In the previous post, The Ultimate Race, I mentioned how training for and running a race is difficult and how there are many moments during any given hard run when I can't wait to cross the finish line. The difficulty of the race produces a longing for the finish. I become fixated on it and knowing that it's out there and that I'm approaching it with every step keeps me placing one foot in front of the other. I count down the miles, the minutes, and the second. The sooner I cross the finish the better!
How about in the Christian life? If the finish is God's Kingdom being established on earth and all sin and sorrow being swept away, do I yearn for it? Do I seek it, thirst for it, and push on towards it? There are moments where I can't wait to finish! When I hear the news about the day's horrific events and tragedies I sense a longing for God's Kingdom. When the tragedies strikes closer to home I echo the saints in Revelation as they cry out, "O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you judge the people who belong to this world and avenge our blood for what they have done to us?" (Revelation 6:10). When I open my heart to all the hurt, pain, and suffering in the world, then I thirst for justice and the establishment of God's eternal kingdom.
However, in all honesty, I am many times fearful, for my own sake, of God's return. I wonder if I will be amongst the saved and question if I ran the race well enough? Did I do all the good I could? Will I be judged guilty? Will I fall short? Will I be among those whom Jesus spoke of when he said, These self-doubts hardly produce a burning desire to speed towards the finish, but more importantly they reveal that my focus has been diverted from Jesus the author and finisher of my faith.
Satan is the father of lies and the enemy of the saints. Revelation 12:10 tells us that he is constantly, both day and night, accusing us before God--pointing out our sins, shortcomings, and failures and demanding that justice be served. When we loose sight of Jesus it gives Satan ground in our heart to accuse us and discourage us regarding our worthiness for the kingdom. His accusations are crushing because they are largely true! We are undeserving. We are wretched. We are helpless to save ourselves. In fact, we don't even know the real extent of our depravity. The Bible reveals that "The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?" (Jeremiah 17:9).
So what's a runner to do? He or she is midway through the race, exhausted, feeling hopeless, and being ruthlessly heckled by the adversary. He's utterly discouraged and ready to give up, but wait weary runner; there is hope! Paul's advice to all runners is to fix your eyes on Jesus! There is victory in Jesus! "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5: 6-8). Christ knows our weakness, He knows our sin, and even so, He hasn't given up on us. He didn't come to judge us, but to save us and cleans us from all unrighteousness (1John 1:9).
When we look to Jesus we see a beautiful picture of love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness. Contrary to Satan, Christ came not to condemn the world, but to save it (John 3:17). While Satan seeks to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10), God seeks to freely give, save, and re-create. Our job as faithful runners is to believe in His love, forgiveness, and restorative power. Though we are spiritually wretched, naked, poor, and blind God's grace is sufficient for all our needs.
Thankfully, when it comes to the finish line, our merits and our worthiness are not the matter in question. Paul reminds us that "God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago" (Ephesians 2:8-10 NLT).
The accuser is often at work in my mind, so for me it is a constant daily task to find peace and forgivenss in Christ. His gift does seem almost too good to be true, hard to believe, and just out of reach, yet God has promised that "