The Race For Eternal Life
We sometimes refer to daily living as our "rat race". As we consider the scriptures, we are faced with the reality that we are definitely in a race of some sorts. We also come to learn that our performance in this race does affect others in various ways. Many schools have teams for track and field. As the individual members compete for prizes, their performances also help the team as a whole to gain a victory over the games. The better the individual members perform, the better the team has a chance of winning the team trophy.
The apostle Paul used the analogy of a physical race to make some points about our race in this life. So using Paul's analogies and other writers of the New Testament, let us look at some points to consider that we should be mindful of in running our race.
Everyone is in this race. Most people are not aware of the fact that they are involved in a race for eternal life. As a result, they make no effort to obtain the prize of eternal life. The few who do realize they are in this race often times need to be reminded of what they are competing for. The goal of eternal life is not going to be handed to us just because our Lord died on the cross to make it possible, but we much each know that we have to make an effort to win the prize. In 1 Corinthians 9:24, Paul speaks that all in a race run, but only one will win the prize. Paul encourages the Christians to run their race so as to win. In our current PC world, they give trophies for just competing. As a result, the participants do not care who wins because everyone goes home with a ribbon or a trophy. That does not happen in real life, and it certainly does not happen in our spiritual lives. Competition is the name of reality in our world, and we must work hard to win.
We must prepare ourselves to win. Paul goes on to say in the next verse (25) that we must exercise self-control in all things. Anyone who has competed in track and field, or for that matter, any competitive sport, knows that winners prepare themselves with proper training, diet, sleep, and mental preparedness. In our spiritual race, we must be prepared with a steady diet of God's word, we must prepare ourselves for service in God's kingdom, we must make that mental preparation so that we can perform when called upon (1 Peter 3:15), and we must make every effort to be what God wants us to be (2 Peter 1:5-11). This does not happen by chance or luck. It will only happen for those who prepare themselves. Someone once said: "Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people". How true that is.
We compete according to the rules. Paul makes this point in 2 Timothy 2:5. One does not win unless they compete according to the rules. Running out of your lane to gain an advantage is frowned upon. Starting early is not tolerated. Doping with drugs to give oneself an advantage is punishable. Cheating is a big no-no in this sport. Yet many do not like to live according to the rules. That is why our prisons are full and why we need to build more. Most people do not like to live according to God's rules. They will find out one day just how futile their life has been. The rulebook for us is God's word. As long as we follow God's rules and compete according to His rules, we will gain a prize that is eternal instead of a temporal prize.
We must run with endurance. The Hebrews writer tells us to run the race with endurance (Hebrews 12:1). This race is not a short sprint or even a cross-country event. This race will continue until we draw our last breath. It takes a lot of dedication and effort to build up endurance. As long as we keep in our mind the ultimate goal, we can do it. If we fail to plan and keep our endurance, we will pay the price with our very souls.
We need to focus on the goal. Every race has a finish line. First we have to know what our goal is. We have to follow the rules in order to qualify for the prize. And we need to keep that goal as our focus from the moment we begin training through and until we run that actual race. The Hebrews writer speaks of our goal and the subject of our focus. He says "keeping your gaze on Jesus" (Hebrews 12:2).
One final point. As we understand in life that a race has only one winner, we also must realize that everyone who participates in a winner in some form or fashion. As Christians, while we compete for the goal of reaching heaven, we must also realize the best way to get there is to help others get there as well. I am sure we all have seen the commercial about the race being run by special needs children where one falls down, and the others stop to help the fallen. Then they go hand in hand towards the finish line. That is how a Christian is going to win the prize of eternal life. So keep putting forth the effort, abide by the rules, give it your best effort, and help someone along so that they might win the prize as well.
By Carey Scott
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