What do the following have in common? Indy 500, Tour de France, Kentucky Derby, Americas’ Cup, Christian life? All are races. More than the Amazing race, the Christian life is the greatest race of all.
If you are a born again believer, God has laid out a life course for you to run. What an exciting thought! And some think the Christian life = boring?!?
Problem is that many believers do not know about this race or are running it carelessly or listlessly.
In order to run the race successfully, we must know all there is to know about the race. Let’s ask and answer a couple of basic questions about this race.
I.What kind of race is it; i.e., what is it like?
People in NT times enjoyed a good race just like people today. Some enjoy running-driving-riding in the race while others find enjoyment in simply watching it.
A.The race course is measured in time, not distance.
(It is especially critical to understand this concept. )
This race is not measured in miles or meters, but in days, months, or years.
ILLUS. 400 meter dash, marathon = 26.2 miles; ultramarathon = 50 or even 100 miles.
The question is not how fast one runs, but how far or how long. For the Christian race is essentially the life task or life call of the Christian. As such, it is a life-long event.
ILLUS. Sad story of Joe A. who approached the race from the perspective of a sprinter.
-memorized many verses, joined a missions trip to Russia, attended Bible institute classes, etc. Yet after 3 years, no longer attended church or any of the other disciplines
APPLIC: Will we see you still running the race next month, next year, in 10 years?
B.It is a difficult race.
1.“Race” is from the Greek word “agon” from which we derive our word “agony.” A term which implies struggle, sweat, exertion.
2.cf. Heb. 10:32-34 – These Jewish NT saints were facing tremendous persecution from others. (v. 34-cite the mocking, even the vandalism of property/robbery they suffered for their identification with Christ)
ILLUS. Baja 1000 – annual road race in Baja California, MX
“Each year reports of spectators sabotaging or booby-trapping the course: digging holes, blocking river flow, hiding or burying obstacles” – Wikipedia
3.Opposition may come from:
a.People who are not in the race – unbelievers
b.People who are sidelined in the race – 1 Cor. 9:27
Spectators are often the most vocal critics of those running the race.
c.Circumstances which exasperate or otherwise discourage.
ILLUS. weather conditions affect runner’s performance. Optimal conditions = light or no wind, overcast skies, temp in mid 50’s.
As a runner cannot control the weather conditions in a race, neither can we control the circumstances in life.
C.It is a demanding race. “run with patience”
Patience = perseverance; to hold up beneath a heavy load; constant
James 5:11 - classic OT illustration of perseverance is Job (weight of losing family, weight of a disloyal wife, etc.)
II.Who are the participants in this race?
A clue to their identity is seen in the 1st person plural pronouns: we, us (3x).
It is a group that includes thousands of thousands of qualifiers: missionaries, pastors, SS teachers, grandmothers, fathers, children, etc.
ILLUS. In order to participate in major events like the Boston Marathon, a runner must qualify by running in other sanctioned marathons and submitting their times to the powers that be.
(Jason S. ran in Boston Marathon.)
A.For this race, you must be spiritually qualified.
How is one qualified? By the experience of the new birth.
ILLUS. I qualified and entered the race in 1980. As a young boy, I received God’s gift of salvation when I exercised personal faith in the death of Jesus Christ.
B.You must also be spiritually fit.
Your physical heart must be strong in order to train for and run a long distance footrace. So, too, must one's inner man be strong in this race.
cf. 2 Chron. 16:9
1.Cast off unnecessary weight
A weight may comprise any object, habit that is not inherently immoral. For example, a hobby is fine but it can become such a weight if it occupies your time more than or during times of spiritual disciplines.
“Someone is recorded to have asked whether a certain thing would do a person harm, and the reply was given, ‘No harm, if you do not wish to win.' " - Tom Constable. (2003; 2003). Tom Constable's Expository Notes on the Bible
2.Lay aside sins (sins of the flesh, sins of the spirit)