not send me 7,000 miles to start the race. They sent me 7,000 miles to finish it. And that, I shall do."

Believe it or not, most of our victories don't come with silver linings. They usually come with limps. Champions take home victories in less than ideal circumstances. God's greatest men and women finished with limps. Abraham had a barren life, yet God promised he would be the father of many nations. David, promised to be king, was running from Saul, who wanted to kill him. Then, when he did become king, his own son, Absalom, went against him. His whole family was trying to steal his throne, yet he stood strong as the king. Gideon's family was idol worshippers, but God called him to serve and he ran with obedience, even with a limp.

Then, there was Jacob, who was one of the patriarchs God speaks of when he says that Jesus is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. As it was, Jacob was alone when a certain event came upon him in Genesis 32:24. It says that Jacob was left alone and a man, who was really an angel, wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he could not defeat Jacob, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip and put it out of joint. But, Jacob kept wresting with him, so he told Jacob to let him go because daybreak was arriving. Jacob said, "I will not let you go unless you bless me." Then, the angel replied:

"'What is your name?' the man asked. He replied, 'Jacob.' 'Your name will no longer be Jacob,' the man told him. 'It is now Israel, because you have struggled with both God and men and have won'"(Genesis 32:27-28).

Even with his hip out of joint, Jacob kept struggling with the angel because he did not want to let go of God's blessing. Even with this limp, he held on and would not give up until he won. John Stephen Akhwari was also a winner in that 1968 Olympic marathon. Although he came in dead last, I will remember him more than any of the other runners. I don't remember who came in first or second, but I will always remember John Stephen Akhwari.

We should also walk with a limp so as not to let go of what God has called us to do. Our lives will not become ideal once we accept God. You will not win the lottery. You will not have a standing ovation when you arrive at your job. You will not have a gourmet dinner with the children displaying perfect manners. And, they will not beg to wash the dishes instead of watching the TV. It doesn't happen that way. This is how it really happens:

"[They kept] strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, 'Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God'"(Acts 14:21-22).

Let me share a few things with you today about, "Walking with a LIMP"…


Once God is on our side, wouldn't it be great if everyone were nice to us on the Interstate in Memphis? Paul exhorts us…

"Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 2:3).

It is good to be able to serve the Lord, even if it is with a limp, so continue to follow Him. Continue, as Jacob did, until you are blessed. Even athletes continue to compete when injuries occur. They continue the race though conditions are less than perfect. In bull riding, there is a term called 'cowboy up'. It means the cowboy must ride, no matter if he is injured, or he won't get paid. These cowboys ride with broken arms and dislocated shoulders because they want to get paid. Then, there's the mother who continues to welcome people at church even though she has just received news of a sudden death in her family. There's a man who bears the embarrassment of a mistake in his past, while he continues to serve despite the fact that many know. Some may call him a hypocrite, but heaven calls him forgiven. They all serve with a limp, but they all win. You don't have to come in first to win. You just have to finish well.

The movie, Gladiator, is about Maximus, a great general fighting for Rome. The benevolent ruler secretly wants to hand his throne to Maximus rather than his son, Commodus, because he is devious and would ultimately commit political suicide. But, Commodus kills his father as well as the wife and son of Maximus. Maximus escapes, but is sold into slavery as a gladiator. By the time Commodus recognizes Maximus, he has already won the loyalty of the people as a great gladiator. So, Commodus must find a way to kill him in the arena. He purposely stabs Maximus before the battle to ensure his victory.

Sometimes, we feel like we have been stabbed in the back when we are trying to do our best. But, we keep going and never give up, though we walk with a limp. But, it is during those times of serving the Lord with a limp, when your trust in God is the greatest.

When David went back to Ziklag, he found that the Amalekites had taken their families and his men were angry with him for that. His men cried until they could cry no more. And then, they wanted to stone David. But David went out into the wilderness and did a most incredible thing. He prayed for strength to encourage himself in the Lord. We too, need to take time to encourage ourselves when conditions are far from ideal. Because there will be times when no one will visit when you are ill. Times when no one will be there to cheer you on. Learning to encourage yourself brings your faith to maturity because you have learned that your God is enough. We will all have pains in our life, but make sure those pains are in line with 1 Peter 4:15-16.

"Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name" (1 Peter 4:15-16).

So, if you must suffer, suffer for doing right, and not for doing wrong. Don't think that once you come to God, all suffering will be gone. If you are lazy, angry, or prideful you will suffer for it. Your relationships will be short-lived. You will struggle and you will have pain. On the other hand, even if you are good, you will suffer for it. For example, you may have to forgo spending time with your friends to train for a sport or to practice playing the piano. You have a choice to suffer for doing good or to suffer for being slothful or lazy. But, here is the difference: If you suffer for doing wrong, it is useless suffering. If you suffer for doing good, it has a purpose. This purpose has a design that will build your character as a man or woman of God, because…


"Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable" (1 Corinthians 9:25).

Discipline yourself for the purpose of Godliness. When we learn to live with a measure of pain for goodness, that pain works in wondrous ways. Like learning to let go of your ego when serving God. A bruised ego is painful, but it's good. Condition your ego to be silent and enjoy what is happening because it is pleasing to God. If you want to honor God with your morals, then let go of a relationship that compromises your values. You will suffer because you won't have that relationship anymore, but it is a good thing because it will build your faith. It has purpose. Pray in those times for strength from God, because those times will come, and when they do…


Don't be surprised that these challenges are upon you when you are serving the Lord. Those are the challenges we train for and when they come, remember…

"Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you" (1 Peter 4:12).

When you get home from church, do you sometimes get into an argument over something you never expected to happen? Instead of arguing, let the word of God inspire you to respond with joy and reverence in working out the problem.

Let John 16:33 remind us that: "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

Many times, it seems an impossible task. Those fiery darts never seem to cease and so you just want to let go and be done with everything. But, let me encourage you with this:


When your boat capsizes and sharks surround you, stay steady!

"Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm!" (Ephesians 6:13).

Remember that it always darkest just before daylight. One time when I was fishing with my grandpa, a HUGE fish took my bait and took off with my line. I fought him for a while, but then he got my line tangled in brush. I got frustrated and CUT THE LINE and lost the fish. I have often wondered if I cut the line too early. What would have happened if I would have been patient? In life, when you want to cut the line and just let everything go, make sure that you are not doing it too soon. Now, there will be times that God wants you to cut the line. Just make sure it is God you are hearing and then, STAND STEADY. Hear him first when it involves priorities, like your marriage, children, ministry and especially, your faith. Stand steady because just when it gets dark, there is a light that is about to shine on you. Your greatest blessings might be ready to be experienced if you don't cut the line too quickly.

Some of God's best served Him with a limp. Jeremiah struggled with depression, but God used him as one of the greatest prophets of all time. There was John, an exile in Patmos, and Peter and Paul, who all had great struggles. They walked with a limp in less than ideal conditions. And, of course, Jesus struggled when he came for our redemption. On the Cross, Satan pierced his side and we then, pierced his body, yet he asked his Father to forgive all for they know not what they do. Jesus came across the finish line with his body pierced and people abusing him with jeers, because he chose to do what his Father asked of him. That is why Jesus is called our Savior. Stay steady, come to the Cross and look upon Jesus, who side was pierced, but he won for you and for me.

So, when you feel that you can't go on, ask God for the strength that was available on Calvary where Jesus won. Therefore, every knee shall bow; on the earth, above the earth and below the earth. And, every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God, the Father. Yes, we will walk with a limp. But, that's okay. Jesus did too, but he still won! So, we too, will not let go of you, God, until you bless us!

"…I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15).

After David failed God miserably, it brought CHAOS into his life, and from that point on he would walk with a LIMIP. However, David cried out to God, in the midst of the chaos, for God to give him a FRESH START…

God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life. Don't throw me out with the trash, or fail to breathe holiness in me. Bring me back from gray exile, put a fresh wind in my sails! (Psalm 51:10-12)

Keep on limping, and thanking God for the GENESIS that He is shaping in your life! I love you and pray that you have a wonderful weekend in the Lord! Blessings!

Meditation Items:

Q1: What was the condition or event that accounted for the greatest victory in your life?

Q2: How can a limp, much like a handicap, be seen as a source of strength rather than a weakness?

Q3: Name a time when you suffered for doing something good. Why was it so challenging for you?

Q4: How did you handle a surprising challenge and what did you learn from it?

Q5: What can you do to ensure that you are hearing God when you want to 'cut the line?' Is there a 'formula' you can follow?

Q6: Are you going through a struggle because you want to do what is right? What do you believe is the purpose for this hardship?

Pastor Rusty

This weekend's "THROUGH THE BIBLE IN A YEAR" reading:

January 18, 2008 (Friday) Exodus 12:31-18:27
January 19, 2008 (Saturday) Exodus 19:1-24:18
January 20, 2008 (Sunday) Exodus 25:1-31:18

THIS WEEKS VERSE TO "HIDE IN YOUR HEART": 2 Corinthians 1:4 (MESSAGE) He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.

2 Corinthians 1:4 (KJV) Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

Bible Study Tools online: (This has different versions of the Bible for you to read from, as well as Audio Bible for you to listen to) (Different Devotionals. Some you can have sent to your email daily) (Great study sight) (My favorite. You can download Bibles, dictionaries, commentaries to your computer. I use this daily) (International Bible Society. Different translation of Bibles for you to read from) (My wife's online Bible Study) (Daily Bible reading, prayer request, etc. Laurie Adams (Associate Pastor Wife) developed and maintains)