Finish your race!
1. YOUR CHRISTIAN LIFE IS A RACE
(2. Timothy 4, 7-8)
In this scripture Paul compares christian life with a race. We can think about the life of a Christian as a long marathon-race. And the most important thing is to finish that race...
I guess most of us have to agree with Paul that Christian life is a fight. But it is a good fight, where we are fighting for the good things - which is the faith in Gods word and the gospel of Jesus Christ. In this matter we are every day in a constant fight against the evil, where Satan tries to pull down our faith. But Paul still says that the only way to finish this race, is to keep the faith strong!
We are now going to have a look at what this "race" is, and how we can finish it and keep the faith according to the word of God...
2. YOU ARE A SPIRITUAL SPORTMAN
A: Follow the rules!
(2. Timothy 2,5)
As a Christian, you can look at yourself as a sportsman. This has a big affection to the way you live, and the way you act. No sportsman will ever get his race sanctioned if he doesn`t follow the rules. The one who doesn`t follow the prevailing rules, will be disqualified - no matter how good his race was. It doesn`t only talk about deceit, but also in situations where you undeserved break some rule without knowing that you did - YOUR RACE WILL BE DISQUALIFIED ANYWAY!!
*(The example with Gwen Torrence, who undeserved stepped inside the inner line, and got disqualified)
It is the same way in the kingdom of God. If we don`t know or don`t follow the rules, we get disqualified too! The word of God says: "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge..."
Gods word - the Bible - is our map of rules! We have to follow the word carefully, and obey it. We can not please God if we don`t want to follow his commandments . We will never reach the goal in our christian races without beeing obedient to His word!
B: Run for to win!
(1. Corinthians 9,24-25)
The sportsman follow the rules. He has learned them by heart. It is neccessary to know these rules to be able to finish the race. But you must remember one thing: There is only one position that is good enough in the kingdom of God, and that is the first position. YOU MUST RUN FOR TO WIN!! Run in such a way that you will obtain the prize!
Many people say that the most important thing as a sportsman is not to win, but to take part. Well, if we talk about sport in lower levels, that might be true. But we know that the best sportsmen, like those who are training for several years for to win an Olympic distance. Of course they do all this training because they will try to win the first price.
It is the same way in the kingdom of God. We are running to obtain an eternal imperishable crown. We are called to have victory every day - over the devil, over the flesh, over temptations, over fear and other problems that come in our way in everyday life. We are called to withstand in the evil day...
C: Abstinence brings victory!
(1. Corinthians 9, 24-27)
A good sportsman must have a diciplinated lifestile . He has to be very careful with diet, get enough of sleep, stay away from drugs, smoking and alcohol. And he has to do a lot of training/exercises. Why? Because it is impossible to gain good results if you don`t practice and have a healthy and diciplinated life.
Have you ever seen a fat marathon-runner who comes with crisps and cola in a bag?
Do you think a world-class runner can have his daily meals from a hamburger store?
No! None can get a strong and healthy body that way.
It is exactly the same way in the kingdom of God. We have to give up something to be able to live a strong and good Christian-life. Paul says that he "diciplines his body and brings it into subjection". This is the same thing as he speaks about when he says that we must "by the spirit put to death the deeds of the body..."
This is a request to self-denial, just like when Jesus tells us to deny yourself, take up your own cross and follow Him! And here is a very important point. You know, if unbelievers have the opportunity to have such a diciplinated life just to obtain a perishable crown, why shouldn`t we who are Gods people sanctify and surrender ourselves even more to obtain an imperishable crown in heaven?
ABSTINENCE IS VERY IMPORTANT!! There is a lot of things that can be natural things to do for unbelievers, but that doesn`t mean that it should be such natural things for you to do as well as them!
Paul did never allow his flesh to be the master of his life. But that doesn`t say he didn`t have the same temptations as you and I. Oh yes, he knew a lot of possibilities to sin and to fall, but he was careful with his own life. Paul diciplined his body and flesh, just like a wrestler who overcomes his opponent in a wrestling match.
3. THE END OF THE RACE IS MOST IMPORTANT
Jesus is our great master and prototype. But we should also respect and esteem old men and women who have lived a long life in the prescence of God. But we need to look at the end of their race. We must behold the end of their life and ministry, and then follow their faith.
Now we can study a lot of well known persons during the history of the church, and we will find that many did not have any good start in their Christian life. And their ministry did not always start the best way either. But the history tells us that they still fulfilled Gods plan for their life, and finished the race in the best way.
I therefore want to say to you that you must not turn down your head and give up if things has turned the wrong way in your life. If things are not like it should be, and you feel that something is broken on the inside: There is a way and a plan for your life. God has laid up a race for you! You are really the only one who can run your own race - and finish it... There is a divine call upon your life and God is waiting for you to run your race the whole way to the goal...
We also find a lot of examples in the Bible that men and women who had a bad start, got a strong and powerful life. They affected kings and kingdoms, and they became mighty prophets and men of God. Josef is probably the best example of all. He had no good start at all. He came and told his brothers about his dreams and visions (that they would obey and bow their knees to him). But what happened? They beated him and sold him as a slave. And his next step in the ministry was that he was putted in jail for something that he had not done.
Well, it doesn`t seem like a part of the story of one of the strongest men of faith in the Bible, does it? But we all know the rest of the story. He finally became "prime minister" of Egypth, and only Pharaoh himself was above him in power and authority.
Josef were holding on, and he kept his dream and vision in his heart. This made him strong, so that he kept his heart away from all evilness. He did not turn one millimeter from the plan and the course that God had given him. And if somebody with such a bad start as Josef could fulfill the race, why should not you be able to do the same?...