FIRST-PERSON: Nuts & bolts faith

EL CAJON, Calif. (BP) -- Dotting the landscape of the rural communities north of Charlotte, N.C., are dozens of the most high-tech companies in the automotive industry. First, there are the home facilities of NASCAR's elite racing teams. Then there are the shops of smaller companies that support those teams by making and servicing the vast inventory of parts and tools needed to build and race a modern stock car.

The NASCAR team shops are tens of thousands of square feet of space kept in eat-off-the-floor states of cleanliness. There are rooms and racks full of parts and tools. But NASCAR races are held all over the country. So how do the teams get the cars -- and the vast inventory of parts and tools needed to service them -- to the racetracks several dozen times each racing season? Answer: the hauler.

A NASCAR hauler is an 18-wheel behemoth that serves as a traveling shop for the NASCAR teams. The cab has room for two drivers who swap five-hour shifts as the trucks roll non-stop to the tracks. And the trailers are as spotless and well-organized as the shops which send them out every week.

Open the back doors of a hauler and you see two levels. In the upper level are two race cars -- the primary car and a backup car. In the lower level of the hauler is a mini NASCAR racing shop containing every tool and part necessary to keep a car running in winning form. The only things not found in the hauler are racing fuel and the tires each team goes through in a weekend.

NASCAR haulers can cost thousands of dollars to drive. Is it worth the expense? A racing organization invests tens of millions of dollars, yet all that investment suddenly becomes worthless if a car breaks down at the track and the team doesn't have the tools necessary to make the repair.

But it's not just parts and tools that are important. It's knowing how to use them that counts. NASCAR teams invest heavily in training their crews. The finest tools and technology in the world justify their cost only if there is someone who knows how to use them.

NASCAR teams are continually leaving their home base and going out into the world to do business for their owners. Likewise, as Christians we are continually going out into the world to "do business" for our Owner. If NASCAR teams train and prepare with intensity to win a perishable reward, how much more should Christians train and prepare to win an imperishable reward?

Let's look at the Christian's inventory of tools -- the resources that make it possible for us to leave home equipped to win our race on a daily basis -- and how to use them:

The Holy Spirit.

Without the presence of Christ in our lives, we can do nothing (John 15:5). Do you know how to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18)? Do you know what causes the Holy Spirit to be grieved (Ephesians 4:30) or quenched (1 Thessalonians 5:19)? Do you know what gift(s) the Holy Spirit has given you to equip you for ministry (1 Corinthians 12:11)?

The Bible

Do you know how to study the Bible for yourself (2 Timothy 2:15)? Can you separate false doctrine from the truth (Acts 17:11)? Are you regularly committing portions of Scripture to memory (Psalm 119:11)? Do you know how to meditate upon God's Word (Joshua 1:8)?

Prayer

Have you learned to pray with consistency (1 Thessalonians 5:17), persistence (Luke 11:5-10), boldness (Hebrews 4:16), passion (Psalm 51:1-17), thanksgiving (Colossians 1:3), for others (1 Thessalonians 3:10-13) and for yourself (Philippians 4:6)? Have you learned to use prayer as the avenue to personal peace (Philippians 4:7)?

Fellowship.

Are you part of a small group, a Sunday School class, a ministry team or prayer group? Being connected allows you to learn to forgive (Ephesians 4:32), to love (Romans 12:10), to give (2 Corinthians 8:3-4), to serve (Galatians 5:13), to accept (Romans 15:7), to counsel (Romans 15:14), to be patient (Ephesians 4:2) and to comfort and edify others (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

These resources are as fundamental to our success in the Christian life as are wrenches, screwdrivers and gauges to a NASCAR team. Not only do we have to make these tools ours, but we need to know how to use them as we "leave the shop" daily and go out to run the race.

David Jeremiah is pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif., and founder and host of "Turning Point for God." For more information on Turning Point, visit www.DavidJeremiah.org. This column has been approved by Turning Point for redistribution in Baptist state newspapers; for other reprint requests, contact Myrna Davis at mdavis@tursningpointonline.org.
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