“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.” -1 Corinthians 9:24-26
One thing every great athlete, performer or accomplished person has in common is the ability to stay laser-focused. They can block out the distractions all around them. They have the will-power to say no, not only to what would be bad but even the good that might not be what is best. They exercise self-control and remain disciplined. There is much that we as Christians can learn from this reality and these kinds of people or athletes in regard to the Christian life. It is a picture of what our lives often do not look like but should look like as followers of Jesus.
One of the most effective tactic’s of the evil one is distraction. My purpose in this blog is not to convince of or defend the existence of Satan, but to highlight the fact that he is the master of distraction. He has many tactics, such as deception, temptation, intimidation and persecution but distraction might be one of the most overlooked and under-estimated weapons of his. Usually we aren’t even aware of his distractions, because in many cases they come in the form of that which may be good or permissible, but not part of God’s will for our lives or truly beneficial in light of eternity.
For example, how many hours do we waste watching TV, scrolling through Facebook or being caught up in sports? There is nothing wrong with these things in and of themselves, and in moderation, but they can easily pull us away from spending time with God or serving God. Even family can become a distraction (and an idol) if we are not careful. This was true even for Jesus. Three of the Gospel accounts (Matthew 12:47-49, Mark 3:32-34, Luke 8:20-22) speak of a situation where Jesus’ family comes looking for him, in an attempt to pull him away from ministering (thinking he had gone a little too far) and he basically ignored them, recognizing in that situation it was a distraction. He remained focused on the will of God not the will of even his own family.
It is up to each of us to discern distractions in our lives in each season of life. We all have a race to run that has been marked out for us by God. I recently recorded a little message about this on my podcast site (You can listen to it here: Keeping Focus). A race requires focus. And this race is not a sprint, but a marathon. We can’t simply have “spurts of passion” for God. We need to stay on the track he wants us to be on, not being distracted by other paths that might seem easier, more attractive or are of our own choosing, but are dead-ends.
And while this race at times may seem long, in light of eternity it is very short. How we live our lives now will affect our eternity forever. As the passage at the beginning of this blog article reminds us, we are running for a prize. This race is not in vain and there is reward at the end of it to be claimed. I want to hear Jesus say to me “Well done, thou Good and faithful servant.”
But we must persevere. We must stay focused. We must remain faithful and disciplined. We must not receive God’s grace in vain, but recognize we have been saved to serve and to actually do the good works which God has already prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). We must not merely “start” the race marked out for us, but finish the race. This is what brings glory to God as Jesus modeled for us: I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do (John 17:4). And it is by realizing we have not only examples in Scripture and in our own lives of those who have run well their race, but we have THE example Himself in the person of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. -Hebrews 12:1-3