Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Race

Though I am free from all, I’ve made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more.  

To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews … to the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.  

I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.  Don’t you know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize?  

Run in such a way that you may win!  Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one. 

I run in such a way, as not without aim;
I box in such a way, as not beating the air;
but I discipline my body and make it my slave….
1 Corinthians 9:19-27

 I was in a mountain bike race last night and boy, did I stink!  I don’t expect much, since I’m either:

  • the oldest guy among the “Clydesdales” (a euphemism for guys too big to be on a bike) or

  • too fat to be racing with the old guys

– but good grief, I stunk so badly!  This was only one race among a race series, held weekly during the summer around Irvine Lake.  In years past, it was really fun and not competitive to the point of being obnoxious (with a few, rare exceptions). 

 Last night’s race was fierce.  Guys were just plain rude, harsh and brittle.  There was an area deemed by race management to be too dangerous for passing, but guys nearly knocked me off my bike passing there, anyway.  It wasn’t even a little bit fun, and I felt tempted to anger.  I may be too big to beat some of those guys on a bike, but I can assure you I could beat the living you-know-what out of them after the race with my fists. 

 Another thing happened last night: I saw a guy named Ryan. Ryan’s really fast, strong and athletic but he’s also not a jerk.  In fact, he’s active with his church and will miss some racing so he can take young people on an outing.  He’s a good guy.  The real reason I know Ryan is because I knew his dad (Gene) well. 

 Gene was amazing.  I write “was,” because Gene passed away suddenly and unexpectedly last fall.  I loved Gene.  He was so strange … he told awful jokes, and could be very boring.  He even was offensive some of the time, and occasionally creepy.  But EVERYONE loved Gene.  His funeral was the largest I’ve attended.  Because even though Gene was no great salesman, politician, or comedian … Gene loved people, and it showed.  Gene was a disciple of Jesus, and because of that he muddled through and always found a way to show that love to others.  He was humble, kind and hard working … and made everyone he met feel loved.  Last fall Gene went to be with God, where we also long to be.  He won the race. 

 The contrast between Gene’s life and that of those racers last night was stark.  It reminded me of Paul’s words to the Corinth church of Christ (above) … that some people will kick and claw and be mean and harsh … to win a perishable wreath.  The one Gene sought was imperishable.  Jesus & his brother (James) called it “the crown of life.”
 Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.  James 1:12

 Don’t fear what you’re about to suffer. Behold … you’ll have tribulation ... but be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life Revelation 2:10

 How often we allow ourselves to get sucked into a worldly battle for a perishable wreath!  We’re fighting among friends, bickering as families, gossiping about brothers and sisters, breaking our backs for an extra dollar or promotion or to look better in certain clothes, or be more loved or respected … when we should be like our Lord, Jesus, who never got distracted by shallow, silly things of this world and stayed focused on the eternal. 

 How do you want to spend your life?  Do you want to compete to be popular, rich and funny; or would you rather compete for the eternal crown of glory?  You cannot do both.  You must choose.  If you choose the imperishable wreath … you must endure to the end.  I can tell you from personal experience the competition to be loving, giving and kind is a way, way better way to live in this life, and success is guaranteed! 
Lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and teleioser of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you won’t grow weary and lose heart.  Hebrews 12:1-3

 As for me, I choose Yahweh.  I want a mansion in eternal glory – and I’ll do whatever I can to not only go there myself, but to take as many as possible with me.  And the great news is that even if I stink (as I did last night) there are no losers in God’s race, for His grace makes us all winners. 


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