When I was in 7th grade I decided to try out for the track team. I am a basketball player by nature but I figured, ah, why the heck not give track a shot.
If we are being honest, I mostly wanted to try out so I could get a pair of those really cool spiky track shoes.
The only event I was really interested in was high jump.
I will never forget my very first (and only) track meet.
I had my bright red track cleats on, those tiny shorts the coach makes you wear, and adrenaline pumping. I was ready to jump my little heart out.
I lined up to take my first jump. The track official gave me the countdown.
I started running towards the bar fully expecting myself to jump over it. I trained for this. I got this.
So I thought…
Have you ever heard of the movie, “White Men Can’t Jump?”
I give that title a whole lot of justice.
I missed the jump three times in a row and was politely asked to step away from the competition. I was devastated to say the least.
Instead of pushing myself to sharpen up my form and become a better high-jumper, I decided track just wasn’t for me. The bar was just too high.
The funny thing is – I have felt this way at times in my faith journey as well.
I surrendered my life to Jesus when I was in the 8th grade (probably because I needed redemption from the shame of my 7th grade track failures), and struggled to get over the highly set “bar” I felt God and the Christian life asked of me.
God had won over my heart – but I was still intimidated. I considered the bar of godliness almost impossible to jump over.
Always be kind to others (Col 3:12)? Not good at that one.
Let my words be seasoned with salt (Col 4:6)? Eh, I prefer sweet over salty anyway.
Lay down my life and pick up my cross daily (Luke 9:23)? Let’s be honest, life is easier living self-centered.
The bar seemed high. God was asking much of me. Much like my track career, I quickly became content with having a low bar of expectation for myself. “This Christian thing is nice,” I remember thinking, “but I am not sure I want God to have ALL of me. I will keep what is easy and comfortable for myself, he can have some of the other stuff.”
I was fine with it. I was fine with coasting through high school living a decently moral life. I was fine with showing up to Church on Sunday and Wednesday night, being a “good” kid, not cussing (much), not drinking. Living life with a bar set pretty low. Low expectations. Low standards. “It’s just easier this way,” I thought.
Well, then Jesus did what he often does to his beloved children, He began making me feel uncomfortable with the way I was living. I found myself no longer being as easily satisfied with the things that used to fulfill me like sports, friends, family, girls, etc.
I remember a moment that changed everything for me. The Lord allowed a friend to share this quote with me and it completely changed my perspective on godly living:
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” – C.S. Lewis
A light bulb went off in my head! Jesus was calling me to raise the bar in my life. He was calling me to a higher standard of gospel-centered living. It wasn’t enough anymore to just be the Christian guy who doesn’t drink and cuss. Jesus was calling me out of this low-bar, worldly living and into a much more full and exciting life!
When Jesus was on earth, he said something super profound. He said something that each and everyone one of us should seriously consider:
“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
Jesus was born, lived a perfect life, died a death you and I deserve, and all for what?
For you and I to live an ABUNDANT life!
This is the equation the Lord allowed me to believe:
An abundant life = a godly life
A godly life = raising the bar
Why be content “making mud pies in a slum” when we are offered “holiday at the sea?”
And the thing about mud pies is they aren’t always made in the slum. They are made in the suburbs. They are made in high schools. They are made when we choose to be okay with living a low-bar life.
The apostle Paul had a really good bud named Timothy. He wrote Timothy a couple of letters to encourage Timothy in the faith. In his first letter to Timothy, Paul wrote this:
“But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (1 Timothy 6:11-12)
He was encouraging Timothy to flee from living a life with low expectations. He was telling him to flee from lies and follow truth.
Raising the bar in our life allows us to “fight the good fight.” I love the language that Paul uses here because I think we all know it to be true! Pursuing godliness in a broken world is a FIGHT. It is not easy. Choosing Godly friends is not easy. Breaking up with our boyfriend/girlfriend because they aren’t running after Jesus with us is not easy. It is a fight. But, oh, is it a fight worth fighting!
God loved me too much to allow me to continue living life with a low bar. God loves you too much to allow you to do the same.
God desires our full attention and our full affections not because he is selfish, but because he wants us to experience the “abundant life” that Jesus came to offer us!
So, how do we “fight the good fight?”
I believe there are three practical steps we can take every day to ensure we are pursuing godliness and raising the bar in our life:
1. Read God’s Word
You are probably thinking, well duh, I have heard this my whole life. But have you ever feasted on the Word of God (Matthew 4:4)? Have you invited the Holy Spirit into your time in the Word asking him to illuminate Scripture to you (Psalm 119:18)? Do you meditate on spiritual truths throughout the day (1 Cor. 2:12-13)?
My life changed forever when reading God’s Word changed from a discipline to a desire. His Words are life to our soul.
Again, a no-brainer. But prayer is our active choice of surrender during the day. It is “setting our minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth (Col. 3:2).” Prayer gives us eyes to see life from God’s perspective. It is fighting to see the hand of God in all moments of our life. Prayer gives us direct access to a loving God who desires to offer us abundant living.
God never intended for us to “fight the good fight” alone. He gives us each other to encourage, challenge, and comfort one another as we run after Jesus. Find a friend who wants to keep you accountable. Find a mentor who will push you to the foot of the cross. Find a group you can confess sin, find freedom, and celebrate life’s wins together.
Was I ever going to be a world-class high-jumper? Probably not. But I gave up trying before I knew the possibilities. I did not fight the good fight of training to put myself in a position to fully know.
What I do know is this: although my high-jumping career never panned out, it taught me a very valuable lesson. When the bar seems high and intimidating, sometimes it is worth the training to be able to jump over it.
And, since I’m a guy writing on a mostly-girl-read blog, let me add that guys are looking for girls who have set the bar high too. Not in an unrealistic-expectations kind of way about their looks and grades and jobs and friends, but in the way I’ve been talking about. Guys want and need girls who set the standard about their relationship with God high. Girls who know and understand that godly living leads to an abundant life. Godly people are attracted to Godliness.
The “bar” of godly living that God has laid before us is indeed a high one, it is a perfect one. Thankfully for us, Jesus jumped over the bar for us, so that we may experience an abundant life.
Jesus took care of the most important part for us. Through His death, He earned, for us, the ability to have relationship with a holy and perfect God. It is our responsibility to put grace-driven effort into the relationship.
Relationship with God is like any other relationship. We must put effort into getting to know him. We are called to fight for time in the Word, fight for prayer, fight for having people in our life who help us see God more clearly. The believer’s efforts and God’s empowering work together.
We are called to raise the bar in our lives. Let us fight for godliness. Let us fight the good fight of the faith.
Ryan Krueger is the student pastor at Cross Point Church in Franklin, TN. His favorite things include getting breakfast with friends, March Madness, and any good book that challenges his faith. He and his wife, Morgan, were tour pastors for the LO Tour and will take any opportunity to love on others together.
Follow Ryan on Instagram @ryanmkrueger