“Do you 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. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.” (I Corinthians 9: 24-25)
There are two bodies lying side by side in the county morgue. One was a Christian, the other was not. What is the difference between the two bodies lying side by side in the county morgue? I say there is no difference. It’s two vacated bodies. They are folded tents. They have no breath and no animation. The races both of them ran are over.
But, then again…while true that dead bodies have a definite commonality, we are provided with one additional piece of information. We know which one won the race. We know who took home the prize. And we know the prize was actually that person being taken home. A home prepared from the foundation of the world with their name on the mailbox. And sadly, we know which one lost. Their intended residence will sit empty forever.
Have you ever been still long enough to really observe all the racing and running in this world? This man bowls over everyone in his path to grab hold of power and promotion. This lady trots by looking for popularity and prominence. People push and shove, hustling to obtain position, prestige, possessions and property. Yes, he who dies with the most toys wins. Life is NASCAR and we’ve all got our eyes fixed on the checkered flag.
We who identify ourselves as Christians – have we become still? Have we permanently parked our two hundred mile per hour car and quit sprinting with the crowd? Or do we continue to have grand visions of checkered flags, champagne and confetti? It is pretty easy to go from stillness to running; to throw open the garage door, peel tire and take off with the engine roaring. But the Lord tells us to STOP! “For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles – when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and all abominable idolatries. In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.” (I Peter 4: 3-5)
Even so, with the world behind us and the cross before us, we do have a race to run; a race to win. And if we are forsaking all the perishable P-words mentioned above that the world pigs out on, just what does our course consist of? It is this: “…work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do His good pleasure. Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life…” (Philippians 2:12b-16) It is also bringing joy to all those Godly examples who have run before us, as we follow them from glory to glory.
Everyone starts running from birth until death. Most go frantically rushing off with the mob in one direction; a few chose a very different way. The “most” ignore the fact that “we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out…” (I Timothy 6:7) The “most” spend their whole racing life chasing perishing crowns that turn to dust at the finish line. The “few” simply and sincerely aspire to join the Apostle Paul and make his words our own: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (II Timothy 4:7-8)
We all run in a race. We all get a crown. The eternal question is, “Which race…which crown?”