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The Race of Faith 

 

 

The 16th century artist of Venice, Titian, once made a sketch of wisdom and presented it as a human being. The person in his sketch has three faces and three heads. The first face is that of a young man who is looking toward the future. The second face is that of a mature person who is pondering on his present time, while the third face is that of a wise old man who is considering his past.

 

In the light of past experiences a person acts very wisely in the present to be safe and secure in the future. We need wisdom that will help us overcome our worries and tensions; worries that are caused by repeating the failures of our past in our future. Worry keeps us from living a fuller and more abundant life.   

 

“Run in such a way as to get the prize.”1 Corinthians 9:24

“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us...” Hebrews 12:1

An athlete must abstain from certain things and must practice certain things, in order to take part in the competition:

  1. He must be fit physically
  2. It is important for him to exercise regularly otherwise he will be out of shape
  3. He needs to be careful with his diet. He must avoid foods that are harmful for his physical fitness.
  4. He must control his weight because a fat or out of shape person cannot be a good athlete.

One time a group of us were visiting Kalam, a beautiful place in the Swat Valley. We covered some distance in a jeep but it was very dangerous to go further. We were to walk to rest of the way to picturesque Kandole Lake, situated on top of a mountain 8000 feet above sea level.

A local young man was our tour guide. He wore joggers (athletic shoes) and carried a clashencough (lightweight automatic rifle) hanging from his shoulder. He was five feet 8 inches tall and very well built. This man could climb up and down a mountain in no time. He made all of us stand in a line then he took a good look at us. He refused to lead all those whom he thought were too fat. He said, “People with heavy bodies cannot make this hike to the lake.”

In the same way, fat people are not fit for a running competition. Stamina is very important for the race. If one has no stamina then the race can be a very difficult, exhausting process.

The Rules and Regulations of the Competition

There is always a starting and finishing point for a race. Athletes must run to the mark. During the race shouldering, tripping, pulling, and pushing another athlete is against the rules. Thousands of spectators watch the athletes run. Some of the spectators shout and scream to encourage the athletes while others may criticize the runners’ techniques. A referee officiates at the race. In addition to a referee there is a judge. The judge takes care of all the important details and decisions. At the end of the race the winners get their medals.

We are all running the race of faith. There are certain important things about this race that we need to remember:

  1. It is an ongoing race

 “…. I press on to take hold…. I press on toward the goal” (Philippians 3:12, 14). None of us can claim we have finished the race. “Not that I have already obtained or have already been made perfect” (Philippians 3:12a).

  1. It is a difficult race.  There are so many hurdles in this race.
  1. We must throw off our burdens to win the race. “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1b). This burden might be a sin, spiritual adultery, pride, secret sins, or the sins of the thoughts. These burdens do not allow us to run a purposeful spiritual race.
  1. We must run with perseverance.“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us...” (Hebrews 12:1).

A few more principles that must be observed:

  • Keep Looking Forward

“Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,” (Philippians 3:13-14).

When an athlete runs a race it is important for him to keep looking forward. If he looks behind he will be slowed down, and there is also the danger of tripping over something or someone on the track ahead. Thus the chances of losing the race will increase.

In the race of faith it is very important to fix our eyes upon what is ahead. In the same way it is important to keep Jesus’ promises in our heart, concentrating on the future rewards and keeping our eyes fixed on our destiny. Living in the past and repeating the mistakes of our past can cause us to struggle and lose. Remember! Life becomes incomplete by living with the bitter memories of our past; happiness leaves us, loneliness and disappointment become our companions.

Looking forward is a step toward victory. Looking forward is living above our past and our negative circumstances. We should forget what is left behind. No athlete can win while carrying burdens. Another obstacle for the athlete can be the noise of the spectators, their cheering, and their criticism. Concern or fear of racing opponents, or even some personal disappointments can also become obstacles for the athlete.

  • Keep Looking Upward.

When an athlete runs he looks forward. At the same time he focuses on his finishing point. In the Christian race of faith to keep looking toward the mark means to keep looking toward God, in other words, to keep looking upward. “Where shall my help come from, my help is from the Lord” (Psalm 121:2). To focus our eyes toward the mark means to keep looking toward Jesus Christ who is in heaven in a glorified state. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).

As long as Peter kept his eyes fixed on the face of Jesus he continued to walk on the surface of the water. As soon as he took his eyes off the face of Jesus and looked at the waves he started to drown. It is important to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus; His promises, His word, blessings, gifts and favors.

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2).

Paul was capable of forgetting things that were left behind and having hope for the future. It does not mean that he had a weak memory. In fact it means that Paul was free from his sins and the pride that he had experienced in the past because God had forgiven him. This attitude had enabled him to press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God had called him heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14).

  • Keep Looking Inward.

It is necessary to keep looking forward and upward, but it is equally important to keep looking inward. The athlete is mindful of his physical condition during the race. It is very essential to keep looking inward. Looking inward is to do with our subjective conditions. God does not look at the outward appearance rather he looks at the heart.

“Because the Lord does not look at the things man looks at, man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

It is very essential that we continue to evaluate ourselves with all honesty. We may be punished if we do not do so. “But if we judge ourselves, we would not come under judgment” (1 Corinthians11:31). “Search me O God, and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me” (Psalm 139:23-24). For a person to pray in the manner of David one needs courage and boldness. This personal prayer is a picture of personal accountability and surrender. Remember all the saints are running this race.

If you really want to win the race;

Keep Looking Forward.

Keep Looking Upward and

Keep Looking Inward.

May the Lord grant you grace to finish this race and win. Amen.

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