O CHAMPION, MY CHAMPION

Published on 14 April 2024 at 10:04

From RUN: Endure the Pain, Keep the Faith, Finish Your Race

by Ferdie Cabling and Walt Walker

“It will become a sign and a witness to the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt; for they will cry to the Lord because of oppressors, and He will send them a Savior and a Champion, and He will deliver them.” —Isaiah 19:20, NASB

    IN THE PHILIPPINES, champions are almost always thought of in terms of boxing, basketball, or long-distance running. The Apostle Paul imagined those scenarios too—at least the boxer and the runner. Basketball wasn’t invented until 1891. At some point most guys on the basketball court (girls too) have imagined themselves hitting the last-second shot to win the championship game. How many times have you seen a kid shadow boxing, pretending to be Manny Pacquiao? Others visualize winning a great race by exhausting their last drop energy in a heroic sprint to the finish line. The few who have at some point in their young lives won championships often have difficulty getting over it. Ever been in a group of guys reminiscing about a game they won twenty years ago?

    It’s amazing to me how frequently and with what conviction athletes pray for victory or point to sky as way thanking “the man upstairs” for helping them dominate their opponents. Whether it’s a 3k or in an ultra-marathon, God probably doesn’t care who comes in first and who comes in last. Yes, I know God cares about every aspect of our lives, so let me put it like this: He does indeed care that we become champions but not the kind of champion this world celebrates. I think God is much more concerned about each of us becoming a champion as defined in an older and more traditional sense—one who stands in the gap for those in need, who, in fact, becomes their champion. As the Prophet Isaiah proclaimed: “It will become a sign and a witness to the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt; for they will cry to the Lord because of oppressors, and He will send them a Savior and a Champion, and He will deliver them,” (Isaiah 19:20, NASB). Nicholas Wolterstorff  referred to the “quartet of the vulnerables”— the poor, the orphans, the sick, and the immigrants. Not only does God identify Himself with the most vulnerable and disenfranchised people,” he is very sensitive to anyone who messes with them—those who oppress them, those who take advantage of them, those who do them injustice, or those who simply ignore them. The weaker and more defenseless the person, the more likely God is to assume the role as their protector, defender, and champion of their cause.” That happens either immediately or on the last day every person will the called to give an account. If God had a business card, it would look something like this:

God of Abram, Isaac, and Jacob

Father to the Fatherless, Defender of Widows,

Help to the poor, Friend of the Alien

Championing the Cause of the Defenseless

Since the Creation of the World

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON

    Jesus Christ is the champion of our salvation. That’s not just role He happened into by the occasion of our helpless state. It seems to be an essential attribute of the Father being reflected in the Son. During His earthly ministry, Jesus mirrored the heart of the Father as the defender of the needy.

From Steve Murrell ‑ 100 Years from Now:

“Jesus had a moral compass that guided and governed His words and His actions. He explained it in a short sentence. "Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does, the Son also does” (John 5:19). In other words, when Jesus arrived on earth as the incarnate Son of God, He simply got busy doing those the same things He had seen the Father doing. And what did the Son of God do? He preached the Gospel to the poor, included children and widows, helped a lot of sick people (Matthew 11:4-6), and reached out to the foreigners (the Romans and Samaritans). He condemned those who oppressed the needy as well as those who simply did nothing to help (the rich man and Lazarus; the good Samaritan). He pronounced woes upon the Pharisees who were big on religion but showed little concern for needy people. In all of these situations Jesus was showing us what the Father was really like by identifying with those in need and becoming their advocate.”

Jesus is our deliverer who became the substitutionary sacrifice for our sin. He is our redeemer having given Himself as a ransom to purchase our freedom. And He is our great advocate who continually pleads our case before the throne of God. Truly, Jesus is the champion of our salvation. And so, I never felt more energized, more passionate, and more empowered to run than I (Ferdie Cabling) did on the 102k Bataan Death March. In other words, I didn’t run to become a champion, I ran because I already consider myself to be the champions of the Real Life Foundation Scholars.

RUN50 CHALLENGE

    Don’t try to run the race set before you without a worthy aim or purpose. If discipleship is the ongoing act of becoming a disciple, then “champion-ship” is the ongoing act of being a champion. If you and I want to follow Christ, if you aspire to be like Him, to be conformed to His image, or to be empowered by His purpose, then we must become a champion for something or someone. Conversely, if you are the champions of nothing or no one, we run our race “without aim.”  How then are we His disciples?

    Strong people stand up for themselves, but stronger people stand up for others. Whose load are you carrying? For whom or for what are you standing in the gap? To what lengths will you go to champion the cause of those God has given you to serve? Would you do so only if it was convenient, if only it cost very little? Do you take only up the cause of those who can reward you in return? Are you willing to become the champion of those who don’t believe, for those who ridicule and persecute you?

    So, the discipleship question is this: "Whose champion are you?"

Ferdie Cabling and Walt Walker


TABLE TALK DISCUSSION:

  • Applying a broader sense of the word “champion-ship,” describe a personal opportunity to champion the cause for someone in need?
  • In what ways are you kids preparing yourself for service—to your community, your nation, your church, or to Jesus Christ?
  • It doesn't require an extraordinary act of courage, dedication, and/or self-sacrifice to become someone's champion. Often it is in the most mundane acts of service IF they are done as service unto Christ. However, it's not easy to continually do all things with that perspective because it's not something you can simply turn on and off; rather an attitude that has to be consistently cultivated.
  • We have high hopes for all our children and grandchildren—that they are healthy, creative, and prosperous, but among our highest hopes is that they live as champions for Christ.

 

AFTERWORD

    We were shocked and saddened to hear that Ferdie Cabling went onto his eternal reward. He was still in great shape with no signs of health issues. He was 50 years old, leaving left behind his wife, two children, and one of the largest churches in Manila. His running served as a metaphor for the Christian life—endure the pain, finish your race, keep the faith.


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