In a competitive race you are up against other athletes. The race towards God’s Kingdom is different in this respect – we’re not racing against, or trying to out-do other Christians, if anything we’re helping each other.
No. Instead we’re challenging ourselves… we’re reaching for our better self and fighting off the part of us that is chasing a selfish life. Effectively, we’re racing ourselves!
The person crossing the finish line needs to be the best person we can be. Jesus did this by putting aside all thought for himself and instead did exactly what his Father wanted.
It wasn’t easy
This didn’t come as easy for Jesus as you might expect… he was human after all.
Not only did he understand what needed to happen for him to overcome sin and death, he feared it. He prayed to his Father before he was crucified:
“Father, if you will, please don’t make me suffer by having me drink from this cup.
To “drink from this cup” means to “complete this task”.
And this was no ordinary task – Jesus was to crucified.
Inspite of this, in the same breath as “don’t make me suffer” Jesus adds,
But do what you want, and not what I want.”Luke 22 v 42
This attitude of mind is what enabled Jesus’ victory over sin and death (see Signs For Our Times, part 3 for more on that).
The Bible challenges us to have the same mind as Jesus:
…think the same way that Christ Jesus thought:
..he gave up everything and became a slave.Phillipians 2 v 5
All sports and sporting events have governing bodies and regulations to be followed.
They may also have conditions of entry and the occasional disqualification if the rules are not followed or players demonstrate bad behaviour.
The runner in the race to God’s Kingdom is also met with requirements. An example is “baptism”.
The Bible gives us a great example of the purpose and nature of baptism – it starts with an Ethiopian official on the road.
An important Ethiopian official happened to be going along that road in his chariot. He was the chief treasurer for Candace, the Queen of Ethiopia. The official had gone to Jerusalem to worship and was now on his way home. He was sitting in his chariot, reading the book of the prophet Isaiah.Acts 8 v 27
The Apostle Philip meets the official and asks if he understands what he’s reading. The official responds:
“How can I understand unless someone helps me?” He then invited Philip to come up and sit beside him.
So Philip began at this place in the Scriptures and explained the good news about Jesus.Acts 8 v 31 & 35
The Ethiopian had learned, understood (with Philip’s help) and now he was ready to take action – he asks for baptism.
Baptism is an outward token of his commitment to God. The Greek meaning behind “Baptism” is typically used in relation to dyeing a garment and suggests complete immersion. If a sprinkling was all that was required then the traveller would no doubt have had water enough in a flask.
However, he only suggests baptism when when they arrive at a body of water.
The official said, “Look! Here is some water. Why can’t I be baptised?” He ordered the chariot to stop. Then they both went down into the water, and Philip baptised him.Acts 8 v 37
From this record, and others, it becomes clear that the commitment of baptism is a decision to be arrived at by consenting adults making informed choices.
Jesus himself set the same example.
His cousin, John the Baptist, thought Jesus was too good for baptism. However, Jesus said:
“For now this is how it should be, because we must do all that God wants us to do.” Then John agreed. So Jesus was baptised.Matthew 3 v 15-16
What pleases God?
Serving God means putting aside our own interests and the things that are right and important in our minds. Instead we first consider what pleases God.
And as soon as [Jesus] came out of the water, the sky opened, and he saw the Spirit of God coming down on him like a dove. Then a voice from heaven said, “This is my own dear Son, and I am pleased with him.”Matthew 3 v 16-17
- Jesus – he learned, understood and took action
- Us – we should take his example as our guide and really listen to God
- The Kingdom of God – this is our goal, let’s run with patience and endurance the race of our lives!
Finally – this is a tough race, but remember how we learned that Paul had been someone who persecuted Christians? He struggled with his past life, as I’m sure we all do from time to time. However, this is how Paul felt about his life in Christ and it can be a great source of encouragement for us:
I have not yet reached my goal, and I am not perfect. But Christ has taken hold of me. So I keep on running and struggling to take hold of the prize.
…I forget what is behind, and I struggle for what is ahead. I run toward the goal, so that I can win the prize of being called to heaven. This is the prize that God offers because of what Christ Jesus has done.Philippians 3 v 12-14