The race that is set before us

Posted in: 2016
By Tom L. Ballinger
Mar 7, 2016 - 8:39:28 AM

February 25, 2016
Issue # 405
The Church over which Christ Jesus is the Head has been Divinely Called and Chosen to become the officials of the Pre-Millennial Government of the Lord Jesus Christ. Before He begins to “judge the quick (the living) and the dead” (2 Tim. 4:1), He will summon  us, the members of His Government, to meet with Him around His Heavenly Throne. We will be made to Appear with Him in Glory (Col. 3:4), either by means of resurrection or change (Phil. 3:21).
But, between NOW and THEN, we are to be “earning our wings.” That was a World War II expression used by men who volunteered for the Army Air Force (early on, there was no separate command for the Air Force; it was part of the U.S. Army Command). Men who were in training to become pilots were said to be “earning their wings.”
The Apostle Paul likens our in-this-life training to that of running a race.  He, also, likens the figure to the “Calling of the Church of God” (Acts 2-28) to that of an athlete running in a race. Notice, if you will, the wording of 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 in “The Amplified New Testament:”
“(24) Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but [only] one receives the prize? So run [your race] that you may lay hold [of the prize] and make it yours. (25) Now every athlete who goes into training conducts himself temperately and restricts  himself in all things. They do it to win a wreath that will soon wither, but we [do it to receive a crown of eternal blessedness] that cannot wither. (26) Therefore I do not run uncertainly—without definite aim. I do not box as one beating the air and striking without an adversary. But [like a boxer] I buffet my body—and handle it roughly, discipline it by hardships—and subdue it for fear that …” if not, I should be rejected as a counterfeit (1 Cor. 9:24-27).
Paul insists that hardships go along with “earning our wings.” In the Calling of the Church of God, he mentions the running of a race in Galatians 2:2 and 5:7. The classic use of this figure of speech is found in Hebrews 12:1:
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run [the appointed course] of the race with patience that is set before us,” (This is my version of the verse. The NIV uses the words, “appointed course,” to modify the race).
There are different roads or paths to traverse on our way to Glory-Land. The Lord sets each one of us on the road He has chosen for us. Since I don’t know the names or terms, if there are such names, of roadways we will be called upon to traverse, I will pull names out of the air. Some of us may be called upon to run our race down the alleys, or the streets, or some will race down the boulevards, or the highways, or side roads. Or, some of us will race through the ghettos, run down the farm-to-market roads, or, how about even jungle paths?
A race is run on the course of a track, a grass field marked off for a race, or a map for a marathon.
Have you ever considered the “appointed course” the Apostle Paul was given? Just
consider one of the courses over which Paul had to “run.”
21 I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak. Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also.
22 Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I.
23 Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.
24 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.
25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;
26 In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;
27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.
28 Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.
29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?
30 If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities
(2 Corinthians 11:21-30).
There were times he was even maligned by being accused of being “out of God’s will.” Many of his Christian brothers labeled him as such because of all of his hardships and his   sufferings. God must be exerting temporal punishment on Paul. This was their mistaken reasoning. Paul was in the center of God’s will.
Searching out the race the Apostle to the Gentiles was called upon to run during “The Acts of the Apostles” was more roads than what I have listed. I will list another thing which was a malady that tormented Paul:
7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
After reading about Paul’s Road to Glory, I feel compelled to say there is NO EASY ROAD TO GLORY! I would say that the Apostle Paul’s Road to Glory was a Divine Obstacle Course.
I was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1954. I had sixteen weeks of Basic Training at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. One week of Basic Training was devoted to learning how to maneuver on the Obstacle Course.
Most all of the obstacles we encountered, we did so with our M-1 Rifle in hand and a full 90 pound pack on our backs. Our Company had to force-march to a mock village with the enemy hiding in the shacks. Daily, we did wind sprints with full combat gear on. One night, we were in a trench at the base of a mountain. Fifty-Caliber machine gun-fire, with live tracer bullets, were to be fired 36 inches above the ground as we crawled out of the trench. This seemed to be a mile long crawl, but it was only about 60 yards; we were told. We were warned, repeatedly, to not rise above a crawl. At full speed, we ran to walls and had to scramble over them with rifle in hand. Then, we climbed 12 foot walls. A soldier ran to the wall, turned and faced to the rear, and another soldier ran and jumped into the cupped hands of the waiting soldier who gave a lift upward with the climber’s boot in his hands. We were required to repel down cliffs. I don’t remember all of the obstacles the course had for us.
As I look back over my 51 years as a pilgrim, I have determined that the Lord Jesus Christ has not placed me on an Easy Street to Glory.  I would classify my Pilgrimage as one taking place on the Lord’s Obstacle Course. My mind seems to continually be reminded of Paul’s words of encouragement—“Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 2:3).
Paul was the Master-of-Enduring-Hardness, which is to say, endure suffering. Paul was extending an invitation to members of the Mystery Church in his day, and most assuredly, he speaks to us today saying; “Endure hardship along with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” I accepted Paul’s invitation years ago and volunteered in the Spirit to be, along with Paul, a “good soldier of Jesus Christ.”
I admit there are times this Soldier of Jesus Christ [meaning me] wavers a little, and he has to lean on the Word—Be strong in the Lord and the Power of His might—Endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry—Stand fast in the faith—unto me it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him but, also, to suffer for his sake—His Grace is sufficient—and last of all, I am to run with patience the race that is set before me looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of the faith.
The Lord’s Obstacle Course is no easy road to Glory. Some may be called upon to travel the easy street; others may be in route over a bumpy road; some will encounter the Lord’s Obstacle Course as did Paul.
An email from a friend said, “These are tough times for all of us in the various circumstances we find ourselves, but the Lord is able to give us strength and endurance to see things through. Life is not a sprint race but a marathon. My basic nature is to stop the race when the going gets really difficult. I must resist at all costs!”
This friend’s last sentence speaks volumes—I MUST RESIST AT ALL COSTS! This is a great attitude. There is always the option we have to “bail-out” and pull a Demas.
Paul’s close confidant, Demas, decided the obstacles on the Glory Road were too tough for him. Did he believe the lie about Paul being out of the will of God? Or, would he  rather travel the regal and imperial roads, and associate with those who had the respect of the world. Demas “sold-out..” He left Paul’s company and went back to Thessalonica, having loved this present world more than he loved the coming Pre-Millennial Day of Christ. Without a doubt, he will be sorry for having forsaken the Apostle Paul which was tantamount to turning away from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Some obstacles we encounter, as we “run with patience the race that is set before us,” may be things like; job fatigue, road blocks, uncalled-for detours, technical problems, false reports, closed doors, illness, family problems, and financial problems.  Personally, our financial ruin was devastating. At least $500,000 or more cash was stolen from our Burger King Business by a husband and wife team by means of embezzlement. My wife and I lost all of our assets in the Bankruptcy Court as did our two sons, Tod and Scot. Then, there are such things as accidents, surgeries, and all sorts of petty obstacles which create hindrances. Paul refers to all of them as our “Light Afflictions.”
Consider Paul’s admonition of comparing the obstacles which cause our suffering with the reward for STANDING  FAST!
2 Corinthians 4:16-18; “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
As the old hymn goes; our “Hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ Blood and Righteousness,” and we follow Titus 2:12-13 by living “soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.”
BEAR IN MIND, 2 Timothy 2:11-12:
“It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him: If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him: if we deny Him, He also will deny us [a reign]:”
Copyright© 2016 by Thomas L. Ballinger
Tom l. Ballinger
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