March 30, 2017
People who compete in marathons or any other type of race prepare themselves long in advance to win. They eat nutritious food and exercise to help build muscles to physically help them do their best. They run daily in order to build up their endurance for the challenge they face. Can you imagine if, on the morning of the Boston marathon, a person who had no training and who was physically out of shape decided to compete. The result would be total failure. Living a Christian life and winning souls for Christ is not a competition, but it does take training and endurance. “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run that ye may obtain.” 1 Corinthians 9:24. Our Christian walk isn’t a competition, but we all need to train for Godly living through prayer and Bible study in order to run our race well.
How do we prepare for this race before us? Our attitude towards God will affect the way we live. The way we live will affect our witness to others. “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. This is good advice from the Apostle Paul and he practiced what he preached. Rejoice! When things go wrong remember to rejoice. We cannot see God’s whole plan from where we stand, but God sees the whole picture. Bad times can strengthen our faith and build our endurance, so rejoice that you’re growing stronger. If we allow troubles to stumble us and to steal our joy we’ll become bitter and angry. Don’t allow that to happen. Prayer helps us to rejoice. When driving your car, talk with God. When cleaning out the refrigerator, talk with God. Talk with Him throughout your day and you’ll notice that you’re able to hear Him better. He’s the coach that will help you win your race, so rejoice, pray, and be thankful in all things. When things go wrong or tragedy comes our way it isn’t easy to give thanks to God. Those are the times when we need to understand that God is always with us and thank Him for His faithfulness. It will become a habit to thank Him and we’ll grow stronger in our walk with Him. The race set before us will become easier to run.
As we train to be stronger in our walk with Christ, we need to pray, but we also need to listen to the urging of the Holy Spirit. “Quench not the Spirit.” 1 Thessalonians 5:19. The Holy Spirit is sealed within each Christian and He is our guide through life. If we listen to His urgings we will avoid sin and we will be bold in sharing the Gospel with others. Many Christians say that they are on fire for the Lord, but that fire can be quenched. If we aren’t vigilant and tend to the fire it will go out and lose its power within us. If we suppress the Spirit He will stay in the background of our life. We can also quench the Spirit in others by ridiculing their joy in the Lord or telling them to stop being bold in witnessing for Christ. “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” Galatians 5:25. Don’t let the fire go out.
Other Christians can help us along in our race to the finish line of life, and we can help them. Prophecy, or a word of knowledge, is a gift from God. “Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21. All things must be proved through Scripture. For instance, if someone tells you that God said you should give them a large sum of money, prove that through Scripture. Jesus never asked for money, nor did the disciples. Paul did ask for donations to be collected, but those gifts weren’t for his own use but to help other Christians in need. The point I’m making is that people who prophesy may be correct, but always pray and follow the direction of the Holy Spirit. If you are led to help someone in need or to donate to a particular ministry, then by all means do so. Just prove all things by Scripture.
In order to run a winning race a person cannot carry excess baggage. Sin is cumbersome and will hamper your walk with Christ. “Abstain from all appearance of evil.” 1 Thessalonians 5:22. God’s word doesn’t sugar coat what constitutes sin and we need to pay attention. “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” Galatians 5:19-21. Works of the flesh are sin. You might want to get a dictionary or a good concordance that will define each item listed. If you’re holding onto these sins or any others, you’ll lose the race. “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” Matthew16:26. If you have truly accepted Christ for salvation then you cannot lose that free gift. If you find sin more rewarding than following Jesus then you may have a problem. You may not have honestly accepted Christ. Be sure before it’s too late.
We can’t run a race if we never leave the starting line. For the Christian, that starting line is when we first truly accept Christ as our Saviour. “Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” John 6:28-29. Simply believe then start running the race. If we continue to be weighted down by sin we cannot run a good race. If we continually look to the left or right while running to the finish line, our eyes will be taken off of the cross and we’ll be distracted by the temptation of sin. Keeping our eyes on Jesus will keep our goal in sight and we won’t wander off course. He endured the cross in order to purchase redemption for mankind. Don’t take that lightly. The cross was a very torturous way to die and the Romans were good at inflicting cruel and painful punishment. Jesus knew that this was the way He would shed His blood for you and me, but Jesus looked beyond the cross. The cross itself held no joy, but what He accomplished that day was joyous. He provided the only way for you and me to be reconciled to God. If you’ve accepted Him as your Saviour you need to respect what He suffered for you. Get rid of any “weight of sin” that is holding you back from running to win the race before you. Rejoice, pray, always give thanks, don’t quench the Holy Spirit, heed what fellow Christians tell you but prove all they say through Scripture, and abstain from evil. These things will help you to run a good race to the glory of God.
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2. If the race you’re asked to run seems too burdensome then look to the cross. Sin can get in our way and weigh us down, but generations of Christians who have run ahead of us have succeeded by keeping their eyes on Christ and His sacrifice on the cross. Nobody can run your race for you. The choices you make along the way will either hinder your race or help you. Jesus is always our example and if we study the Gospels we can come to know Him better. “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” Acts 20:24. Every Christian has a ministry. Some big and some small, but all are important. I regret every time I failed to share Christ with someone. I regret every time I have reacted to a situation in a secular way instead of how Christ would react. As I run the race set before me, I lay these failures at the foot of the cross and run on.
In the end, only those things done for Christ will last. If you run a good race you will win rewards. The Apostle Paul was highly educated, travelled to many places, and saw many wonderful sights. As his life drew to a close he could look back and see that he had run his race the best he could. “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:6-8. How’s your race going? Are you running to win, or are you just plodding along?
If you’re not running a winning race you need to ask yourself why. Today isn’t too soon to begin training and running to win, but tomorrow may be too late.
God bless you all,
Ron Graham’s previous commentaries archived at http://www.raptureready.com/featured/graham/graham.html
All original scripture is “theopneustos” God breathed.