Recently a star tennis player was shown in a tennis match. The judge that determines if the player has stepped out of bounds made a call that the tennis player disagreed with. Rather than appealing to the main judge of the match, the tennis player began to verbally berate and call out obscenities at the line judge. Because the tennis player did not feel the match was going the way that she wanted, she lashed out. The consequence was that she was dismissed from the tennis match and disqualified from any remaining games in the tournament as well as being charged a large financial fine.
In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul tells us that we are running in a race and that we should run in such a way that we will win. In verse 27 he says “No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” All of us who preach to others or teach others are reminded that we need to keep ourselves under control so that we do not disqualify ourselves.
We need to be following the commands of the Scriptures. We need to be obeying the Lord. Often we let a few small things slide – sometimes we think we deserve to “treat” ourselves – and these things begin to erode the foundation of our relationship with God. God said the “little foxes spoil the vines”. (Song of Solomon 2:15) We slip in the matters of integrity and our spirit begins to wither. We harden our conscience and become less sensitive to the Holy Spirit within us. He becomes grieved and we have begun the process of disqualifying ourselves. Soon there is less anointing and less presence of God. Others often begin to notice these signs but don’t know the root cause. We are disqualifying ourselves.
At other times we disqualify ourselves by complaining about situations and circumstances that we find ourselves in. I agree, ministry can be really tough at times! However there is often a larger work being done in our own lives that we may fail to see. God is taking us through a purifying and preparation process to enable us to grow spiritually to handle the added responsibilities or enlarged ministry that He has planned for us. But the purifying process involves trials and tests and challenges. We don’t particularly enjoy these. They extract something from us and cost us something. If we focus only on the immediate circumstances we are in, soon it seems that all we face is trials and tests and challenges. Discouragement quickly sets in and it’s easy to let our mouth slip into complaining and grumbling.
We know from the Old Testament account that the children of Israel disqualified themselves from the promised land because of their grumbling and complaining. The Lord had promised to give them this land and God said to send the spies to see how good the new land was as an encouragement to their faith. But they saw the challenge. They saw that it was going to take more effort. 10 of the spies decided that it was not worth the effort. These 10 disqualified themselves but more than that they went on to disqualify the entire generation because they gave the bad report. Lack of faith settled in. Grumbling against God resulted in the judgment of God upon them.
We have promises from God for our own lives. Each of these is from the God who says the yes and amen” to those promises. We also see the pattern in the Scripture that after the promise, God then takes a person through a process to mature them and grow them in the spiritual realm by taking them through some immediate and difficult challenges. It is during these times that we must walk by faith – believing God and His promises are true and that they will come about in due time. How easy it is to walk by sight. And the sights aren’t always so encouraging! However if we will keep in mind that God is working a larger and bigger picture than what we see, we will not disqualify ourselves with our mouth, our attitude, our actions.
Another way we disqualify ourselves is we just don’t go on anymore. We stop! Sometimes there are many reasons as to why we stop and they all seem right to us. But as soon as we have stopped running the race we have disqualified ourselves. We won’t make it to God’s finish line. We have determined our own finish line. God has called us “to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised” (Heb 6:12). I keep encouraging myself with Galatians 6:9 –“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Notice that God says at the proper time – His proper time, that we will reap if we do not give up. To me this means to keep going unless God has said that I have reached the finish line. It also says to me that God knows the plans that he has for me, to prosper being and not harm me, to give me a hope and a future (Jer 29:11).
In this season God is redefining what we have called ministry and church success. God does not look at the outward as a measure of a person and likewise He doesn’t look at the outward as a measure of the ministry. A lot is changing in the spiritual right now. Some of what we have known as measuring points have vanished. God is calling us back to the measures that He has defined in the Word of God.
Perhaps some of you are feeling like stopping. Maybe everything seems to be a struggle and difficulty. Remember that God may be purifying and enlarging you spiritually to be able to live in the full capacity of the promise that He has given you. I encourage you not to just make the decision to stop on your own. Consult with God and with some other trusted spiritual leaders. Don’t disqualify yourselves. Keep on growing even through the difficult times and keep on going, pressing on, forgetting those things which are behind, reaching for the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Keep watch over your attitude in your mouth and even more importantly the condition of your spirit and soul. Keep true to the Word of God.
“Follow the Lord’s rules for doing His work, just as an athlete either follows the rules or is disqualified and wins no prize.” – 2 Timothy 2:5(NLT)