Requirements and Rewards

By Nate Hartman

October 10, 2011

JoyThis is the ninith in a season-long series of posts on the topic of joy, as it relates to the life and athletic pursuits of your teams.  These weekly posts will correspond with each weekly study from The Wellspring of Life Initiative, a unique "Discipline for Godliness" program for athletes developed by the NCSAA (and available to all member schools, as part of their membership).  This post corresponds with Week 8: "Requirements and Rewards."

   9b “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, 10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.  11 The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.  You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.  12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

    13 If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, 14 then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”  For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

Isaiah 58:9b-14

  • This passage speaks of things the Lord desires and the rewards that follow.  What does He require in verses 9 and 10?  These happen in great degrees all over the world, but for now, just consider your team.  Does oppression exist on your team?  Do you cause others to suffer, as a result of your actions toward them?  Do you blame others when you’re frustrated or struggling?  Is gossip a problem on your team?  Maybe there aren’t people actually hungry for food, but possibly for  friendship or kind words or help (or maybe others needs of which you aren’t aware); do you concern yourself with and meet those needs of your teammates?  Answer these silently for yourself, but seriously consider whether your team needs to together address any of these issues.  Do you need to ask forgiveness from any teammates or coaches?
  • What is the result of obeying the commands of verses 9 and 10 (v. 10-12)?  What impact could a team whose “light rises in the darkness” have?  What might be your impact on opposing teams, on your league, on your community?  Could your team’s season take on a greater significance than it does now, if you compete in the light of Isaiah 58:9-10?
  • What is required in verse 13?  Does God still desire these things today, or are these outdated commands given to the people of the Old Testament?  Why does our culture largely overlook the Sabbath?  Do you treat the Sabbath as a special day, or do you spend the day “going your own way” and “doing as your please” (v. 13)?  Is your Sabbath filled with work, competitive sports, and other pursuits?  Is that doing as you please, or do the activities of your Sabbath bring honor to the Lord on His special day?  Is your commitment to worship on the Sabbath an act of routine and obligation (“speaking idle words” - v. 13), or are you committed to spending time in relationship with God, genuinely honoring him?  (These are all difficult questions and not meant to be judgmental; even as we write them, we do not have these things figured out.  However, as God’s people, we need to take His commands seriously, so please consider these prayerfully and in the light of Scripture.)
  • What is the result of obeying the commands of verse 13, promised in verse 14?  Have you found your joy in the Lord, or do you busy yourself primarily with “going your own way” and “doing as you please”?  What selfish athletic goals or habits do you need to refocus and relearn, in order to find your joy in the Lord?
  • So often we neglect to live in a genuine trust that God is the One who meets our needs.  What things do people do in order to try to provide for themselves?  Financially?  In government?  In business?  In families?  Does your school worry about surviving, and how do they respond to that concern?  How does your church seek to meet the needs of your congregation, as well as the practical needs of the church itself?  Do you see, in each of these places, an obedience to the commands of verses 9 and 10?  Is there a  commitment first to justice, grace, and meeting the needs of others?  How does a church become a light in its community?  How does a Christian school thrive in a difficult time, in a culture that doesn’t value Christian education?  How are families’ financial needs met, in the midst of an “economic recession”?  How can marriages be restored, a broken country be strengthened, broken relationships be repaired, or a sagging economy be made right?  What needs to be a first priority (v. 9-10), if any other part of our lives is to be healthy — if we are to be “like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail” (v. 11)?  With your team, with your school, with your families and friends, with your churches...pray that God would forgive our sin of “going our own way” and “doing as we please” (v. 13), and commit joyfully to “spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed” (v. 10).

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