Have you ever seen a cross-country race? The runners have to run over all kinds of different terrain, in order to reach the finish line. They run over grassy fields, along narrow dirt paths, over fences and rocks and streams. That kind of race is a good example of the race that we are all running. The finish line is Heaven!
Years ago, the Holy Spirit told me, “It does not matter how you start the race, or if you stumble and fall along the way, it only matters how you finish the race – finish strong!” Have you ever heard of a “photo start?” No, you only hear the results of a “photo finish!” It means very little who started the race the fastest – the only thing that matters to anyone is who finished first! The same thing is true concerning the race of life. God wants you to focus on the finish line to reach Heaven, and He wants you to forget all of your past failures. They are under the blood of Christ. In fact, He said,
“Their sins and iniquities I will remember no more.” (Hebrews 10:17 KJV).
If God has forgotten your sins, then He expects you to forget them, as well.
Does that make sense to you?
The writer of Hebrews, whom I believe to be the Apostle Paul, wrote this about this race we are in:
“Therefore, we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, LET US LAY ASIDE EVERY WEIGHT, AND THE SIN WHICH SO EASILY ENSNARES US, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us . . ” Hebrews 12:1 NKJV (emphasis mine).
Notice that the Holy Spirit wants us to lay aside two things: The things which weigh us down, and the sins which so easily ensnare us.
First, the things that weigh us down are the cares of this world and the distractions of this world. These things aren’t sin in themselves, but they hinder us from being focused on the Lord, who is standing at the finish line, waiting for us to arrive. We need to cast those things off, one by one, so we can run the race unhindered.
The second thing we need to cast off from our lives, is any area of sin that is causing us to stumble. If you have been a believer for any length of time, all the major sins in your life should be gone, but you still need to work on those attitudes of your heart that cause you to stumble and even fall at times. You want to get rid of all of these things, so that you can run well. You need to race to win!
The Apostle Paul wrote:
“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain (win) it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate (exercises self-control) in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 NKJV.
What is the crown we are to receive from the Lord? It is the Crown of Righteousness! It is the crown the Lord Jesus Christ gives to all who successfully finish the race to win the prize of the high calling of God to bring us into Glory. How sad it is that there are those who become distracted by the world, and end up becoming defiled, so that they slip back into the world, and never finish the race. You need to FINISH the race to obtain the crown!
Now the Apostle Paul wrote that those who compete in a race are “temperate in all things.” In other words they exercise self-control in all things, so that they can run well, and not be hindered from obtaining the prize. This is where holiness comes in to play: Those who seek to finish the race and win the prize of the Crown of Life, need to shake off everything that would weigh them down, and distract them from the goal of reaching the finish line. They need to completely forsake the things of the world and focus on the things of God. They need to keep their eyes fixed on Jesus, who is the author and the FINISHER of their faith!
As you know, when an athlete sees the finish line, he or she will pour every ounce of strength and energy into their body to press toward that final destination. This is how we need to run the race, as well. As we grow in the Lord, we need to press into the things of God as never before, so that we might have a strong finish at the end of our race.
As the Holy Spirit said to me, “It doesn’t matter how you start the race, or if you stumble and fall along the way. All that matters is that you finish the race – finish strong!”
This is why Jesus said these sobering words:
“But he who endures to the end shall be saved.” Matthew 24:13 NKJV.
We need to endure all the way to the end. We must not fall short of obtaining the Crown of Righteousness that the Lord Jesus Christ will give to all those who successfully finish the race that God set before them, and ran to win.
The Apostle Paul was definitely one of those who ran to win. He wrote:
“I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me THE CROWN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:8 NKJV (emphasis mine).
If you are one of those people who have stumbled and fallen along the way, don’t give up. Just get up again, dust yourself off, and keep on running!
The Psalmist wrote:
“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholds him with His hand.” Pslam 37:23-24 NKJV.
So don’t give up, keep pressing ahead, for the Lord is cheering you on – all the way to the finish line!
You are holy!
In my next post we will look at “Understanding Repentance”.