There is no better way to describe the Christian journey of faith than likening it to a marathon race. Some may start out well but later peter out in the final stages. Some even drop out from the race midway. Finishing well requires perseverance and much more.
Every race has a finishing line – or what we might call a goal. For Christians, what do you think is the goal? In my humble opinion, it is to be like Jesus, to claim the free gift of salvation and to receive whatever rewards due to us, commensurate with our works.
First, we are to be like Jesus. We are to look to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2). We are to be Christ-like in character and draw strength and inspiration from His endurance, humility and self-denial as we run the race.
Second, we are to maintain our grip on that which became ours when we placed our faith in Christ– the free gift of salvation. “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Philippians 3:12). This implies effort and personal responsibility on our part.
Believing in Christ is at once the easiest and most difficult thing in the world. We are saved by faith – that is easy enough. But we still need to "work out our faith with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:13).
"For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ" (Hebrews 3:14).
Third, the rewards due to us related to our works and service. During the last phase of his life, Paul was languishing in prison. Even under such dire circumstances, he looked forward to the prospect of the Judge of judges awarding him the crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8).
When he considered the impending rewards, all the trials and suffering he had to go through paled into insignificance:
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us (Romans 8:18).
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all (2 Corinthians 4:17).
But to receive our eternal rewards is not easy. It requires persevering faith:
Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For,
Yet a little while,
and the coming one will come and will not delay;
but my righteous one shall live by faith,
and if he shrinks back,
my soul has no pleasure in him.
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls
"Running the race with perseverance and discipline: Do you not 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. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize" (1 Cor. 9:24-27).
What does it take to be a winner in the most important race of all?
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