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News and views from the German-language region of Europe

April 13, 2018

The starting line and the finish line

Filed under Sabbath Thoughts

With what can we compare a life of faith? Jesus was told that He taught "the way of God" properly (Mark 12:14), and in the book of Acts we see the same analogy: "This man [Apollos] had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately" (Acts 18:25-26).

The apostle Paul used the same analogy in defending himself: "But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets" (Acts 24:14).

So a life of faith is compared in the Bible to a way of life – we "go with God", we move. And it was Paul who compared this way with athletic competition in his first letter to the Corinthians: the Isthmian games, held in Corinth for all Greek athletes every two years. Paul’s words to the Corinthians are still applicable to all of us as we fight the Christian fight and run the spiritual race to God’s Kingdom, hoping to one day cross the finish line.

"Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs," Paul stressed, "but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified" (1 Corinthians 9:24-27; NLB).

One can imagine Paul watching a race during the games. The runners all stay in their lane. None of them looks back or is distracted by what happens off to the side. They all have only one goal in mind: to win the race, because finishing second was considered to be defeat. That's why some athletes prayed "Wreath [victory wreath] or death!" prior to their race.

When God calls us, we begin to approach the starting line for our race, our race in the faith. The starting gun sounds when we are baptized, and the finish line is our entry into the kingdom of God, either via the resurrection from the dead or via a change from flesh and blood to spirit at the return of Jesus Christ. Whatever the case may be, the race is only over when our physical life ends.

How unfortunate it is when someone just quits the race of faith – as has happened. We won't win the eternal prize just because we were at the starting line and started moving when the gun sounded (our baptism). The goal is to reach the finish line of eternal life! Paul admonishes us to follow his example: "I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:14). And the days we just kept help keep us on track to reach the finish line.

With these thoughts I wish everyone a rewarding Sabbath!

Paul Kieffer's blog with personal insights and news from the German-language region in Europe.


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