4 May 2023 Anno Domini, the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. 25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. 26I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: 27But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27; all scripture quoted is from the KJV)
Foot races that are run for victory are not aimlessly run. They run a given course, direction and distance. Every runner begins at the starting line, and each awaits the gun signal to begin. There are two primary classes of people present at competitive races – the athletes, and the observers. A sub-category would be observers who insure that the race is properly conducted and all rules of the sport adhered to.
This is a bit like life itself and Paul, who was a runner of races as well, used the example of ‘running the race’ as being like unto those of faith who persevere to victory. The devoted Christian prepares himself for the race by intense study of Gods Holy Word, by careful discipline in diet and rest. He practices running until his proficiency has reached a level that qualifies for the race of life.
The Duke of Wellington (victor of Waterloo) made a statement that defines perseverance in military terms. He said, “. . . the British soldier was not braver than the soldiers of other countries, but he was brave five minutes longer, and, of course, the result could be only one thing, namely, victory – to keep brave the last five minutes. Many an army has surrendered when just at the point of victory. And the same is true of many a man.” How many outwardly devout Christians have you known who exhibited extraordinary evidence of Christian character over an extended period of time but, at some accident of fate or nature, turn away completely before surrendering the spirit?
The race of man is run by designated routes and boundaries – socially, politically, professionally, and athletically. So is the race of the Christian believer. The track is clearly marked by absolute boundaries. “And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. 5Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? 6Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:4-6) There you have it – a clearly marked path or the way that we should go. It is marked by the Lamp of Love and the Light of Truth. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psalms 119:105)
Most often, the path that man runs is not a straight path. It is usually circular so that man’s race ends where it begins. So, in running the race of man, the victory is fleeting and empty of real gain. The glory of the praise of others is the primary reward. But with the race that God has laid out before us, the path is straight. It is run in diligence with the goal in plain sight far ahead at the finish line of Jordan Banks. “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
The shortest distance between two points, except perhaps in inter-galactic space physics, is a straight line. It is a “straight Way”. That is God’s race-track, or Way, set before us. It is filled with no detours that waste our lively resources. It is plainly marked, and it is provided with encouragements and angelic applause along the way. We are not running our Christian races to excite the attention of men, but to please God our Father. Our Lord has clearly shown us the manner in which our race is to be run – and it is filled with sacrificial love.
The spiritual race is afforded with a second wind as we grow weary at the half-way marker. The world’s race-runners grow old and weary and are vanquished from the field: “Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. 29He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. 30Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall.” (Isaiah 40:28-30) But those who run the Race, and finish the same, of God have this consolation: “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” (Isaiah 40: 31)
Perhaps, my friends, we all; may proclaim in the end of our days the words of the Apostle Paul: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:” (2 Timothy 4:7)