RUNNING LIFE’S RACE
Bible readings: Philippians 3: 10-14 and Hebrews 12: 1-3
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, 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. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
We thank God for past mercies and look to Him for future blessing.
We acknowledge past failings but invite the Holy Spirit to restore within us the joy of our salvation and a desire to listen to His voice and to obey.
Imagine if God were only interested in winners!
…If Christ had only died for the goodies … that’s me done for!
When we enter a competition we want to be the one to WIN
- Thankfully, God has determined that each one of us should become winners… but first we need to enter the race
In a race there is usually only one winner
- For example, in a football competition
But in the race of life, it’s different…
- God, through Paul, asks that we run a race to win the prize… But in this race everyone can be a winner
- Because Christ Himself is the prize and He is available to ALL who repent and believe
- However, we can only enter this race when first we receive God’s love and forgiveness through Jesus the Christ, the Saviour
The question is… HAVE YOU ENTERED THE RACE YET?
- There is no age restriction… You are never too old to begin
- There is no entry requirement other than trusting in Jesus
- You don’t have to be brainy… or successful in life
- You can come just as “ordinary you”… BUT GOD WANTS TO MAKE YOU SOMEONE EXTRAORDINARY
The wonderful thing about this race is that to win you have to do just two things: START and FINISH!
- START by accepting Jesus Christ for yourself
- But then run the race with Him and for Him until life’s end
So the RACE BEGINS the moment we accept that we need Jesus in our lives and determine to follow Him… and ENDS when we DIE and enter heaven
- There’s no having a picnic on the way
- No strolling along aimlessly
- Or catching the bus instead of running!
- We must RUN the race
Be aware, though, that once we begin the race, it is possible to trip and fall, perhaps many times
Years ago, a famous Olympic runner was pounding around the track … He was a sure favourite to win… then he stumbled and fell
- He worked so hard to get himself back into the race…but lost!
- God knows that in life’s race, we shall stumble and fall… the important thing is to get back on your feet and join the race again
- Unlike that Olympic athlete, we shan’t lose the race… because in GOD’S race of life TO FINISH IS TO WIN!
I remember running the old 440 yards (quarter mile) race
…I was winning all the way until the final few yards…but only the winner got the cup…(though I did win the egg-and-spoon race!)
Paul asks the Christians in Galatia:
“You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?” (Galatians 5:7)
- It might be that we drop out and wander away
- It might be that we choose unsuitable friends, who take us along a wrong path
- Or we think that trusting Jesus to be our Saviour is the end of the matter… IT ISN’T! It’s only the beginning. We must run the race to the very end
You must run the race along the right track!
- It ‘s horrible when driving to find yourself in the wrong lane!
- In some supermarkets, the assistant will take you to the item you’re searching for rather than merely giving directions
- They have found that if customers know precisely where the item is located, they will probably purchase it… If they have to spend time searching, they may or may not do so… and they also have less time to buy other goods!
In the same way, it’s essential to have a guide who knows the way and leads you along the right path in life …
Jesus Christ says:
“I am the way… Take the path that I have made for your life.”
‘This is the way, walk in it’
Taking the wrong way can have serious consequences…
- A friend of mine thought that she had caught the train from Newcastle to Plymouth (south) and ended up heading for Edinburgh (north)!
- When we were returning from holiday on one occasion, we got lost in the fog, so followed a motorist that seemed to know where he was going and ended up on his front drive! He knew where he was going but it was the wrong direction for us!
Sometimes, we pray for God the Spirit to show us the way and seem to receive no answer
- We want His will for our lives but feel confused and uncertain about the right path
- We are fearful of making a mistake
But God is more interested in our MOTIVES than in our ability to work out in detail His plan for our lives…
- Our job is to keep moving… His “job” is to steer us in the right direction along the right path
GOD CANNOT STEER US WHEN WE ARE STANDING STILL
- We need to keep running the race and trust Him to do the rest
Of course, some decisions we make our highly important and irreversible…
- The career path to take
- The person to marry (if you can find someone suitable)
These are the situations in which we need to wait on God, ask reliable friends and use our minds and experience
- There are many ways to spend your life… some selfish and futile…others God-honouring and worthwhile…on the right path
- Why expend a lot of effort on those things that are of little benefit, either now or through eternity?
You can’t run with your eyes shut!
Jesus says: “Fix your eyes on me… I am the light of the world”
- Plough the field in straight lines by keeping your eyes on a fixed point
- Follow the star as it goes ahead of you
Some people say they don’t understand the Gospel… when the truth is that they won’t open their eyes and see what’s right in front of them.
- People make excuses, such as “I’m not religious” or “If there really is a God, why do children suffer?” or “I’m not interested in superstitious nonsense… then add, touch wood” (How ridiculous is that?)
- Others refuse to respond to the evidence… lives transformed… clear testimonies about God’s goodness… miraculous events
- Many others claim that they have faith… faith in their own ability to cope… “I don’t need a crutch to help me find the right path in life!”
- Jesus said that there are some people who will not believe the truth about Him, even if someone should rise from the dead!!
Is there someone you know, who is running through life with his or her EYES SHUT?
- The Pharisees asked Jesus, “Are we blind as well?” Jesus answered, “If you were blind, it wouldn’t be so bad… but the fact is that you could see but choose not to do so… therefore your guilt remains”
- The hymn writer puts it like this… “Once I was blind but now I see”
- But we must be willing to accept and act upon what God reveals to us.
You can’t run God’s race if you are hanging on to something that’s more important to you!
Jesus said: “You cannot put both God and your selfish needs first”
The way to catch a monkey is to put food in a sealed box and make a small hole in one side. The monkey puts its arm into the box and grasps the food but cannot withdraw its hand due to the bulk of food. If the monkey let go of the food, it could escape and be free… but its refusal to let go means that it remains captive.
- Does this description fit an aspect of your life or mine?
- Do you need to ‘let go and let God’?
There are some things that we should make a priority… our family, our health, our care for others, our leisure…
- But even these can be a hindrance if they distract us from serving God
- Thus, our families are very important… but even children and grandchildren can become idols for us
- We have a responsibility to eat, exercise and sleep sensibly… but obsessive concentration on losing weight, looking beautiful or going to the gymnasium can focus our thoughts more on ME for ME than on ME for HIM
Is there something in your life that so occupies your thoughts and time, and so absorbs your energy that they take FIRST PLACE ahead of serving and obeying God?
You can’t run properly if you are listening to voices other than God’s voice
So choose your friends with care…
Example of King Rehoboam in the Old Testament, who listened to his friends, ignored the advice of the older men, and almost caused a Civil War
A balance is needed here…
- To be wise about the people with whom we associate…
- But not to cut ourselves off from the world so much that we are no longer able to be salt and light
Be especially careful about someone who comes to you and says gravely: “God has told me to tell you that you are to do this…”
- As though God is incapable of telling you Himself!
On the other hand, your Christian friends, especially those who are older in the faith, can often spot dangers or opportunities for you of which you are unaware
Older folk may be a bit slow but they’re not stupid… and every younger Christian seeking to walk with Jesus should be eager to learn from older brothers and sisters
Running takes effort and training
…Winning races doesn’t just happen!
An athlete’s training schedule is gruelling…exercises, diet, mental discipline…
We need to adopt the same sort of attitude with respect to spiritual things…
- One of the reasons that the Gospel is failing to make a real impact is not opposition or antagonism… but sluggishness on our part!
- Many of us simply won’t put the work in…
- Some of us leave the hard work to others and make excuses
- Others of us may get immersed in activities… but prayer, meditation on the Word, reading helpful books, and clarifying doctrine can be sadly neglected
- But the writer makes our position clear: “We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realised. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.” (Hebrews 6:11-12)
FINALLY… Jesus said that if we are to be His disciples there is a cost… it’s a narrow way
- But He promises us the Holy Spirit to show us the way… to make our lives count for something… to please God….
- And to know for certain that at the end of the race… the end of life… we shall be with Him forever.
I THINK THAT’S A RACE WORTH RUNNING, DON’T YOU?
Quit, give up, you’re beaten, they shout at me and plead
There’s far too much against you now—this time you can’t succeed.
And as I start to hang my head in front of failure’s face
My downward fall is broken by the memory of a race.
~A children’s race, young boys, young men… how I remember well;
Excitement, sure, but also fear, it wasn’t hard to tell.
They all lined up, so full of hope, each thought to win that race
Or tie for first, or if not that, at least take second place.
~Fathers watched from on the side, each cheering for his son
And each boy hoped to show his dad that he would be the one.
The whistle blew, and off they went, young hearts and hopes afire
To win and be the hero was each young boy’s desire.
~And one boy, in particular, whose dad was in the crowd
Was running near the lead and thought: My dad will be so proud.
But as they sped on down the field across a shallow dip
The little boy who hoped to win lost his step to slip.
And trying hard to catch himself, his hands flew out to brace
And midst the laughter of the crowd he fell flat on his face.
So down he fell, and with him hope, he couldn’t win it now;
Embarrassed, sad, he only wished to disappear somehow.
~But as he fell, his dad stood up and showed his anxious face
Which to the boy so clearly said: Get up and win the race.
He quickly rose, no damage done, behind a bit, that’s all
And ran with all his will and might to make up for his fall.
~So anxious to restore himself, to catch up and to win
His mind went faster than his legs… he slipped, and fell again.
He wished then he had quit before with only one disgrace:
I’m hopeless as a runner now, I shouldn’t try to race.
~But in the laughing crowd he searched and found his father’s face—
That steady look which said again: Get up and win the race.
So up he jumped to try again, ten yards behind the last;
To make up for lost ground, he thought, I’d better move real fast.
~Exerting everything he had, he caught up eight or ten
But trying so hard to catch the lead, he slipped and fell again.
Defeated, he lay there silently, a teardrop in his eye:
It’s pointless running any more, three times I’ve crashed, why try?
~The will to rise had disappeared, all hope had fled away;
So far behind, so error prone, a loser all the day.
I’ve lost, so what’s the use? He cried. I’ll live with my disgrace
But then he thought about his dad, who soon he’d have to face.
~ Get up, an echo sounded low, get up and take your place
You were not meant for failure here; get up and win the race.
The voice came clear: Get up, it said, you haven’t lost at all
For winning is no more than this: to rise each time you fall
~So up he rose to run once more and with a new commit
He resolved that whether win or lose, at least he wouldn’t quit.
So far behind the others now, the most he’d ever been
And yet he gave it all he had, and ran with will unseen.
~Three times he’d fallen, stumbled down; three times he rose again
Too far behind to hope to win, he still ran to the end.
They cheered the winning runner as he crossed the line, first place
Head high, proud, and happy too—no falling, no disgrace.
~But when the fallen youngster came to cross the line last place
The crowd gave him the greatest cheer for finishing the race.
And even though he came in last, with head bowed low, not proud
You would have thought he’d won the race to listen to that crowd.
~And to his dad he sadly sighed: I didn’t do so well.
His father said: To me you won; you rose each time you fell.
~And now, when life seems dark and hard and difficult to cope
The memory of that little boy now helps me not to mope.
For all of life is like a race, with ups and downs and all
And what you have to do to win is rise each time you fall.
Quit, give up, you’re beaten, they still shout in my face
But another voice within me says: Get up and win the race
D. Groberg (modified by D Hayes)
But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3 vs 13, 14)