Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy. [Lev. 11:44]” -1 Peter 1:13-16
The best way to introduce this scripture from a letter written by the Apostle Peter is to introduce my good friend Patrick. I’ve been able to have a lot of great time getting to know him and I’ve learned (and witnessed) that he leads a fairly active lifestyle that dates pretty far back. In college, he competed on the varsity football team and ran for the varsity track team. Now I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced collegiate sports on the varsity level, but it’s nothing compared to any gym-class dodge ball or co-ed inter mural you’ve probably “competed” in. Varsity sports are on a level of competition that demands every ounce of talent, training and effort that a human body has to offer.
I remember Patrick telling me about his track meets. On the nights before races, he would be intentional about the way his body was positioned during sleep. He would lie on his back with his arms at his sides and his palms slightly twisted upward in what would be, “an anatomically neutral position.” This wasn’t because he was crazy; Patrick wanted to make sure that no part of his body would be unnaturally stressed during the hours he lied in bed.
He also would be very conscious of the energy he spent leading up to the race. Patrick would make sure that he didn’t do anything that would waste energy and minimized unnecessary actions and movements on race day.
Patrick wasn’t practicing these disciplines because they were superstitious traditions or merely because everyone else was doing it. He was doing everything in his power to prepare his body for the race, for action, with the hope of his hard work and discipline set on the prize at the finish line.
The Real Race
Just like Patrick prepares his body for a ten second sprint, Peter is calling us to prepare our minds for the lifetime marathon race that is life. This isn’t a new concept, as we see it used in the transcribed sermon of Paul in the 12th chapter of Hebrews:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
As a person accepts Christ as God and submits to them as the King and leader of their lives, the unfocused meandering through life is abolished. Direction and clarity of his or her purpose are revealed through scripture and the growing understanding of God and his nature. The once blindfolded scavenger hunt through life for the non-believer instantly becomes a focused race to the finish.
Peter warns us against distractions as we run our race. Distractions arise as anything that we put our hope in outside of the prize at the finish line. For the athlete, the ultimate goal is the gold medal and anything else short of that could not motivate athletes like Patrick to endure through training and to persevere with discipline.
The hope of a Christian must be in “the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” This is our gold medal, that at the end of the age when everything we’ve worked for and everything we’ve lived for gets burned away and we stand in front of Jesus and our record of debt from sin, which has been “set aside and nailed to the cross” (Colossians 2:14), and his Grace permits us to enter into eternity. Nevermind the white picket fence, the Escalade with 22′s, the well paying job (all of which there is nothing inherently wrong), because all of these are sideline distractions as we race down the track.
Run for the ultimate prize, the gold medal. Stay on the track; if your hope is in anything short of Jesus and the Grace that is in Him, you won’t be able to finish your race. It’s that simple.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive and perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 1 Corinthians 8:24-25
No one ever said that this race with Jesus that we’re are called into was easy. And if they did, they lied and I’m sorry. But I pray that you will learn, as I am learning, that the preparation for each disciplined step is worth it in obtaining the eternal prize.
One day, as we lie (or more hopefully, stand) in the powerless face of death, we can utter our last words which parallel those of Paul’s:
“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.”
Keep running, hard.