As I prepare to teach young people in a “Theology Matters” weekend at Dayspring Bible Camp in Ironton, Mo (here‘s their website), I will also get to share a message with the supporters of the camp. These who have faithfully served the camp have chosen the theme “Continue the Race.” So we want to look at the running metaphor as it is used by Scripture as I work on a message for these believers.
In an age when many give up and drop out of the race, the Word of God encourages us to persevere, to endure, to continue in the work God has appointed to us. One book that has followed the running imagery in the Scriptures is Schreiner and Caneday’s The Race Set Before Us.
These men follow the idea of a RACE and see that imagery used in five places in the Word of God. Let’s look at the first challenge which is —
I. God Calls Us into This Race (Phil. 3:14).
There the Apostle Paul writes, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” The expression “I press on toward the goal” is κατὰ σκοπὸν διώκω. This word skopos is used only once in the New Testament (here) and it has the idea of: “a watcher; also, a distant object on which the eye is kept fixed; a mark, goal.*
We sometimes use the expression “eyes on the prize”! The verb diōkō has the idea of “to pursue, persecute, to systematically oppress and harass a person or group; to press on, to put in rapid motion; to pursue; to follow, pursue the direction of, Lk. 17:23; to follow eagerly, endeavor earnestly to acquire, Rom. 9:30, 31; 12:13; to press forwards, Phil. 3:12, 14; to pursue with malignity, persecute, Mt. 5:10, 11, 12, 44. The Apostle Paul uses this word diōkō when he says in Acts 26 about his pursuit of Christians: “And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme; and since I was so vehemently angry at them, I pursued them even to foreign cities.”
We are to pursue (almost to the point of “malignity”) the goal to which God has called us! We’ve been invited into the family of God and called to engage ourselves fully in this race! We’ve been called heavenward! We will live eternally in the New Heavens and Earth, not on this broken, sin-cursed planet. We are not to despise this world (see the excellent book by Mike Witmer entitled Becoming Worldly Saints), but have been called to that other place — heaven!
Do you feel called this morning? You have a mission to complete in this world before you head to the next. Pursue that prize with malignity (intensity)! (to be continued)