Concerning the two netball events, the skill levels of all finalists were arguably equal as the final score separated the teams by just one point. Given another minute, the scores could have been a draw or the win could have swung the other way. The champions were determined by a single point.
As for the cricket final, the final scores made by both teams were tied both at the end of the normal 50 over chase by England, and at the end of the super over. From my perspective they are both world champions! However, by the world’s standard there can be only one winner. A whole team could either be winners or losers, celebrating or broken.
In contrast, there is a “race” (a championship) that involves every man, woman and child, that demands all involved commit with life-long dedication and focus – the spiritual race.
One cannot count himself/herself out just because he/she does not “feel” spiritual, for every human being has a nature that is made up of three dimensions, the physical, mental and spiritual. These parts are interrelated and interdependent.
Championship events are only for the elite athletes of each participating country, however, the spiritual race involves all living human beings irrespective of your religion and whether or not you believe in God.
That all are involved in this race is evident from the following text, “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1); one of many texts from the Word of God that broaches the subject.
This is a race to perfection of nature, to immortality, to eternity—a life without end.
Christians have an advantage over non-Christians in the sense that they are aware of this race, and have the Holy Scriptures to guide them to “compete” effectively and successfully.
However, it is a God-given responsibility for every Christian to lead others to a knowledge of this race.
Unlike the world’s championship tournaments that result in only one winner, in this spiritual tournament, which has eternal consequences, all participants can be winners or champions together.
But, you ask, how then do we become winners? Firstly, we must recognise the depravity of fallen human nature, which disqualifies all human effort to reach the mark of original human perfection, which sin took away. The plan to restore in mankind this perfection is all God’s doing, therefore, we run this race on His terms not ours.
Secondly, we do not compete against each other in this race. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).
The devil and all his angels are the ones desperately seeking to lure us away from God and His gift of salvation. We are called to encourage one another.
Thirdly, Paul uses a war motif to drive home a heartwarming point. “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:15).
The race/war has already been won by Jesus on our behalf. Accepting Jesus as Saviour means accepting His power (the Holy Spirit) in us, thereby nullifying the power of the devil over us. However, this does not mean that the devil is prevented from tempting us. He still comes around seeking our destruction – the ultimate choice to succumb or not to succumb to his temptations is ours.
Fourthly, the prize is certain and we can receive the promise of it now, however the reality occurs when Jesus comes again. “Now there is in store 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 longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8).
Paul died in the certainty of receiving eternal life when Jesus comes again. He understood death to be a “retirement” from human existence to the grave, and that he would rise again, just as his Lord did, at the Second Coming; we too can have the same assurance when death comes our way.
Mark this crucial truth friends, there is no spiritual journeying to heaven at death. Jesus never did – all who die don’t either!
The Bible gives us some practical counsels to follow while in the race:
1. Forget those things which are behind and press towards the mark (Philippians 3:13). When we accept Jesus as our Savior, the Holy Spirit “puts to death” (Romans 8:13) evil desires that once controlled us. We must not allow those things to distract us anymore, keep them where they belong – firmly behind us.
2. Keep our eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2), “and the things of earth will grow strangely dim.”
3. Run the race, “fight the good fight,” and finish well (2 Timothy 4:7).
As we have seen, the race marked out for us has been won already by Jesus. He did the hard yards. He fought on our behalf. He achieved this for all human beings.
We must claim His victory as ours.
Finally, we must hold on to our faith with our eyes glued on Jesus daily, even in times of trouble when we feel that He is so far away. The truth is, He is never too far away but resides in us through the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19), and that’s why we can all be winners and champions together.