During the Olympics four years ago, I saw a sprinter take his mark, get set, and go. But he didn't go for long. As the other runners ran, this guy slowly came to a stop. He walked off the track. Done.
The reason? A bad start.
Maybe his shoe got stuck in the starter blocks.
Maybe his foot got tangled in his shoe laces.
Maybe he couldn't hear the starting gun over the crowd.
Any number of things might have caused him to get a bad start, but after it happened he knew he couldn't recover. So he stopped. He quit the race.
I want to emphasize to you the importance of starting strong.
A strong start will help to keep you from drifting away from Christ, like Pastor Jimmy has been talking about on Sunday mornings as we are moving through the book of Hebrews.
School starts in 3 1/2 weeks. I know you might not want to think about, but it's just around the corner and I want you to start strong.
Sure that means getting in the habit of doing your homework and studying for tests so you don't fall behind. But it also means establishing who you are and what your reputations will be from day one.
When it comes to you, as Christian students, others will brand you in one of two ways.
Either you will be hypocrite: what you do and what you say don't match up.
Or you will be legit: what you do and what you say do match up.
I want you to be legit from the start. Your choice to do that - to have your words and actions match - will help spread the good news of God to your schools and the good news of this church to your friends.
It won't always be easy. But no one ever said it would be.
It won't always be easy, but it will always be good and right and true.
Standing as an authentic believer in Christ is the best way to live - even if there are trials, struggles, or frustrations that come along with doing it.
1 Thessalonians 1:6-7 says, "You received the message with joy from the Holy Spirit in spite of the severe suffering it brought you. In this way, you imitated both us and the Lord. As a result, you have become an example to all the believers."
They were an example to all the believers because they started strong: they received the message with joy despite the hit it made on their reputation...despite the struggles that came their way because of it.
That episode from Scripture isn't a fairy tale. That's what happened.
It was tough, but they were tougher. Their faith was stronger than the struggles. And, in the process, they led the way for all to see.
I think that can happen among us. I think that those of you sitting here tonight can receive the message with joy in such a way as to become an example to every one of your friends. It could happen. And it start with the start. I want you to start strong so you don't walk off the track later this year.
A Prayer Based on 1 Peter 2:9