How Are You Running?
"Bonds and afflictions await me." As Paul writes these words, he is pushing forward, headlong into suffering. He understands the personal cost involved, but his life holds no value for him. Finishing the course, running well to the end, is his primary focus and goal.
Paul ran the course of the eternal. His story line was not bound up in this temporal preliminary event on earth, but he was already bound to his future in the story line of "forever." Living with an eternal perspective is what gave him the freedom to live boldly, unashamed of the message, holding nothing back, but living all out for the gospel of the grace of God.
But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24).
Paul lived to hear the words of his Master, "Well done, good and faithful slave" as he crossed the finish line. He ran to win. He did all for the sake of the gospel. Unwilling to shrink back when faced with physical affliction, he subjected his body to slavery, in service to the King (1 Corinthians 9:23–27).
His commission as a slave of Christ was to spread the gospel and train believers in order to one day present to Christ every man in a "complete" or spiritually mature condition. His trustworthiness was proven by his sacrificial life. He embraced the afflictions of Christ, which is still a necessary ingredient for giving evidence to the gospel's reality (Colossians 1:24, 28–29).
In Paul's final letter before his martyrdom, he makes reference to the course he has run. His last words contain the transition from the race's finality to the future's reward:
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing (2 Timothy 4:6–8).
Today consider your approach to life. Is your perspective bound to the eternal? Do you long for Christ's appearing? Is your heart tied to the temporary or are you living for the forever?
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