Christmas Begins With Christ By Nathele Graham We’ve made it through another year, and we…
Running and Winning
By Nathele Graham
“Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.” 1 Timothy 6:12.
I’ve never been a big fan of running or jogging, and as far as walking is concerned, well my grandmother always said “Let your head save your heels”, meaning if you have to go to the kitchen, think of more than one thing to do on that trip! I do get exercise, but I just don’t have the motivation to run a race. That is, there’s no motivation to run a physical race that gets my heart pumping and my lungs gasping for breath. There is a greater race that I’m far more interested in, and it’s much more important. The rewards are more valuable than worldly treasure. The race I’m talking about is the one that is set before me by God.
No matter what the race, there has to be plenty of hard training and sacrifices made in order to build endurance and skill. Also, one needs a proper diet. Let’s start with diet. As Christians, we need to feed upon the word of God. In our secular life, we make room for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus many snacks in between. We might fill up on junk food, and that will spoil our appetite for nourishing food. God gave us Scripture to feed our souls and give us strength and knowledge to contend for the faith. Begin with Genesis, and truly understand that God created everything in six literal days, then He rested on the seventh. Study it and believe it. Satan has dished out lots of junk food, and the secular world gobbles it up. Christians need to study Scripture with trusting and believing hearts and minds. Then we need to reject the junk food. If you don’t feed upon good, healthy food from the word of God, how can you share the Gospel with others? How can you defend your faith?
“For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.” – Hebrews 5:12-13.
You can only run a race for God if you’re healthy in your faith and knowledge. The Apostle Paul had taught the congregation in Corinth the Gospel. He gave them meat, but their leadership chose to continue to drink milk. Therefore, sin was creeping into their midst and the people weren’t growing strong. Because of that, the congregation couldn’t be addressed as mature Christians.
“And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” – 1 Corinthians 3:1-3.
You must study Scripture to understand the difference between milk-fed carnal attitudes and a meat-fed mature Christian life.
Jesus gave Peter an assignment. Peter was to feed the flock, both lambs who need milk to grow, and mature sheep, who need the meat or Scripture (John 21:15-17). Peter did a fine job. On the day of Pentecost, he preached one of the greatest sermons ever preached, and over 3,000 men gave their lives to Christ. He didn’t tickle ears, but spoke truth. Peter was a natural leader, and he became the leader of those first baby Christians in Jerusalem. He wrote letters which, if we study them, feed us with meat. When was the last time your pastor led a deep study of prophecy? That’s meat. Peter had seen some amazing things as he walked with, and learned from, Jesus. He heard God’s voice from Heaven as he watched the transfiguration of Jesus when He talked with Moses and Elijah.
“And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.” – 2 Peter 1:18.
Had Peter stopped growing in his faith right there, he wouldn’t have been able to obey Jesus and feed the flock. Peter knew the signs and wonders were amazing and grabbed a person’s attention, but the awe and wonder would fade. Only the solid food of God’s truth would make the flock strong.
“We have also a more sure word of prophecy, whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: knowing this first that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” – 2 Peter 1:19-21.
Prophecy is healthy food for the sheep; it makes us strong and fearless as we see the end of time approaching. Things will get bad, and then get worse, but the well-fed sheep knows that God can be trusted and the Rapture is drawing near.
What can we do as we see all the end-time events falling into place? This is the time for Christians to train to win the race. If your pastor isn’t a Bible based preacher, you need to start eating meat on your own. There are some wonderful prophecy teachers who will feed you so you are fit to run the race before you.
“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.
Sin will hamper your race. If you claim to have repented from sin and turned to Jesus for salvation, then you need to let go of the sin. A runner cannot win a race if they are trying to hold tightly to a heavy weight. Sin is the weight that hinders your race. Salvation is free and cannot be bought or worked for.
“For by grace are ye saved through faith: and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” – Ephesians 2:8.
Salvation is free and we cannot do enough good works to merit salvation. Only faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus can take away sin. The sacrifices required by the Law could only cover sin. Prophecy spoke of the coming Messiah, and it was all fulfilled by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus was fully God, so His blood was untainted by sin, and He was fully man, so that He was one of us. There is no other sacrifice to be done. Jesus did it all for us. What then? Are we to take His sacrifice for granted? Can we say we believe in Him but continue in sin? The only way we can thank Him for what He did, is to live for Him. We need to start running the race. You might ask “Isn’t that works?” No, works are what you do thinking that you can earn salvation. Running the race is what you do in gratitude for what Jesus did. Start by truly turning from sin. Study Scripture and understand about the rewards of a race well run.
“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.” – 1 Corinthians 9:24.
When you see runners at a track meet, their training is evident. Their body is under control and they run with confidence. If they have trained well and win, they are given a prize. Christians have already been given eternal life, so what is our reward?
“And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: but I keep under my body and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” – 1 Corinthians 9:25-27.
What is the “incorruptible crown? There are many. The crown spoken of by Paul isn’t a crown that is worn by a king, but rather “stephanos”, which is a crown given to the winner of a race. We’ve seen pictures of a wreath of leaves placed on the head of ancient Olympians who won their race. It was a nice award, but would fade away in time. Christians are given rewards for what we have done for Christ. Those won’t fade.
In Scripture we’re told of various crowns we can win if we run our race well. There’s the crown of victory also called the everlasting crown (1 Corinthians 9:25), the crown of the soul winner (Philippians 4:1 & 1 Thessalonians 2:18), the crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8) the crown of life (James 1:12 & Revelation 2:10), and the crown of glory (1 Peter 5:4). When will we receive these crowns, and what will we do with them? This life is our race and what we do while living on this side of Heaven matters for eternity. The most important thing is to accept Jesus, then start getting into spiritual shape, and running for the Lord. Witness to others and you just might be awarded the soul winner crown, or if you get mastery over your sinful nature, there’s a crown for you. Christians will be judged at the Bema Seat of Christ. That judgment is not about whether we can live eternally or be damned to Hell; salvation was determined when you truly accepted Christ. The Bema seat will determine if you’ve won a crown. Not everybody will receive a crown. Paul told the Corinthians about building upon the foundation of Christ. What is built upon that foundation is important. If you do all sorts of good things and get all kinds of praise and glory in this life, you’ve built with wood, hay, and stubble. If you do good works for the glory of God, then you build with gold, silver, and precious jewels. On the day of judgment, if you’ve done everything for your own glory that’s wood, hay and stubble; you’ll suffer loss of rewards.
“If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved: yet so as by fire.” – 1 Corinthians 3:15.
The crowns and rewards may not seem valuable today, but what about when you stand before Jesus and see the Lamb as He had been slain? You will see the nail scarred hands and the marks of the whipping He endured for your salvation. You’ll understand the pain He went through in order to purchase your redemption, and you will want to have run your race on earth to honor Him. You will want crowns. Whether you die first or are Raptured, you will see Him. We read of 24 elders seated around the throne. They are representative of Christians.
“The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” – Revelation 4:10-11.
Oh, how I desire to have a crown to give to Jesus.
As Paul was coming to the end of his life, he could look back and see the race he ran for Christ. He didn’t live for his own glory, but gave his all to serve Christ.
“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” – 2 Timothy 4:7-8.
As I look back upon my life, I see so many times when I have failed in my race. I’m sure you can see times in your own life that you didn’t honor Christ. It isn’t too late to start getting fit to run a good race. Start today by eating the nourishing food of Scripture. Get rid of the “self-help” and “purpose driven” books – not meditation or yoga. Look to Scripture. Admit that you are a sinner, and ask Christ to help you turn from sin. Don’t try to justify your sin by saying “I was born that way”. We are all born sinners, but to win the race you need to turn from sin. You also need to move away from fear. Fear will keep you at the starting block instead of running a race to win. Are you afraid to mention Jesus and salvation to your family and friends? Feed on Scripture and you will be able to defend God’s truth.
You can’t win if you don’t run. It isn’t too late, start today.
God bless you all,
All original scripture is “theopneustos” God breathed.
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