This double edition of The Gazette will cover the period of London 2012. The eyes of the world will be focussed on the UK. Some of the world’s greatest athletes will come to our country for the chance of a lifetime. Many will have trained for years to compete in one single race. I realise that there will be qualifying rounds and heats, but none of those will mean anything if the competitor does not reach the final and the dream of each individual and team is to stand on the centre of the podium displaying the gold medal. Most of us are familiar with the saying, “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” The idea being, that keeping the rules and playing fairly is more important than winning. The Bible however uses the picture of a race to drive home another point – the importance of completing the race.
The New Testament includes the following 3 references to races,
- Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. (1 Cor. 9:24)
- I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Tim. 4:7)
- Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, … let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, (Heb. 12:1)
Each of them makes a distinct point, but all of them include the fact that the race has to be completed. There is no prize for the competitor who drops out half way through the race.
There are people who suggest that as long as you have had some form of spiritual experience, then it does not matter how you live the rest of your life. A prize is only available to those who complete the race. When Paul writes to Timothy he mixes illustration with fact. He uses 2 illustrations – the fight and the race, but he states clearly that the Christian life is the exercise of faith from start to finish.
While at the Bala Ministers’ Conference we were reminded that we are in a spiritual battle. We have an enemy who seeks to destroy every Christian. Our security in Christ does not mean that we will avoid the attacks of Satan, false spirits and false teachers, but we have to endure. The race at times has to be won against great odds. Jesus warned, “In the world you will have tribulation,” (Jn 16:33) but we are to keep going. If we want to receive the prize then we cannot cut the corners or take short cuts. When running cross country in school we would often try to cut across fields, but the PE teacher would often appear unexpectedly and make sure that we followed the full course. The Marathon runner at the Olympics will have to complete 26 miles, 385 yards. 26 miles will not be sufficient, 27 miles is not required. We do not know what God will ask of any of us as individuals, but the principle is that each of us has to ‘run with endurance the race that is set before us…’
One of the greatest helps in any sporting competition is to hear the voices of supporters, or those we know are on our side. No one can legitimately run the race for us, but we can be helped along the way as we enjoy the encouragement of those supporting us. In the Christian life God continually reminds us of the support that we have. He has put us in the body of the church and each member is the means of giving encouragement to another. An isolated Christian is not enjoying all the help that God has prepared. Christ Himself promised, “I am with you always,” (Mt 28:20). He also promised the Holy Spirit who lives in the heart of every believer. These truths are like a sword, they have a double edge. There is great comfort and help to the true believer, because God is with us. The second edge of this truth is that those who pretend to be on the Christian path, but are not prepared to live with daily trust in the promises and warnings of the Bible show that they are not competing according to the rules. They are in fact not Christians.
May God give each of us the faith to trust Him in all of life’s circumstances, and the grace to encourage each other in the race of life.
Bernard Lewis July 2012