One year, a man who was making New Year's resolutions said, "I will not get upset when Sam and Charlie make jokes about my baldness." The next year, he said, "I won't get annoyed when Charlie and Sam kid me about my hairpiece." A year later, he said, "I will not lose my temper when Charlie and Sam laugh at me for wearing a girdle." The following year, it was, "I will not speak anymore to Charlie and Sam."
We adjust our resolutions with the passing of time, don't we? But instead of more resolutions, we need a spiritual solution, and it is found in the pages of Scripture. In Philippians 3, the apostle Paul identified what really matters in life. He helps us to understand what our priorities ought to be:
But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ... (verses 7-8 NKJV).
Next, he shared what he really wanted in life: "Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (verses 13-14 NKJV).
On more than one occasion, Paul compared the Christian life to running a race. But we need to realize that it is not a 100-meter sprint; it is a long-distance run. Consequently, there are some principles we need to remember as we run this race.
We must pace ourselves. It is not all that significant if you hold first place for nine out of 10 laps. What matters is the tenth lap. That is why David said, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me" (Psalm 51:10 NKJV). "Steadfast" could be translated "consistent." In other words, David was saying, "Give me consistency. Help me to stay with this." We need to learn to pace ourselves.
We must play by the rules, or we will be disqualified. In an athletic event, you have to play by the rules. You can't make up your own. In this race, we have a rulebook called the Bible. If we are going to run, then we need to play by God's rules that He has given to us in Scripture.
We must get rid of any extra weight or sin that would slow us down. We need to run light. Periodically, we need to take stock of our lives as Christians and ask ourselves the question, "Is this a wing or a weight? Is this speeding me on my way spiritually or slowing me down?"
We must run with the right motive. Paul said, "I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.... " If you are a Christian because you want to impress someone, then you are not going to make it in this race. You must run this race for the Lord himself. It is what will give you the strength to keep going when things get hard — and they will.
Don't look back. Paul said, "Forgetting those things which are behind...." If you look over your shoulder to see what other runners are doing, then you can break your stride and ultimately lose the race. Forget the things that are behind.
Press on, even when it gets hard. Paul said, "I press toward the goal...." The word "press" comes from the Greek word agonize, which points to strong exertion. There are times in our lives as Christians when it gets hard. But it is then that we learn what it means to walk by faith and not by feeling.
Are you running the race? Have you tripped up recently? Look up and remember that it is Jesus whom you are running for. He loved you so much that He went to the cross, shed His blood, died there, and rose again from the dead. Because He did that for you, you can live for Him today. And He will give you the strength to do it.