WHAT mATTERS? Focus to Finish Well
Are we in a race to win, or are we just satisfied to be a participant in the race? Paul reminds us that, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.” 1 Corinthians 9:24 Have we become so smug about being a Christian and going to heaven, that we have lost compassion for those who are headed for hell? The Bible tells us not to be complacent about that, “…be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2 Is preaching the Gospel just something the pastor does because that’s what we pay him for, or are we to be the messengers? “And he gave some…pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints, for the work of the ministry.” Ephesians 4:11-12 Is our goal to strive for the American dream for 40 some years, fooling ourselves that once we retire, we’ll serve the Lord when we have more time? Jesus warns us to not prepare for physical retirement but for the eternal. “Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags (or retirement funds) which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys.” Luke 12:33 Are we more known for being right or left wing politically, than we are of being a follower of Jesus? The Bible calls us to be soldiers for Him, not moral, social, or political activists, “No man engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life that he may please him who has chosen him to be a soldier.” 2 Timothy 2:4
Hebrews 12 re-focuses our priorities from the cares of this life, back to faith, by looking unto Jesus and the example He gave us. “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2 Those “great a cloud of witnesses” aren’t Old Testament people watching us down here from heaven. They are testifiers or witnesses of the life of faith they lived that we are to emulate. The “lay(ing) aside every weight” is not necessarily a sin we commit, but encumbrances we allow that hinder us from winning the race. Paul would call them things like selfishly eating meat sacrificed to idols, while disregarding that it might cause a brother to stumble. Today, they might be actions we are allowed to do with liberty, 1 Corinthians 6:12 but that could hurt our testimony. Things such as use of alcohol, gambling, watching violent or sexual content at home or in theater. The “sin which doth so easily beset us” are actions of the flesh that we justify, calling them mistakes. To “run with patience” is to endure the tribulations of life by faith not sight, and to not give up. “My strength is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 How do we do all these things? By keeping our focus on Jesus and what He focused on, which was “the joy that was set before Him.” Paul called the things he endured “light affliction,” but only “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen:” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 In other words, with eyes of faith.
What matters is, don’t let yourself be distracted from doing the works God has prepared for us to do. Neither be robbed of the “gold, silver and precious stones” 1 Corinthians 3:12 that God has set aside for you to receive at the end of the race. Now is the time to sprint for the finish line. We’re almost home, and we are not alone in this last leg of the race, Jesus saying, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” Hebrews 13:5 In the end let’s say with Paul, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7 Let’s all run to win and keep our eyes on the prize.