The Apostle Paul uses the metaphor of "running a race" to describe the Christian journey.
As Christ-followers, I think we need to talk more about the prize that awaits us for those who long for Christ’s return. There are many incentives and prizes to be found in this world that can distract us from the ultimate prize we will receive in heaven. By focusing more on our eternal prize, I hope to run a better earthly race, crossing the finish line of this life in a way that honors Christ in the best possible manner.
THE PRIZE DEFINED
What is the prize that awaits us in heaven? Let's brainstorm a list:
CROWN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
A crown of righteousness awaits all of us who finish this marathon. As the Apostle Paul writes: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." (2 Timothy 4:7-8)
RUNNING FOR THE PRIZE
Just like in a physical marathon, our spiritual race we are running is against ourselves, and not each other. We compete against our own previous "best." I pray that every day I get closer to Christ, and my walk improves in measurable ways that bring greater honor and glory to Christ. As Christ-followers, we must embrace continuous improvement. "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize." (1 Corinthians 9:24)
AVOID BEING DISQUALIFIED
There is tremendous freedom in Christ. Similar to running a marathon, you have great freedom to run at your own pace and run on the right, middle, or left side of the street. But the rules require us to stay on the course, and if you leave and run out of bounds, you are disqualified. Let us be careful to stay on the course laid out for us in Christ Jesus and finish the race without being disqualified. "Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules." (2 Timothy 2:5)
STAY FOCUSED ON THE PRIZE
By keeping an eternal perspective, we will stay focused on the prize that awaits us in heaven.
Continually reflecting on the tremendous crown of righteousness and incredible eternal prize of love, peace, and joy makes the sacrifices we make on this earth easier to justify. But it really does test our faith. Is heaven real? If so, then what is the big picture here on earth? What is really important? Can and will I live my life in such a way to go after this eternal prize?
"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:12-14)
ABOVE ALL, DON’T GIVE UP RUNNING TO WIN THE PRIZE
Running the Christian race requires endurance. Let us be inspired by God’s Word to run in such a way to stay the course and win Christ’s prize for us. "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, 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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:1-2)
The race we run as Christ-followers requires endurance, perseverance, discipline, and keeping one's eyes fixed on the ultimate prize, which is eternal life with Christ. The race is not about speed, but about finishing the course and remaining faithful to the very end. Why? Because the same joy that was set before Jesus Christ has been set before us. May we run for Christ’s joy. Amen.
My parting thoughts for you: “Pace yourself; this is a marathon, not a sprint.” May you run a good race and finish well.
Your aspiring servant, Daniel M.
October 24, 2023
POSTSCRIPT: Dear friends, if this daily, transparent “Conversations with Christ” blesses you, please go to www.SOLIDpastors.org, where you will find these posted, and a repository of all, in English and Spanish. Note: All scriptures quoted are from the NIV.
If you ever want to chat, you can reach me at Daniel@SOLIDpastors.org. May Christ bless you richly as you have your own intimate, daily conversations with Christ.