Winning the Race
By Jeff Cranston
God wants us to learn that once our relationship with Jesus begins, it’s like running a marathon: It is important to start right, but it is imperative to end well. Too many people enter the Christian life with great enthusiasm only to disappear into mediocrity along the way. How do you run your race and finish well?
1. Commit to run the entire race.
Read Philippians 3:12-13a. The first essential to a solid spiritual life may surprise you: In order to run the race and keep moving forward, we must be dissatisfied with where we are right now. Apostle Paul had some incredible, personal experiences, but he was not satisfied with the status of his spiritual life.
If you want to really grow, the first step is to admit how far you still have to go. We could say it this way: If you think you’ve arrived, think again because the room for improvement is the largest room in the world.
Some of us have stopped maturing in our faith because frankly we think we’ve done fairly well, and we’ve grown very comfortable there. The truth of the matter is that we’re a lot closer to pitiful than we are to perfect. Use this sense of spiritual dissatisfaction to spur you on to the next step.
2. Keep an eye on the finish line.
Read Philippians 3:13b-14. Paul readily admits that he isn’t perfect by any stretch, and he knows it—and this becomes the place where his spiritual growth begins.
Notice how he says it: “reaching forward” and “press on,” meaning, “I’m not where I want to be, but I’m going to keep moving in that direction.” In the spiritual life, direction makes all the difference. True believers aren’t in heaven yet, but they aim their steps in that direction.
3. Follow good pacesetters.
Read Philippians 3:15-17. We need mentors, models, heroes, if you will—people who are farther along in the spiritual journey who can keep us pointed toward the Lord. Without such input, we’re likely to veer off the trail and end up in the wilderness. Who are you following? Who is following you? Are those you’re following leading you to a deeper walk with Jesus? Are you leading others to a deeper walk with Jesus?
4. Be aware of those who would steer you off course.
Read Philippians 3:18-19. Here is the flip side of the previous principle. We must follow faithful, more mature Christians … and we must watch out for enemies of the gospel and of the Church of Jesus Christ.
Who are these “enemies of the cross?” It is doubtful that Paul would use such harsh language to describe people outside the church. I believe he is talking about professing Christians who are really “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” Although they attend our churches and worship with us on Sunday, they are not one with us.
Do you want to win the race set before you? Make sure you are moving in God’s direction. Everyone goes somewhere in life. Where will you be when you get where you are going?
Jeff Cranston is lead pastor of LowCountry Community Church in Bluffton, S.C.
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