What is always striking at the Olympic Games is the determination of the athletes. Their eyes are focused on one thing only, and that is the finishing line. If a gold medal is won, the joy is unparalleled, as for Chad le Clos. It compensates for years of practicing.
Paul compares faith with a race, and sin with a burden which must be shed. Every hindrance must be left behind. Just as the gold medal is the goal of the race, so is Jesus the goal in our race of faith: So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end (Heb. 12:1 – 2). It is not about our own achievements and abilities – our eyes are focused on the Lord Jesus, and in our close connection with Him we gain victory.
Somewhere else Paul says: That is why I run straight for the finish line; that is why I am like a boxer who does not waste his punches. I harden my body with blows and bring it under complete control, to keep myself from being disqualified after having called others to the contest (1 Cor. 9:25 – 27).
Jesus phrased it differently: “Do your best to go in through the narrow door; because many people will surely try to go in but will not be able. The master of the house will get up and close the door; then when you stand outside and begin to knock on the door and say, ‘Open the door for us, sir!’ he will answer you, ‘I don’t know where you come from!…. Get away from me, all you wicked people!’ ” (Luke 13:24 – 27). It must be terrible to hear one day “Get away from me.” The Lord does indeed call upon us to lead a holy life, outside of which nobody will see the Lord. (Heb. 12:14)
Every cause for possible stumbling must be done away with: “So if your right eye causes you to sin, take it out and throw it away! It is much better for you to lose a part of your body than to have your whole body thrown into hell. If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away! It is much better for you to lose one of your limbs than to have your whole body go off to hell.” (Matt. 5:29 – 30). Sin is so terrible that it cost the heavenly Father the death of his own Son on the cross. Therefore a Christian should never treat sin carelessly or allow it in his life.
Paul says: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (Phil. 3:12) In Christ we are perfect, and when we reach the end of the road after a life of perseverance with our eyes focused on Him, we’ll surely receive the heavenly prize – because of grace, and not on merit.
Jesus’ own life is also compared with such a race. He had to endure the most dreadful suffering to savor the prize, the joy of victory: He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne (Heb. 12:2).
Jesus is the great Conqueror. He endured the cross for us, and conquered death, so that we can be with Him eternally. We must shed every burden and follow Him. If we do that, we are conquerors. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Rom. 8:36 – 37).
We thank You, Jesus, for being the great Conqueror. Help us to keep our eyes focused undividedly upon You so that, with You, we may live a victorious life. Amen