Running the Christian Race
” Do not stumble!’ This was the apostle Paul’s exhortation to his readers in order to complete the Christian race. Unlike the competitors of Paul’s day we are not seeking the fleeting glory of a crown that withers. Rather, we are to run our best race with discipline and self-control. Why? So we can seize the prize — a crown that is imperishable. The prize for the overcomer, the one who was victorious, is to inherit eternal life and sit with Christ when he returns. So what could make you stumble, and keep you from conquering?
Do Not Stumble Over Doctrine
Jesus warned his disciples of the danger of tolerating heresy, false teaching. He likened doctrinal error and those who taught it, to ‘bad seed’ that could choke the good seed. But eventually the Lord would destroy the fruit of the bad seed. They are the tares, people who set traps and snares causing others to stumble or embrace lawlessness. In our era, as in the time of the apostle John, one of the major doctrinal heresies of the deceivers was that Jesus was not the Son of God. This “wind of doctrine” has created a lot of confusion over the centuries.
But when we rightly divide the word of truth, and accept John’s written record, we can know what the Jews of Jesus’ day understood, but could not accept. They understood that Jesus was claiming that he was the Lord God of Israel! And as a result, they wanted to kill him for blasphemy! From their perspective, he could not possibly be who he was claiming to be. What the Jews could not believe was that Jesus was telling them the truth. Today, many people continue to stumble over this doctrinal dilemma. But if Jesus was not the Creator, the Lord God, as others testified that he was, then how could he be Saviour of all humanity?
Faith and Forgiveness Overcome Offences
To be victorious in our race and have Christ as our Saviour, we must love his teaching, embrace the truth of scripture, and be firmly rooted in our knowledge of God’s law. This is especially important when we realize we need resources to deal with the offences, mistreatment, and betrayal we are likely to experience within the church community. Our Saviour warned us that persecution and tribulation would come, and sometimes from those closest to us — our brethren in the faith. We must let go of our anger over the injustices and hypocrisy, and avoid the bitterness that can replace unresolved hurts. It is our faith in God’s justice and our willingness to forgive as God has forgiven us, that keep us from stumbling over offences.
Covetousness or Good Works.
The parable of the sower is instructive. We need deep roots in God’s word so we are not overthrown by abuses we suffer at the hands of others. But, we also need to be aware of an internal struggle. One that could keep us from producing the fruit that God wants to see in our lives. Covetousness and materialism, these inner desires for the riches of the world, are like weeds. They choke out the good plants or make them unproductive.
We must be careful not to become “possessed” by our possessions. We can avoid much confusion of heart that is the result of self-seeking, if God’s priorities are our priorities. To counter this stumbling block, we must embrace God’s way of generosity. Instead of putting our trust in our physical resources, God expects us to use those resources he has provided to do the good works he has planned.
Vision and Endurance Dispels Weariness
Paul was probably in ‘protective custody’ in Caesarea when he wrote to encourage believers to ‘run the race.’ He had endured many adverse situations, and he understood the weariness that can overcome us. He encouraged the brethren to contemplate all of our forerunners, those who succeeded and were victorious. The Christian race is a rigorous one, and we must get rid of everything that hinders us from running. It requires patience, perseverance, and mental toughness to continue when we are weary. But if we keep our sights on the end goal, eternal life, we can have the endurance we need. It is this vision of God’s promises combined with a godly self-discipline that will help us, so we will not stumble when we are weary.
Do not stumble. Do not be tossed by the winds of false doctrine. Do not allow bitterness to take root. Do not be consumed by covetousness. Do not let weariness overwhelm you. Do put on the mind of Christ! And let his spirit guide you to run the race with truth, faith, forgiveness, generosity, and endurance.
Vision for the Future