“An athlete is not crowned unless
he competes according to the rules.”
2 Timothy 2:5
John was excited about field day at his school. The race was all he and his two best friends could talk about. He was determined to win. A thunder of happy kids stood around the field. Every child’s ambition was the proverbial Blue Ribbon.
Josh was a taller and towered over John. He was favored to win. Jake was shorter than both boys. The pistol fired. As his Dad I wanted John to win. I stood at the finish tape screaming, “Come on John!”
He was running as fast as his eight-year-old legs would go. He crossed the finish line in second place and I hugged his neck. He was so happy! “Did you see that Dad? Me and Josh and Jake were the top three winners!” He didn’t care about being first–only that he had finished the race. He stood in line to receive his red ribbon with a smile of grandeur and the three of them poked each other in fun. I was so proud.
On the way home he talked about the race. “I have figured it out, Dad.”
“What?” I asked.
“Josh is taller with longer legs. I am in the middle with middle legs. Jake has short legs. So, that means that who ever has the shortest legs will always win because they don’t have to step as far while they are running.”
What a great theory from a child. He finished with the prize he believed he deserved for his effort.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
Henceforth 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 4:7-8
So now I ask you, as a child of God, are you even in the race anymore? Peter was. He drew closer to Him as he walked three years with Jesus. He left his boat when he was called. Jesus asked Peter who He was. Peter replied, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Peter was with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration; he heard the voice of God. Jesus called him the Rock upon which He would build His church. Peter knew Jesus. He desired to know Him more and draw close to Him.
Why then do we later see Peter following Jesus at a distance (MT. 26:58)? There had been a gradual, subtle increase in his pride and self-confidence (26:33). He became reckless (vs. 40). He began to act without thinking (Luke 22:51). Peter was ready to go to prison and to die for Christ, or so he said (Luke 22:33).
Jesus was arrested. Peter followed at a distance. He denied Christ, three times. The cock crowed. Peter wept bitterly (Mt 26:54-62).
Does this sound familiar, maybe in your own life? Were you once so close to Jesus you were inseparable? Did you become over-confident? Did you deny Christ? Did someone say something about you and your left? Do you feel horrible at what you have done with Jesus? Do you feel like you cannot be forgiven? Are you now following Him at a distance? Have you done like Peter and just gone fishing?
Though Peter denied Christ he sought forgiveness and drew nigh to the Lord. He got right back in the race. He took his stand with the eleven and began to preach the Gospel. Three thousand souls were added to the Church. He healed the sick and lame. He was determined to put the past behind him and run the race.
He had made a mistake. He did not give up on what he knew and loved. Just as he had told Jesus he would do, he went to prison and eventually died for Him. The point is this. You cannot follow from a distance while waiting to see the outcome, and expect to win the race God has given you.
You need to get back in the race today. Be determined. He is waiting to forgive you and to bless you in your life and ministry. He knows the plans He has for you.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” ‘declares the Lord,’ “plans to prosper
And not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”