In a world packed with almost unlimited opportunities, at the basest level we are left with two options, win or lose. Which one will you choose? Whether we realize it or not, the multitude of choices we make each day determines the final outcome.
What one thing will you give your life for? What one thing will you expend you energies, your time, and your resources to pursue? That one thing will dominate, dictate, and determine the course of your life both now and for eternity?
My sons enjoyed drag racing. Wins and losses were often determined in milliseconds. Warming tires, response time to the light tree, multiple smooth shifts, conscious and subconscious adjustments through the short course, all played a huge role in wins or losses. Literally thousands of decisions preceded a single race.
Competitors don’t go through training and preparation to lose. They prepare to win.
The thrill of a win, bragging rights and a bit of cash, propels many to the short-term glory of drag racing and a multitude of other endeavors. As a Christian, the target we aim for is much smaller but far more critical.
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run,
but only one gets the prize?
Run in such a way as to get the prize.
Everyone who competes in the games
goes into strict training.
They do it to get a crown that will not last,
but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly;
I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.”
I Corinthians 9:24-26
Corinth, an extremely wealthy city, consistently hosted a huge international athletic festival called the Isthmus Games. It ranked second only to the Olympics. The Corinthians clearly understood Paul’s illustration of running and competing.
Though running to improve one’s health is beneficial, Paul wanted Christian’s to know faith is no casual run. “Isn’t it obvious that runners run to win? Run that kind of race.” Paul says, “I don’t run just for exercise. I train like a champion athlete.” Paul’s goal was to dominate.
Serious competitors know you either win or lose. Rather than seeing two options, however, winning dominates their focus. Champions set their target to win. Losses become learning mechanisms to gain traction for the next win.
To train and compete for a loreal wreath that would soon fade was applauded in Corinth. Yet a frail endeavour in comparison to the rewards of living all in for Christ.
Hebrews Chapter 11 lists the alumni of great men and women of faith. Few if any compare to the high standard of their legacy.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded
by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everything that hinders
and the sin that so easily entangles.
And let us run with perseverance
the race marked out for us,
fixing our eyes on Jesus,
the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
For the joy set before him he endured the cross,
scorning its shame, and sat down
at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured
such opposition from sinners,
so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
The athletes in Corinth were willing to press themselves beyond normal human capacity for something temporal and fleeting. That propensity to excel resides in us all to some degree.
There is a “race marked out for us” bearing more significance than any Olympic gold medal, a president’s chair, or celebrity status. The choices we make will dictate the outcome.
Those who have gone ahead of us into eternity watch our “race.” If only we could see and hear that great throng standing in joyous anticipation — applauding, fist pumping, cheering, and urging us on to the finish line.
Unfortunately, we too often wander aimlessly, unaware of the choices — the two options — that stand before us. Rather than regarding the Christian life as a strategic and high stakes athletic event, we sloth through days with ambivalence.
Just as in a race, milliseconds matter, so in our lives. Today holds a whopping 86,400 seconds. Seems like a lot, right? But what if this was our last day? Then milliseconds matter!
I, and probably you with the same awareness, would treasure those milliseconds determining what matters most.
The applause of multitudes,
or the company of loved ones;
selfish indulgence or legacy building;
accumulating more or giving what I have;
reaching for the top or sharing success;
checking investments or talking with God;
temporal or eternal;
death or life.
A drag race from start to finish occurs in less than 10 seconds. The Christian race also passes far quicker than we realize. Compared to eternity, time here is short. Everything we see and know today will soon be gone. All will pass away.
Short- and long-term goals may or may not be fulfilled. The planned meetings, events, and family celebrations that fill our calendars may or may not occur. Each are minute choices in a much larger canvas of time — a canvas too broad and high for narrow human view.
“Since everything will be destroyed in this way,
what kind of people ought you to be?
You ought to live holy and godly lives
as you look forward to the day of God
and speed its coming…”
2 Peter 3:11-12
I hope you are not discouraged thinking our feeble efforts are futile. Quite the contrary! Even little moments potentially carry eternal significance. The way we spend our milliseconds determines eternity, both for us and many others we have the opportunity to influence.
For which of the two options, the temporal, or the eternal, are we in strict training for? Focusing on eternity, with Jesus Christ as Lord, is the one thing worth giving our lives for. Expending energy, time, and resources for that pursuit will gain eternal reward.
When the one thing that dominates, dictates, and determines the course of our lives is Jesus Christ, the disciplines of running the Christian race will fall into rhythm. Winners keep eternity in focus.
I wish there were more than two options and that there wasn’t so much to lose. Eternity is just that — eternal! The stakes are high. The consequences broad. The little choices, those millisecond decisions, carry serious repercussions.
There is eternal heaven and eternal hell. The only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ. He said that eternal life is to know Him. (John 17:3)
“Jesus answered, “I am the way
and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father
except through me.”
Strict rules and regulations govern the parameters of any race. The spiritual race we have entered is much the same. We all run. But how will we run? We all compete. But are we competing by God’s parameters or are we attempting to run this race by our own faulty set of rules.
The choices we make in our milliseconds reveal the eternity we are presently living in and aiming for. They are critical not just for the “by-and-by” when we die, but for the now in which we live.
Champions weigh both options and choose wisely!