RUNNING THE RACE
2 Tim. 4:7
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
People have differing opinions about who’s great and who’s not in athletics. There is one athlete, however, who clearly stands out in the crowd. His name, though hardly a household word, is remembered, along with his accomplishment, after nearly 2,500 years! It is hard to believe that the best soccer or basketball or football player of today will be remembered that long! The man I have in mind was a Greek by the name of Pheidippides. He made a famous run following a tremendous battle between the Greeks and the invading Persian army. This battle took place on Marathon plain, about 26 miles from the city of Athens. When the Greek army defeated the Persians, Pheidippides ran the entire distance to Athens to report the news of their victory to the king. A race of 26 miles, which commemorates Pheidippides’ run, became part of the ancient and modern Olympic Games and is still called a “marathon race.”
Here are some basic principles which help runners to do well in competition.
A. Do your best, run hard
B. Don’t quit, finish the race
C. Keep your attention on the goal, not on the other runners
D. Run for the honor of your club, your school, or your country
It is interesting that we find multiple references in the Scripture where the Christian life is compared to a race. Heb. 12:1 says: “. . . 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.” No runner would carry his suitcase with him when he was running. The extra weight would be a hindrance to him and would prevent him from doing his best. For the same reason, runners do not wear baggy clothing in which the might become entangled. The Christian must put aside those things that hinder him for the same reasons--there are things and activities that, if allowed to, will weigh us down or entangle us in such a way as to make us losers in the race of life.
In 1 Cor. 9:24-25 we read: “Don’t you know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” Even though only one of the runners will win the race, all the runners run to win. In the ancient Olympics the winners received a wreath of leaves. Even though it was a great honor to receive the laurels, it was clear that they would not last; the wreath eventually withered and fell to pieces. Not so with the crown of life! Christians are running for a prize that lasts forever! This is what Paul was thinking about when he wrote to Timothy: “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 . . .” (2 Tim. 4:7-8).
The principles of Christian living are the same as those for running a good race:
A. Do your best, run hard - We can’t expect perfection from ourselves or from others, we can, however, make an effort to do what is right. We can be good stewards of our time, our talents and our strength and spend them in the cause of Christ.
B. Don’t quit, finish the race - Matt. 10:22 says: “. . . he that endures to the end shall be saved.” There are times in a race when the legs are tired and the side aches and a runner just wants to quit. There are times in the Christian life when things seem too hard to continue. We want to drop out and give up. Perseverance, though, is the key; we have to trust and keep on trusting. We can take encouragement from the promise of the Word that “he who began a good work in you is faithful to complete it” (Php. 1:6).
C. Keep your attention on the goal, not on the other runners - There are far too many Christians who are diverted from their course by paying too much attention to other Christians. The weaknesses of others become stumbling blocks for them. The goal of the Christian life is be conformed to image of Christ. If we are to draw close to that goal, we must keep our eyes on Jesus, who is our example in all things!
D. Bring honor - The runner represents his school or his country. In the race of life, we represent the Lord Jesus Christ. In the same way that an athlete honors his sponsor through good sportsmanship and honest effort we should bring honor to Christ through faithful lives of service to Him and to one another.