Finish Strong

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Philippians 3:13 – 14  … straining forward to what lies ahead, 14  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

1 Corinthians 9:24 – 27  24Do 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.  25Everyone 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.  26Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.  27No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

I enjoy watching other people run. I used to be very fast when I ran, and even won some races in high school, but I never had the driving desire to run. My best friend in high school did, and he would get up early every day and run 5 miles to school. I thought he was crazy. I had a coach in junior high tell me he thought I would be a great distance runner. I thought he was crazy too. But I do enjoy the thrill of a race involving others, especially the finish. I love to watch the short races, and see the guy who is in the middle of the pack suddenly turn on the afterburners and in a final burst of speed lean forward into the finish line and beat everybody else. He is not distracted by the other runners, the crowd, or the coaches beside the track, but intently keeps his eyes on the goal and determines to finish strong.

That’s the imagery Paul uses to describe our walk with Jesus Christ. Paul uses athletic terminology in several places, and the passages we posted above are two prime examples. Let’s see what they say about our commitment to running the spiritual race in which we are entered.

First, everyone competes for a prize, and we need to know what it is. Paul says in Philippians 3:14 that it is a “prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  In 2 Thessalonians 2:14 and in 1 Peter 5:10, we discover that the prize for which we are running is to share in the glory Jesus received for running the race perfectly. We run to receive glory as a winner as well. Just think, Jesus is the only one who is worthy of the prize because He ran perfectly and finished first. But He stands at the finish line and urges every one of us to keep running until we cross it, and when we do, he shares all the glory of winning with us.

Second, we all get the prize. In the Olympics, when they present the medals, the winner stands on the highest platform while the anthem of his nation is played. In an individual competition, only one person can stand on the platform. But we are not running in an individual competition – we are actually running a relay race. Jesus has finished His leg of the race and is already on the highest platform of heaven – the throne of God. The anthem of heaven is being sung by all the angels, giving glory to the One who was victorious. He has passed the baton to us, and when we cross that finish line, Jesus will invite us to join Him on the throne where all the attention of heaven will be on us as Jesus shares His glory with us. (Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 3:4) All the other runners who have completed their portion of the race are already on the platform, and they are being cheered.

I am in awe of this truth. I have been recruited to join a spiritual relay team that is guaranteed victory. In most relay races, the fastest runner is saved for the last leg to try and insure victory. In our race, the Best Runner went first, and ran so well that when He crossed the finish line the Head Judge declared Him victorious. He then made another declaration – anyone who joins His team and runs the race will share in the glory of winning with Jesus.

So, I throw off everything that hinders, and the sin that so easily entangles, and I forget the past failures and successes, and I run with perseverance the race marked out for me. I fix my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith, and I follow His example by focusing on the joy of the finish line, and I endure any hardship as He did so that I will be invited to join Him at the right hand of the throne of God.  With our eyes so fixed on Jesus and our hearts determined to run His race, I will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3)

WOW! I am on Jesus’ team. I want to run well enough to be worthy of wearing His uniform and celebrating victory someday. I do not want to feel ashamed of receiving recognition as a member of the team when in my heart I know I did not do my best. I will train harder and run with greater determination. And the closer I get to the finish line, the more I will lean towards it, straining to cross it with full assurance that I gave it my all.

Pastor John

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