Shelby G. Floyd
A good friend of mine in his eighties said, “If Father Time doesn’t get you, Mother Nature will!” This causes us to reflect upon the brevity of life, and the seriousness of serving God. James asked, “…whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14 NKJV). Life is brief, our days are few, and the time is evil; therefore, we must seize every opportunity to serve Christ. In the book of Hebrews, we read: “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12: 1-2).
The Christian Race
In Hebrews, chapter eleven, the writer defined faith, and stated that without it, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:1, 6). He then mentioned a long list of men and women who by faith had overcome the greatest of obstacles. These faithful ones had died in faith, and are presented as a great cloud of witnesses enclosing the people then living as they were running the race that was before them. The writer has reference to the athletic games that were held by the Greeks and Romans.
The Christian life, figuratively, is like a race that must be run with patience and faithful endurance. In those ancient athletic contests, the runners not only underwent vigorous training and exercise, but on the day of the race they laid aside every weight and encumbrance that would hinder them in winning the race. In like manner, we who are serving Christ must lay aside anything that would hinder us in running the race that is set before us.
The Love of Pleasure
One thing that is besetting many persons in running the Christian race today is the love of pleasure. So much money and time is being used in going after pleasure that little is left to serve God. Paul mentioned those who were, “…lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:4). In his letter to the young preacher Titus, he speaks of those who once were “deceived and serving divers lusts and pleasures” (Titus 3: 3). In the parable of the sower, some persons did not bring any fruit unto perfection since the word of God was choked out because of the pleasures of this life (Luke 8: 14). Let us remember that one of those persons in the cloud of witnesses which surrounds us, and encourages us to faithful endurance, was Moses: “and yet when he came to years, he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer the afflictions of the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season (Hebrews 11: 24-25).
Neglect and Indifference
Another besetting sin in running the race before us is that of neglect and indifference. In the days of Deborah and Barak, Sisera, the captain of the host of the king of Syria, came down against God’s people. One of the towns in the northern part of Palestine was severely rebuked because they did not go to the help and aid of Barak against Sisera. They were indifferent in the fight for survival. It seems they had a wonderful opportunity of rendering help to the cause of God’s people, but they neglected it; and because of this indifference, the curse of God rested upon the inhabitants of that town. After the victory had been won without the help of Meroz, Deborah, in her song of thanksgiving made this statement: “‘Curse Meroz,’ said the angel of the Lord, ‘Curse its inhabitants bitterly, because they did not come to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty’” (Judges 5: 23).
The Crown of Life
To the Corinthians, Paul referred to the Christian race when he said, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9: 24-27). In those ancient contests only one person received a prize; but in the Christian race everyone who is faithful unto death may receive the prize (Revelation 2:10). They strove for worldly honors and for a crown that was corruptible; but we are to strive for a crown that is incorruptible, a crown of life which is reserved in heaven, and which fades not away (1 Peter 5: 4).
Discipline and Training
The apostle Paul emphasized that in order to receive this prize, the crown of life, one must keep under his body, and bring it into subjection: lest after having preached to others one should be a castaway. Paul had to discipline himself, and buffet his body, lest he not practice what he preached to others. Even though Paul suffered more than any others for the cause of Christ, he never considered himself as having reached perfection. To the Philippians, he wrote, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).
As we go forward in faith let us concentrate on forgetting the things that are behind, and reach forth unto the things that are before us. The phrase “reaching forth” conveys the meaning of stretching out to or towards; to stretch one’s self forward to a goal or to an object that is before one. In running a race in an athletic contest, when a runner comes to the final part of the race, it is sometimes called “the homestretch.” This means that one must strenuously put out everything that one has within him in order to complete the race and to win. As each year goes by, one is nearer the homestretch of life.
Copyright © 2015 Shelby G. Floyd, All Rights Reserved
Shelby G. Floyd
Heartland Church of Christ
1693 West Main Street