The Concise Oxford Dictionary, 10th Edition defines the word “race” as “a situation in which people compete to be first to achieve something.” Like it or not, we have been called to run a race not of our choosing. We did not volunteer to run in this race, but we were called and ordained to run it, and run it we must. What about this race we find ourselves as participants? Who are we competing with or against? Is it correct that only one will win the crown? Each of us has a crown destined for us personally. We must run so as to win the prize. Otherwise, why do we run the race? Certainly it is not to fail in winning the prize.
In 1Corinthians 9:24-25 Paul states:
24) Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives
the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. (NRSV)
25) Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one. (NRSV)
Professional athletes in training for competition come to know not only their own strengths and abilities, but they will also study the strengths and weaknesses of their opponents. Knowing the opponent’s abilities is very important in planning strategy for competition. And, as Paul states, athletes develop tremendous self-discipline to come in first to win a perishable crown with all its worldly glory.
But, as Paul continues in verse 25, the prize that we are to be competing for is imperishable. We know from Scripture that this prize is immortality in the First Resurrection, the better resurrection (Heb.11:35, Rev.20:4-6). The First Resurrection is the better resurrection because those winning the race will reign with Christ in the Millennium as immortals. The Second Resurrection is a resurrection to mortal life after the Millennium and to judgment (Rev.20:11-15). The belief in a Third Resurrection as contrived by the ministry under Herbert Armstrong’s watch in WCOG is a false doctrine (see the paper The Fallacy of Third Resurrection (No. 166)).
Our Father who destined and called us to run this race for the prize of the First Resurrection did not call us to fail. We are the only one who can take our self out of the race and be disqualified to win the prize.
Who is our competition in this race for the First Resurrection? The answer
is indeed simple, yet at times it is difficult for us to see or acknowledge
who is our competition for this awesome and wonderful prize. That is because
our human nature will cloud issues we personally face and will deceive us (Jer.17:9-10).
There are only two in this race. We are competing against our
self and our own carnality. We are not competing against each other in the Body
of Christ, the ecclesia. Each who is called into the Church has his/her own
individual race to run. When we are baptized our race begins, individually.
It is the spiritual self, imbued with the Holy Spirit versus the carnal human
nature and fleshly desires within us that causes the race to be run. Paul describes
it as the “old self” with its practices versus the “new self” which is being
renewed in the knowledge of our Creator (Col. 3:9-10). On a daily basis we need
to be asking our Father for His guidance through the Holy Spirit to give us
the insight to see ourselves as He sees us, to see our strengths and our weaknesses
(Ps.26:2), and do something with them.
The holy days are upon us. Let us examine our own performance in running the race (2Cor.13:5, 1Cor.11:28). How well have we come to know our strengths and weaknesses? It has been almost a year now since the Reading of the Law at the Feast of Tabernacles in Canada. One of the goals that has been set before us in this current seven-year cycle is the focusing on the Second Great Commandment of loving others to the level we love ourselves. We must ask ourselves, “How are we progressing in fulfilling this Commandment?” In narrowing it down even further, how are we progressing in love towards the Brethren? Peter tells us in 1Peter 1:22-23:
22) Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth, so that you
have a sincere love for your brothers, love each other deeply,
with all your heart.
23) You have been born again not from some seed that will decay, but from one that cannot decay, through the living Word of God that lasts forever. (Complete Jewish Bible-CJB)
And Paul earnestly urges us in Romans 12:9-10 and Colossians 3.10-17:
9) Don’t let love be a mere outward show. Recoil from what is evil, and cling to what is good.
10) Love each other devotedly and with brotherly love; and set examples for each other in showing respect. (CJB)
10) and have put on the new self, which is continually being renewed in fuller and fuller knowledge, closer and closer to the image of its Creator.
11) The new self allows no room for discriminating between Gentile and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, foreigner, savage, slave, free man; on the contrary, in all, the Messiah is everything.
12) Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with feelings of compassion and with kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
13) Bear with one another; if anyone has a complaint against someone else then forgive him. Indeed, just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must forgive.
14) Above all these, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together perfectly;
15) and let the shalom which comes from the Messiah be your heart’s decision-maker, for this is why you were called to be part of a single Body. And be thankful––
16) let the Word of the Messiah, in all its richness, live in you, as you teach and counsel each other in all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude to God in your hearts.
17) That is, everything you do or say, do in the name of the Lord Yeshua, giving thanks through him to God the Father. (CJB)
These are powerful words indeed. Love, especially towards each other in the Body and union with Christ, is one of the ultimate tests in running the race that will determine whether we will attain the crown awaiting us (John 15:12-13). Let us seriously study 1Corinthians 13 that gives us the detailed aspects of the love that comes from drawing near to God, our Father, through Christ, who left us an example that we should follow in his steps (1Peter 2:21). Paul ends chapter 13 with, “And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love” (NRSV).
As we fast on Atonement, let us not only fast to be at one with our Father and Christ, but also fast to be at one with our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ, the Church (John 17:11,20-26). Let us consider these words of Paul inspired by Christ through the Holy Spirit that are stated in Colossians 3 quoted above. Let us be clothed with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience towards each other, bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, as we must do because the Lord has forgiven us.
And yet we know from Scripture that running the race not only involves growing in Godly love and fulfilling the Second Great Commandment, but it also involves growing in faith. We read in Hebrews 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (NRSV). It is very detrimental in running the race to allow an attitude to be developed that the race is too difficult or the prize unattainable. It is an easy attitude to develop especially when trials beset us and discouragement sets in. We should not be running with doubt that we will win, but with confidence in our Father through Christ who will see us through our trials, and strengthen us to win the prize (Rom.8:28-39). There are mighty witnesses and examples of faith listed in Hebrews, chapter 11, who won their race and who will receive the crown awaiting them in the better resurrection.
Even though we have our own individual race to run, collectively we are put into the Body of Christ, a team that is on a mission to complete the work that has been assigned for our time. How we run our race will determine the effectiveness of the Body as a whole in doing the work. Paul states in 1Corinthians 3:9, “For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building” (NRSV). Accordingly, the parable given by Christ in Matthew 25 states we all were given talents that are to be developed and used to do the work. Let us do our utmost in developing our talents so that we are the best tool we possibly can be in the hands of Christ who will finish a work through us. Paul admonishes us in 2Corinthians 6:1 “As God’s fellow–workers we also urge you not to receive his grace and then do nothing with it (CJB).”
Excellent study papers for review are: The Pillars of Philadelphia (No. 283); The Second Great Commandment (No. 257)
In conclusion, we run, but let us run together helping each other along the
way as we keep our focus on the instruction given to us by our Father through
our elder Brother, Jesus Christ, who will see us through to completion of the
race to win the prize.
Assistant Coordinator California
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