I am a lifelong baseball fan. My family and I have been to all 30 major league baseball stadiums in the U.S. and Canada, and I have been involved in baseball—either as a player or a coach—since I was 6 years old. For those who are not baseball fans, I will share with you one of the key theological truths we can learn from this game: It is not how you start, but how you finish!
A professional baseball season consists of 162 games. That means that there are more baseball games in a season than in any other professional sport in the U.S. or Canada. A long season provides many opportunities to start fresh, regroup, and have new success. However, a long season also allows opportunities for teams that start strong to lose sight of their goals, become complacent, and experience defeat.
Baseball was not around during New Testament times. However, in the Greco-Roman culture, there were long foot races (similar to marathons) that, like long baseball seasons, required consistency, focus, and endurance.
Paul compares the Christian life to such a race, not in the sense of competition between Christians, but in terms of the need for endurance and consistency in order to spend our lives walking in the ways of Jesus.
Paul writes, “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” (I Corinthians 9:23-25, NIV).
This race that we run is not the result of human talent or even our own initiative. Rather, we are invited into running this race—living this new, Christ-centered life—by God Himself. Furthermore, God equips us and prepares us to run the race, to live in a manner that is pleasing to Him and bears witness to His ways. We often call this way of living (of “running the race”) the “way of holiness.”
Living the “way of holiness” is not something we do in order to impress God. Instead, it is a gift from God—a relationship God provides by His Spirit through the work of Jesus Christ—so that we may run with perseverance and victory.
Our response to His leadership makes all the difference. It is not our one-time response that gives us victory in the race. It is, instead, our ongoing focus upon the person and work of Jesus Christ as we are led by His Spirit to the finish line, where, like Paul, we can proclaim: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (II Timothy 4:7, NIV).
Prayer for the Week:
Give us, O Lord, a steadfast heart, which no unworthy affection may drag downwards; give us an unconquered heart, which no tribulation can wear out; give us an upright heart, which no unworthy purpose may tempt aside. Bestow upon us also, O Lord our God, understanding to know you, diligence to seek you, wisdom to find you, and a faithfulness that may finally embrace you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. —Thomas Aquinas
Charles W. Christian is managing editor of Holiness Today.
Written for Coffee Break with Holiness Today.