Most of us, at one time or the other, either come to the conclusion ourselves, or get told by our doctor or spouse, that we need to exercise more. And this time of year, after eating what we just ate for the last month, most of us are probably thinking that exercise would be good.
Our culture is now more of a sit-down to work than of a physical labor culture. Because of this and other reasons, like junk foods and passive activities like television, we have tended to become more and more complacent about the fitness of our body.
The same is true spiritually. We need spiritual exercise to stay in shape, but we tend to grow complacent, and avoid doing what would be good for us. We need a doctor to tell us to get back to it.
Let’s let the apostle Paul be the one to give us the encouragement to exercise—spiritually.
12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12–14)
The picture that the apostle Paul paints in these verses is one of a race.
Paul uses the image again in Acts 20:24, 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Galatians 5:7, 2 Timothy 2:5, 4:6-8. The race picture is also appears in Hebrew 12:1. So it’s a picture that we need to pay attention to—every Christian is in a spiritual race.
I can’t say that I am or was ever a runner, but the last time I ran in a competition, people clapped and cheered for me. I was seven or eight, running at a school track meet in Brockway. I fell down before I got to the finish line and crawled the rest of the way there—that’s why they clapped and cheered—that I had at least finished the race!
The apostle Paul seems to have been addicted to sports, and running in particular. We don’t know if he had ever ran in competition, but at the very least he knew enough about racing to know what he was talking about when he compared the Christian life to a grueling race.
Paul gives us, through his own personal testimony, three requirements to run the Christian race well.