by Kevin Burton
Watching the Olympics, you can see the runners’ supreme effort etched upon their faces.
If you have run track yourself, you know that moment of truth begins long before the actual race does.
School is out at the Earthly School for the Spiritually Blind (ESSB). We’re now at an after-school track practice.
Physical vision gives people lots of advantages, as I have learned by not having much of it. Spiritual vision is much more valuable; spiritual blindness, much more dangerous.
In today’s context, spiritual blindness means a person can’t even see where the true finish line is. Whatever race is run may seem worthy, but will end in the worst kind of futility, not just wasting time and effort, but forgoing the opportunity to live in eternity with the God of creation.
The Apostle Paul used the language of athletics (running and boxing) to talk to the Corinthians about discipline in pursuit of God’s will. He contrasted running to get a wreath (or medal or ribbon as I did in my track days), and striving for the ultimate prize awarded by God.
“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. So they do it to obtain a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way as not to run aimlessly; I box in such a way, as to avoid hitting air; but I strictly discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. (1 Cor. 9:24-27, NASB).
“Here, Paul compares the disciplined effort necessary for spiritual growth to an Olympic athlete’s effort to win the prize that awaits only the winner of a race,” reads a passage on www.gotquestions.org.
“Growing Christlikeness does not just happen on its own. God certainly ‘works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose’ (Phil. 2:13), but the believer must cooperate with God by exerting responsible and serious effort to follow what the Holy Spirit teaches,” the website reads.
“‘Anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules’ (2 Tim. 2:5). To what does God call the believer? It is to become like Jesus Christ in heart and lifestyle.”
“The true believer demonstrates the reality of God’s work in his heart by enduring all sorts of tests in the development of Christlikeness. The believer is in training, much as an Olympic athlete must train for a race. No pain, no gain.”
“That is why the writer of Hebrews exhorted, ‘Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”
“Jesus is portrayed as the finest runner, the One who set the pace, our model and hero in life’s race. Just as a runner in the Olympics must dispense with anything that would hinder his running, we must disentangle ourselves from sin. As a runner in the games must keep his eyes on the finish line, so we must keep our eyes on Christ and His joyful reward,” reads the website.
“Some believers in Galatia had lost faith in God’s grace and were returning to a legalistic, performance-based religion. Paul wrote strong words to them: “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? (Gal. 5:7). The true Christian life can be lived only by faith in the pure Word of God and in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross.”
Anticipating his impending martyrdom in Rome, Paul wrote to his young protégé, Timothy, “The time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:6–8).
Class Notes; extra-curricular, track: The ultimate finish line marks your entrance into eternity. The Bible teaches that your position in Christ determines your eternal reward. It isn’t about medals, it’s about Heaven or Hell. Paul urged believers to run a disciplined race for God.
One for the spiritual road: Phil. 3:13b-14 (NASB): “forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”