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David's Deliberations . . .

The Race That Is Set Before Us

In several passages of Scripture, Paul compares the life of the Christian to a race. Near the end of his life, Paul wrote to Timothy: "I have finished the course, I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7).

The Christian "race" is not just an easy "jog in the park." In 1 Corinthians 9:24 Paul writes, "do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one wins the prize?" The race is not an easy one, but the difficulties can be overcome with a little coaching and hard work.

Knowledge, training, and conditioning are necessary to win our spiritual race as they are in a physical one. Paul's "coaching" on these points includes the following: "If anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win unless he competes according to the rules" (2 Timothy 2:5). "Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control," and "I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly...I myself might be disqualified" (1 Corinthians 9:25-27). So it's know and follow the rules and exercise the necessary self-control and endurance to win.

Coach Paul also says, "Run in such a way that you may win." Run to win! Don't let anything get in your way! The writer of the letter to the Hebrews puts it this way: "Let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith" (Hebrews 12:1-2).

What do winning racers think about before, during and after a race? The race. The finish. We are to fix our eyes on Jesus and run with endurance. Keeping on, one stride at a time until we cross the finish line.

One thing though, is different about a physical race and our spiritual race. Athletes invest time and effort developing themselves to win. "They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable" (1 Corinthians 9:25). In fact, our prize is the crown of life (Revelation 2:10).

Paul shows us his striving for the prize in Philippians 3:12-14: "I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. . .forgetting what lies behind and reaching to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."

Let's be imitators of Paul, and forgetting what lies behind, laying aside every sin, keeping our eyes on Jesus, run to win!

—David Carl Swanson