True Christians should run hard for the finish line and give everything they have because they should “run to win”
IN CROSS COUNTRY RUNNING, the athletes go through a course that includes different surfaces like grass, dirt, and gravel; that pass through various terrains such as woodlands, open country, hills, and flat grounds; and that can be under various weather conditions and extreme temperature. Thus, this race is not just a competition of speed but also of endurance, perseverance, focus, and determination.
To emerge as a winner in a cross country run requires so much effort from its participants. Runners train hard to prepare their bodies for any obstacles the course has to offer. They are also aware of and carefully follow the rules and regulations so as to avoid disqualification. Moreover, clear markings are placed, serving as guides to keep runners from making the wrong turns. So, if the participants follow the guides placed along the course, endure the rough course, and react appropriately in different situations they encounter, they will definitely reach the end of the course.
Apostle Paul likened the spiritual journey of a true Christian to a race. But, if athletes run to win a gold medal that fades, true Christians run to win a prize that is eternal:
“You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally. I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me!” (I Cor. 9:24–26 The Message)
Apostle Paul was speaking with the members of the Church Of Christ during his time. He emphasized that true Christians should run hard for the finish line and give everything they have because they should “run to win.” In order to receive the crown of life that has been reserved for them, servants of God should, just like Apostle Paul, “finish the race” by remaining true to the faith without any compromise (II Tim. 4:7–8 Last Days Bible). So, although the Bible teaches that people need to become true Christians or members of the Church Of Christ to be qualified to receive the promised salvation, it is equally important that they finish their race, that is, remain in their divine election until the end.
Apostle Paul further attested that God’s servants can be sure, even before Judgment Day comes, that God will give them the prize or the promised salvation if they follow his example:
“My life is coming to an end, and it is now time for me to be poured out as a sacrifice to God. I have fought the good fight. I have completed the race. I have kept the faith. The prize that shows I have God’s approval is now waiting for me. The Lord, who is a fair judge, will give me that prize on that day. He will give it not only to me but also to everyone who is eagerly waiting for him to come again.” (II Tim. 4:6–8 Names of God Bible)
Indeed, Christians should not only finish but also complete the race that God has set before them. They must take no breaks in their services to God. Instead, they should keep on running. That is why in his letter to the Christians in Philippi, Apostle Paul exhorted them to have the same way of thinking as he had, to never fail in the duty that God entrusts to His chosen ones:
“My deep desire and hope is that I shall never fail in my duty, but that at all times, and especially right now, I shall be full of courage, so that with my whole being I shall bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. For what is life? To me, it is Christ. Death, then, will bring more.” (Phil. 1:20–21 Good News Bible)
It is true that life in this world is full of dreadful things, things that may cause people to lose heart. These include chronic poverty and famine, disasters and calamities, incurable diseases, political and social unrest, crime and terrorism, and the like. However, true servants of God should not be afraid but be full of courage so that with their whole being, they shall bring honor to Christ, whether they live or die. In other words, whatever they encounter in this journey called life, they will be able to bring honor to the Father and to Christ by persevering in their services and obedience to God’s commandments.
The Almighty God knows full well that even His servants are going through troubles in this world. That is why, through Apostle Paul, God teaches His chosen ones that, whatever happens, they should conduct themselves “in every situation in a way that’s worthy” of the teachings that they received. They should not be “terrified” by those who are opposing or going against them. They should not even listen to and believe those people because such “are headed for damnation.” On the other hand, the faithfulness of true Christians to the Lord God is an assurance that they will be saved (Phil. 1:27–28 LDB).
Others tend to lose hope because of the difficult situations they face in this life. Christians are not exempt from experiencing troubles and tribulations. But, just like what Apostle Paul declared, the Lord God, Who is faithful to His word, can be trusted not to let His servants be tempted and tried beyond their ability and strength of resistance and power to endure. During trials and temptations, God will always provide the way out so His servants will be capable, strong, and powerful to overcome the trials (I Cor. 10:13 Amplified Bible).
So, there is no reason to stop at any point as we run during the race set by God. Just as runners pass through different terrains in the cross country course, running nonstop uphill or downhill, beset by extreme weather condition—Christians go through ups and downs in life, difficult situations, and severe hardships, but with God’s help, they will be able to continue their race until they reach the finish line. This is the reason members of the Church Of Christ dedicate themselves to obeying God’s commands such as attending worship services and participating actively in all Church activities no matter what they experience in life. In order for this to happen, true Christians need to develop certain qualities. According to Apostle Paul:
“For you have need of steadfast patience and endurance, so that you may perform and fully accomplish the will of God, and thus receive and carry away [and enjoy to the full] what is promised.” (Heb. 10:36 AMP)
Long-distance runners develop patience and endurance during their rigorous trainings because those qualities are needed in order to win in the race. Much more should true Christians “have need of steadfast patience and endurance,” so that they will be able to “perform and fully accomplish the will of God” and, thus, receive and enjoy to the full what God has promised. This is why Apostle Paul underscores that true Christians should continue in the faith and be deeply rooted in it (Col. 1:23 LDB). They should be unflinching, fixed in the direction that God has set—never to stray away from the teachings of God that His Messenger taught.
Cross country running brings pain to athletes’ body, pushes them to a point of exhaustion, and, more often than not, causes them to suffer from bruises and cuts. But because they are running towards a certain goal that is of great value for them, they are motivated to continue running to reach the end of the course. True Christians are running to attain the eternal prize—everlasting life. That is why they ought to run hard with everything they’ve got—no matter the pain, no matter the hardships, no matter the sorrows, no matter the sacrifices—because at the finish line, when they are able to complete the race, they will be given the prize that God has reserved for them, that is, the crown of life. In the Holy City, they will enjoy a life of everlasting peace and happiness.
This article was originally published in the Pasugo: God’s Message magazine, January 2018 Issue.