For The Joy That Is Set Before Us
"Do you not 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."
1 Corinthians 9:24
It's a battle, folks. It's not for the untrained. It takes endurance, hard training, tremendous effort, and persistence. Does that mean that one who does not run in such a way forfeits the prize of heaven? No, salvation is a free gift. You don't forfeit heaven by not being strong enough to finish the race victoriously.
But there IS a prize. While salvation is God's free gift to us because Jesus Christ bore the judgment on our sins, our position in heaven will have everything to do with our walk with Christ on earth. To the extent that we're willing to put our whole hearts and souls into following and serving him, there are crowns to be had, not just one but several are mentioned. There's the Crown of Life, the Crown of Glory, the Crown of Rejoicing, the Incorruptible Crown, the Crown of Righteousness, and perhaps more. We aren't given a lot of information about them or about what they will mean for us in eternity, but what do you want to bet they're desirable beyond our understanding? If only we knew HOW much so, we'd do everything in our power to strive to obtain them.
"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."
When an athlete is training for a race, he has to be temperate in all things in order to get the maximum performance out of his body. And so we, if we are to run for the crowns, we must be watching ourselves all the time lest some indiscretion weaken us and slow us down, or discourage us and perhaps make us fall out of the race. We have to maintain a constant vigilance and we'll only persist if we're deeply motivated. Who wouldn't be, if he had some inkling of the eternal joy of those wearing the crowns!
"Therefore I run thus, not with uncertainty.
Thus I fight, not as one who beats the air.
But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection…"
Let no one think that it's out of reach for him maybe because of some weakness or flaw. No, God has provided all every one needs to attain the goal:
"His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness..."
2 Peter 1:3
Brothers and sisters, let us pay close attention to our walk with the Lord and our service to him. Be willing to invest your life in his service, doing all you can for him knowing the rewards are SO great.
"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded
by so great a cloud of witnesses,
let us lay aside every weight,
and the sin which so easily ensnares us,
and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith,
WHO FOR THE JOY THAT WAS SET BEFORE HIM
endured the cross, despising the shame,
and has sat down at the right hand of the Throne of God."