“Do you not know that in a race all the runners
run, but only one gets the prize? Run in
such a way as to get the prize. Everyone
who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last;
but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running
aimlessly. I do not fight like a man
beating the air. No, I beat my body and
make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be
disqualified for the prize” (1 Cor 9:24-26).
Getting to heaven seems
difficult. Paul makes it out that he has
to undergo gruesome training to attain the prize of an imperishable crown. A person running aimlessly looks silly, a la
Forrest Gump. Likewise, a boxer who
punches into thin air instead of his opponent, wears
himself out and awaits defeat. What about us?
Do we waste time on needless matters such as watching TV programs that
do not bring us nearer to God? Do we
engage in conversations leading to no beneficial conclusion but injured
feelings and dissension?
Training must be critically strict
if we were to reach our heavenly goal eventually. Imagine a person of gross obesity desiring to
run the London
marathon successfully: the first thing he needs is to have his diet changed
dramatically by a dietician who knows him best.
If he were to complete the whole course, he must stick to the prescribed
diet and to obey the rules of training.
Similarly we, the spiritual marathon participants, also require a
scripturally prescribed set of rules and spiritual food and drink if we are to
reach looks our heavenly destination.
There are two basic stages in our
spiritual journey. The first is knowing what we are aiming for and the second is ensuring
that we achieve our aim. A successful
Olympic athlete knows what he wants and how to achieve it. We are running for God's Kingdom which is
described by Jesus as treasure hidden in a field. When a man finds it, in joy, he goes and
sells all he has and buys that field (Mt 13:44-45). This man knows what he has found: a treasure
more valuable than and incomparable with what he had before. He also knows what to do to own it: he has to
forsake all he has in order to receive the most valuable thing in life - salvation.
From Jesus' illustration, we must
not only rejoice what we have found, but joy itself assumes an indispensable
role in the course of securing what we have found. We are joyous and kindled with zeal towards
God and not lukewarm (Rev 3:16). Even
when others may misunderstand us, this joy sustains and keeps us in the Lord
Jesus from whom nothing can separate us (Mt 10:37).
But, be sober and watchful! Satan, our opponent, constantly opposes and
distracts us from our main focus in life: joy in the Lord. He can instill evil
thoughts in you: why not enjoy carnal things which the flesh and world can
offer you? Why not enjoy the things that
please your eyes? Why not feel really
good about yourself, knowing you are better than others? Satan constantly distracts us with deceitful
messages, trying to ensnare us with instructions contrary to those of our
Master. He is like a fierce, starving lion (1 Pet 5:8). Whether you are young
or old, he deploys crooked ways and means you have not dreamed of, to entice
you. Our closest ones may be his
instruments to harm and draw us away from God's promise, the treasure we have
found in a field. He persistently
introduces stumbling blocks in our path to the HeavenlyKingdom. He may use somebody to make us think that
there is something better than God's Kingdom.
Once we have yielded to Satan's temptations, there remains nothing but
immense guilt within us and a
feeling of never being able to inherit the Kingdom of God.
For this reason, we must focus upon Jesus and
Jesus alone. We must stay with Jesus
Christ and listen only to Him, and not the one who longs to ensnare us into
bondage. Therefore, the first stage of aiming straight
for the Heavenly Goal is to know what we desire - eternal life.
The second stage in our spiritual
journey is to receive spiritual training in order to attain to our desired goal
- God's Kingdom. To reach our
destination, we need spiritual manna, God's Word, which enables us to grow (1
Pet 2:2) during our training. His word
is pure and simple and yet many do not believe and consequently live in a
spiritual famine (Amos 8:11). If we
crave for the things of the world, we will suffer the same as the Israelites
who sought after meat (Num 11:33) and perished in the wilderness. Training
involves asking the Lord to "lead us not into temptation but deliver us
from evil". The roaring lion, the
devil, constantly distracts us from our spiritual training which includes daily
Bible reading and in-depth prayers to God.
Like a wolf in sheep's skin or a crafty business person who tricks his
customers with crooked means, Satan devises all sort
of schemes to tempt us all without our knowledge.
Temptation comes in various
forms. It can take such trivial forms as
the craving for sweet and fatty food to deadly indulgences such as alcoholism
and drug addiction. In today's
commercial world there are many things we do not need. If we crave for things other than what we
need, this is lust of the flesh - a deadly weapon of the devil.
In the course of training, we need
to learn what is truly best for us, not succumbing to people's words but
submitting to God's will. This entails being spiritually able to all
distinguish good from evil (Heb 5:14). It means putting God's words into practice,
manifesting these in our daily living, and shining forth for the Lord wherever
we are. Let us take Eve as a warning
example, who was deceived by the devil's devices (2 Cor
11:3) and may we never violate God's words and
commandments because of our carnal desires.
The Bible declares that the love
of money is the root of all evils (1 Tim 6:10).
This must not be overlooked in the course of spiritual training. We need to look constantly upon Jesus as our
only source of reliance, and not on building worldly wealth, as the Bible warns,"Do not toil to acquire wealth; be wise enough
to desist. When your eyes light upon it,
it is gone; for suddenly it takes to itself wings, flying like an eagle toward
heaven" (Pro 23:4-5).
God knows our daily needs. He will never leave
us stranded and hungry, the author of Hebrews warns and enlightens us,
"Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you
have; for He has said, 'I will never fail you nor forsake you... (Heb
13:5). Why should we wander away from
the faith and pierce our hearts with many pangs because of our craving for
money? (1 Tim 6:10). Wealth also chokes
God's Word and obstructs our spiritual growth (Mt 13:22) during our training
for the attainment of the heavenly crown.
Paul teaches us to be content if we have food and clothing (1 Tim
6:8). If the Lord has blessed us with
more than we need, it is so that we can share with those who are in need and
ensure the Lord's house is abundant (Hag 1:2-9).
Aiming straight for the Heavenly
Goal means we must be crystal clear of what we desire in life - eternal
life. We must undergo vigorous spiritual
training in order to reach our goal. Let us look carefully, then, at how we
walk as during our training, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of
our time, because the days are evil (Eph 5:16).