Running the Race
I was blessed to have had the opportunity to attend the 2014 East Coast Pastors Wives Conference back in April. This year’s theme was “Citizens of Heaven” which is taken from Philippians 3:20 where the Holy Spirit through Paul tells us that “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
I was very excited that the theme had been taken from one of Paul’s letters; Paul has always been one of my favorites! We all remember Paul’s life prior to his conversion; you couldn’t find someone that persecuted the church worse than him. The things he did to the body of Christ were horrible. This gives me hope. It means that any of us that think God couldn’t change us, or God couldn’t use or accept us because of what are pasts are like are wrong. After the conversion on the road to Damascus Paul becomes a new person. Paul doesn’t just get a new name, going from Saul to Paul, but he gets a whole new life. This is how it works when you allow Jesus into your life. You are made new in Christ! Paul is now transformed into this man that has his eyes set on Jesus and Heaven; transformed into a man that not only runs the race, but runs it strong. (1 Corinthians 9:24, 2 Timothy 4:7)
How is your race going? Are you running well?
I ask myself the same questions. We’ve heard it before; we are pilgrims in this world, not settlers. Pitch a tent don’t build a house, this world is not our home. I’m sure we all have things in this life that we hold onto. Maybe it’s something the LORD has told us to let go of and we fight Him, not wanting to submit to His Lordship. We hang onto those things even when we know they are hindering us, why? The writer to the Hebrews tells us to “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith,”
God’s goal is to transform us into the image of His Son, to make us like Jesus. Philippians 1:6 says “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” We are all under construction. The project end date is the day when Christ returns for his church. Don’t be discouraged because you’re not a perfect Christian, whatever that means. Paul wasn’t perfect by a long shot yet he accomplished and endured some pretty incredible things in the name of Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit. The very same Holy Spirit that lives in you as a child of God! Paul goes on in Philippians 3:12-14 to say “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
We are also given the well-known verses in Philippians 3:7-8 “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” This is truly challenging. Do I count all things as loss so that I may know Christ? Do you? He then tells us that we are to learn how to be content in whatever situations we are in, whether in abundance or in want, in plenty or in hunger. This can be tough, but if you struggle with the how, Paul gives us that in 4:13 “I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me.” God isn’t going to lead us to a point where He tells us to let go of something without providing the ability to do so, or to be content with our lot without showing us how.
All these principals require perseverance, require practice, and require work. We must put the time in
to build these spiritual “muscles”. I’m currently training to run a 5k obstacle course in September. I need to build endurance in order to finish the race. Halfhearted attempts in fits and starts will not prepare me to finish well. I certainly can’t expect to get out on the course that morning without any previous training. I need to prepare to run the race and such is our Christian life, we must put in the work to move forward. Take some time with John 15 to figure out how this happens.
Jean McClure told us that “What you put in now will come out when you need it.” This race requires endurance. The finish line of this race is Heaven, our home. We will experience times when we trip and fall along the way, but pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get back in the race. Keep your eyes focused on the author and finisher of our faith, Jesus Christ! Press on keeping in mind the prize we have waiting for us when we get to see Jesus face to face and hear Him say “Well done my good and faithful servant.”
At the last session of the conference we found on our seats a small wooden cross inscribed with “Jerusalem” and a note that read “The Key to Heaven’s Gate” It was a fitting end to a wonderful conference, reminding us to keep our eyes on Jesus and the Cross.
I was challenged by a family member before I left to “be changed and come back so that we can be changed.” I saved that text message as a reminder of the conference and the things I learned. We’re not meant to live this life alone and isolated. We need Jesus first and foremost, but we also need each other. Like someone training for a race, you make far better progress when you train with others.
Take Paul’s examples and apply them to your life. Pray that we are changed so that we can go out and turn people to Christ.