by Steven Chan
The Bible describes living the Christian life as a race. The apostle Paul wrote thus: “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!…For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more;…22 I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some…24 Run in such a way that you may obtain it….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.” (1 Cor 9: 16, 19, 22, 24, 26-27)
When Paul reached the end of his life he wrote thus in 2 Tim 4:7-8: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 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.” That’s what each and every Christian hope they can say as well.
There are many obstacles in our race to win our souls’ salvation, as follows:-
- The devil, our enemy in this race, sets traps to prevent us from continuing in the race (2 Tim 2:26) “We are not (to be) ignorant of his devices”(2 Cor 2:11); we are to resist him (I Pet 5:9)
- The cares of this life may distract us from the race such that we bear no fruit, i.e. helping no one to win their souls, and possibly losing our own souls as well (I Pet 5:8; Luke 8:14; John 15:8; I Cor 3:10-14; 9:27). We need to be careful with how we live our lives.
- Some brethren running the race, may inadvertently or carelessly run in such a way as to cause us to stumble and fall: I Cor 8:9-13. We must not allow their action to stumble us.
- Some of us may allow “unbelief,” the “deceitfulness of sin which hardened our hearts” (Heb 3:12-13); “disobedience” (Heb 4:11); “root of bitterness” troubles us such that we “fall short of the grace of God” (Heb 12:15). We must be vigilant.
- Lacking endurance, some of us may give up the race because we become weary and discouraged (Heb 12:1-3). We must not give up.
For us to run in such a way so as to win our souls, the Bible tells us that we need to do the following:-
We need to rely on God to help us run to win this race:
i. “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph 6:10-18). Isa 40:28-31: “The everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. 29 He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. 30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, 31 But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”
In relying upon God, we need to draw near to God (James 4:6-8; I Pet 5:6-10); be equipped by His Word so that we may be skilled in the use of the Word to help us discern between good and evil (Heb 5:11-14) and pray without ceasing (Luke 18:1 – pray so as not to lose heart; I Thess 5:17; Phil 4:6; Heb 4:16; 2 Cor 12:9)
ii. We need to have self-control i.e. be self-disciplined so that we bring our bodies into subjection to do the will of God: I Cor 9:27: “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”(Heb 12:9: “Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?” Only those who have done the will of God will win the reward (Matt 7:21-13): “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.”(Heb 10:37; Rom 12:1-2). We should not backslide: Heb 10:37-39; 2 Pet 2:20-22.
The Bible says in 1 Cor 9:25: “Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things” (NASB). The lack of self-control, which is an integral part of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23), is a significant cause for our inability to do the Will of God. When we fail to control our family life, our time, our money, our priorities, our choices and recreational activities, we experience “breathing difficulties” and may soon give up the race. Self-control enables us to run the race in a “well-paced manner” so that we can win the race.
iii. We need to be determined to endure the race so that we may not be overcome by weariness and discouragement – by being encouraged by the example of endurance of Jesus Christ and those “heroes of faith” as recorded in Heb 11 and other parts of the Bible: “And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb 6:11-12).
iv. We need to “lay aside the weights” of our lives that may hinder us from running to win our souls (Heb 12:2): “”But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. 35 For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth.”(Luke 21:34-36). There are weights that may not be sins but they are “cares of this life” that may weigh us down. Having careers that may not be helpful to our running of the race may constitute a weight; having a spouse that is not spiritually-minded may be a weight (I Cor 7:32-33), etc.
v. We need to also “lay aside the sin which so easily besets us” (Heb 12:2). There may be personal habitual sins that may “harden” our hearts so as to hinder us from running the race. For example, if we easily lose our temper, then it will be a dead weight draining our energy as we try to run the race. We need to exercise “self-control” as we seek to be led by the Spirit to bear the fruit of the Spirit.
vi. We need to be diligent to grow our faith so that we add/develop a godly or Christ-like character/personality that will help us win the race: 2 Peter 1:5-11: “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ…10 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; 11 for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
The development of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23) and the virtues as listed in 2 Pet 1:5-11 is the putting on of the new man that is after the image of Christ (Col 3:10-4:6; Rom 12:2). Without these attributes, we will stumble easily in the race as we lose patience with others, and start “disliking and being critical of each other” instead of loving one another; it will be difficult to run to win the salvation of our souls if we lack these qualities.
vii. We need to run the same race as the apostles’ by preaching the same gospel, the word of truth and life. The apostle Paul verified with the apostles in Jerusalem that he preached the same gospel as them so that he may “not run in vain”: Gal 2:2: “And I went up by revelation, and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to those who were of reputation, lest by any means I might run, or had run, in vain.” Paul knew that if he were to believe a different gospel, or preached a different gospel, then he would be condemned, and be disqualified from the race: “if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed” (Gal 1:9; 2 Tim 4:1-6).
viii. We need to run together by encouraging each other to keep on keeping on, looking out for each other and helping each other to win our souls. Heb 3:12-13: “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; 13 but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” Heb 10:24-25: “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another”
As we run the race to win our souls, we are also obligated by the Great Commission from our Lord (Matt 28:18-20) to help others win their souls too. We must help others endure the race. Paul hoped that those he taught will remain faithful until the end of the race: “Do all things without complaining and disputing, 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.”(Phil 2:14-16) “But let each one take heed how he builds on it” (1 Cor 3:10).
May we help each other run the race for the salvation of our souls so that we may not fall short of the grace of God – as it is by the grace of God that we are saved and will be saved (Eph 2:8-9; Heb 12:15; Titus 2:11-14; 2 Cor 1:10).