“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” (1 Peter 4:12-13 NKJV).
Christians today running the spiritual race are compassed about with a great cloud of witnesses of the victorious saints of old who had finished their race and kept the faith. They are cheering us on to persevere to the finished line so that we also may obtain our imperishable crowns.
The Christian race is certainly not a smooth, easy and short race, but a rough, rugged and marathon race. However, the records and testimonies of the past heroes of faith offer us the encouragement, hope and strength to endure whatever trial, tribulation or persecution we may encounter on the way.
There is no adversity or adversary that we shall encounter in the race that many of the saints of old did not face and overcome. If they overcame through grace and faith in Christ, we also surely can overcome today (1 Cor. 10:12, 1 Pet. 5:9, Heb. 10:35-36).
Like every other race, the Christian race has some spiritual rules and guidelines that we must comply with if we don’t want to be disqualified or end up running in vain.
The Scripture warns that “If anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.” (2 Tim. 2:5 NKJV).
In the first part of this piece we began to examine the God-set rules that every Christian running the race must observe and follow.
First, God prohibits or forbids us from running the race with any size, form or shape of weight.
The Scripture commands us to “…Lay aside every weight.” (Heb. 12:1 NKJV).
Whatever hinders or retards our spiritual growth, weighs us down, weakens our faith, clouds our minds, distracts us from following the Lord closely, or chokes God’s love in our hearts is a weight to be laid aside or put off if we desire to finish our race successfully like the saints of old.
Second, God commands us to “…Lay aside the sin which so easily ensnares us.” (Heb. 12:1 NKJV).
The Christian race is exclusively for the saints. No sinners can be admitted into the race (Isa 35:8). The ticket to join the race is the new birth experience. You join the Christian race the moment you put your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His finished work of redemption, confessing Jesus as your personal Lord and Saviour and surrendering your whole life to Him (Matt. 7:13-14).
The born-again believers don’t retain their sin nature after the new birth because “our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.” (Rom. 6:6 NKJV).
Nevertheless, the born-again believers are not exempted from daily temptations to sin because our souls and bodies are not yet fully redeemed from the corrupt effects of sin (Jam. 1:21, Phil. 3:20-21, Jam. 1:21, 1 Pet. 1:9).
While running the Christian race the devil will constantly appeal to your flesh to tempt, trap, or entangle you, thereby hindering you from reaching the finished line.
The devil will always seek to derail you from the Christian race through the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life (1 John 2:16). The devil will always seek to tempt or trap you at your weak points and unguarded moments.
This is why the Scripture admonishes you to “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matt. 26:41 NKJV).
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Pet. 5:8 NKJV).
Like Demas, many believers today have drawn back or fallen out of the race because they would not watch and pray. Paul said of Demas, “Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica.”(2 Tim. 4:10 NKJV).
God does not disqualify or evict the believers from the Christian race if or when they sin or fall into temptations. No one among the heroes of faith was without sin.
The Scripture warns, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8-9 NKJV).
However, if you constantly pamper, fulfil, gratify or yield to the cravings, passions or lusts of the flesh; you may not finish your race successfully. Self-indulgence will eventually derail you from the race.
This is why Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:
25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.
26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air.
27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. (NKJV).
Third, God commands us to run the Christian race with perseverance or patient endurance.
The Scripture commands: “…Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” (Heb. 12:1 RSV).
The Christian race is not a smooth and easy one; it often goes through the wilderness. You will encounter diverse trials, sufferings, tribulations, or persecutions for the sake of Christ along the race (Psa. 34:19, John 15:18-20).
This is why Jesus commanded you at the beginning of the race to deny yourself, bear your cross daily, and follow Him (Luke 9:23). It is only those who endure to the end that will be saved and crowned (Matt. 24:13).
Beloved, where are you now in the race that God has set before you?
Are you presently going through some fiery trials, sufferings, tribulations or persecutions for the sake of your faith or the gospel of Christ?
Are you presently facing many adversaries and adversities?
Hang in there, don’t quit, or give in to despair!
Whatever you are going through or facing in the race is nothing strange, unusual or uncommon to men, for all the past heroes of faith went through the same and came out victoriously, and many saints like you are presently going through the same and yet remaining steadfast in the faith. If they can, you also can!
Friend, you are not alone in the race; the Lord is with you and you are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses cheering you on to endure to the end.
Therefore, resist the devil, and “be steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” (1 Pet. 5:9 NKJV).
“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” (1 Pet. 4:12-13 NKJV).
Find out another spiritual rule or guideline for running the Christian race successfully in the next piece.
Prayer: My Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for Your promise that You will never leave me nor forsake me in the race. Help me to constantly draw from Your Word and Spirit the grace, hope, joy, comfort and strength that I need to run and finish my race successfully, in Jesus’ name. Amen.