“…I have finished THE RACE…” – Apostle Paul
(2 Tim 4:7)
Hey, its Olympics time!!! This Mega quadrennial sporting event which ought to have been staged in 2020 was postponed because of the
raging Pandemic last year. However, with the marginal improvement in the global health scenario, finally it is going to be conducted now,
albeit with all precautions which need to be taken to eliminate chances of any infection spreading amongst the participants. As the Olympic
flame signalling the beginning 29th edition of Modern Olympics is due to be lit on July 23rd, 2021, Yours Truly in the manner of His Master
drawing lessons from the contemporary events
is also inspired to glean and present some spiritual lessons revolving around Olympics!!!
one which is guaranteed to stir one’s soul is the Marathon race. Period.
There are races and then there is Marathon in a pedestal of its own. There is no other race which places
so much demand on a runner’s stamina and perseverance as this 26 miler does. The race that Apostle Paul
is alluding to here in his dying declaration (very soon, he would die a martyr for Christ, beheaded by half-insane
Roman Emperor Nero) is not your typical 100 metres sprint (I agree, it has its own appeal) but the marathon race of
his spiritual life. Nine times out of ten, Christian life is more of a marathon than a Sprint. One is bound to
come across more of Paul like testimonies, rather than accounts resembling that of repentant thief on a cross
(his road to Paradise was a bit like a Bolt’s sprint race). Let’s hit the loop line and peep into the history
of Marathon race…
The modern Marathon commemorates the 25 km run of the soldier Pheidippides from a battlefield at the site of the town of
Marathon, Greece, to Athens in 490 B.C. bringing news of a Greek victory over the Persians. Legend has it that Pheidippides
delivered the momentous message "Niki!" ("victory"), then collapsed and died, thereby setting a precedent for dramatic
conclusions to the marathon.
In 1908 the race's length was extended from about 25 miles to 26.2 miles (42km) so that it finished in front of the Royal Box.
This distance is still used today. Very much in line with the Biblical principle that the “BEST IS RESERVED FOR THE LAST”
the Men’s Marathon race (“BEST” athletic event) is invariably held on the last day of every Olympics games.
Onto main track again…
So what are the lessons we can glean from Apostle Paul’s life in the backdrop of a Marathon race…by the way how about weaving a
sermon around the acronym RACE itself for easier understanding…using mostly the Pauline writings found in the Blessed Scripture…
Saul of Tarsus blinded by the Heavenly Light on the Road to Damascus
While the life-changing experience of every Born-again Christian may not be as melodramatic as that of Apostle Saul
(then Saul of Tarsus –
no Christian can begin THE RACE OF HIS LIFE (life in tow with the Almighty) without REPENTANCE which is all about
setting right the relationship with the Creator. This relationship was impaired by the Fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden
The crafty Enemy of God –the Satan- and our souls did them (our first parents) in. Satan incidentally was one of
the archangels in Heaven, before “the evil desire to sit in God’s throne entered him, resulting in his abysmal fall”
All of us are sinners by birth enslaved to Satan proclaims the Bible
The Wise would concur. Think it through…after we are born and are growing…does anyone (our parents or our School teachers)
teach us how to lie, how to become jealous etc…does it not come ALL (these sinful traits) VERY NATURALLY to us.
Mama tells a kid not to eat cookies, now no prizes for guessing that soon she would hear a sound of someone opening
the box of cookies in a kitchen. That’s how the cookie has crumbled for mankind, as it were. Talk of Genetics and transmission
of characteristic from a parent to a child…no wonder the Saviour launched His Earthly preaching ministry with these
immortal words “REPENT for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”
Ah, how’s that for prioritizing …putting horse before the cart…
I would never forget my childhood and early teenage age, which I spent wandering aimlessly in life, seeking pleasure from several
Worldly enjoyments but having found no real, lasting joy I desperately went to Church one day (October 16th, 1983)
in deep depression. There I heard a sermon on “Born-again experience”
and invited Jesus into my life. In retrospect, it seems that the Saviour was waiting there (St Georges Church, Abids,
Hyderabad) with open arms…
The point to be noted here is EVERYONE ONE OF US IS A SINNER (including those with no police record/good social standing)
NEEDING A SAVIOUR. Mind you, the good Lord was addressing a respectable religious Jewish Leader of his times namely
Nicodemus when he spoke these words
“Unless you are born-again, you CANNOT see the Kingdom of God” -
Hey, Saul of Tarsus, as religious a Jew as anyone could find also needed the Saviour.
He makes no qualms accepting this fact… even going to the extent of treating his religious antecedents before accepting the Saviour as GARBAGE
Want me to tell you, how I prayed on that day of 16th October 1983? Well….it was on these lines…. “Lord Jesus,
I confess I am a sinner by birth. I believe you shed your blood and died on the Cross for my sins as per the Scriptures and rose again
from the dead as per the Scriptures. Please pardon all the sins, I have committed so far in my life. Please come into my life, RIGHT NOW. Amen”.
Dear Reader, if you have already accepted the Saviour, Praise God, otherwise why not make Your’s truly’s prayer, yours too…RIGHT NOW!
It is at this point that the Starter’s gun is heard in the spiritual marathon race called the Christian life. If you have made this prayer and
if you are experiencing the flooding of heavenly peace and joy in your soul, you are indeed on the “right track”. Strengthen your new-found life and
faith further by attending a local Church. If you have any doubts at this juncture, please feel free to call me at 9849009104.
Let’s continue with the Paul saga in
"Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, 'Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus,
who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.'
Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized,
and after taking some food, he regained his strength."-
Every Christian at the point of his regeneration becomes a Temple of God
(1 Cor 3:16),
with the Spirit of God indwelling him
for without which, it would be impossible for him to say NO to the attractions of the flesh,
World or Satan (from whose domain, he has been saved). Ditto with Saul, who now became Paul…
The Saviour has promised ABUNDANT LIFE
to all those who accept Him. What can be more abundant, then enjoying the fruit of the Holy Spirit-
THE COMFORTER- right here on Earth
Contrasted with “fruit of the Satan”, which everyone “suffers from” before regeneration
“…sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy,
outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and
other sins like these….”
imagine and experience for yourselves how fulfilling the fruit of the Spirit is “…love, joy, peace,
forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control...”
Talk of having a foretaste of Heaven right here on Earth!!! No wonder, a Christian after “tasting Christ”
goes to any extent to sustain that relationship which opened the “fountains of heavenly joy” in him in the first place. Yes,
even if it means dying as a martyr, if the situation so demands. In the midst of all suffering, note
the Pauline declaration emanating from the “Rivers of Joy” flowing in his heart…
"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned;
struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life
of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’
sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life
is at work in you.
It is written: 'I believed; therefore I have spoken.' Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also
believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will
also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. All this is for your benefit, so that the
grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day."-
2 Cor 4:7-16
“No I cannot live for a moment, in the absence of the comforting presence of my Lord. It would be like living on hell”…
so goes not only my refrain but that of countless born-again Christians in the last two thousand years. How amazing
is this Christian race, where the “juiced up” runner (with the Coach –the Holy Spirit- empowering him from inside
Heb 13:9 )
can NEVER LOSE!!!
After enjoying the Fruit of the Spirit, with passage of time with continual Spirit empowered obedience (involving overcoming temptations of the lust of the flesh,
eyes and pride of life-
1 John 4:4)
come the gifts of the Holy Spirit in a Christian’s life
(2 Tim 2:21).
to do Ministry for the glory of God. While for witnessing about the radical transformation experienced at the point of regeneration,
gifts may not be required but for 5 fold Ministry of the Church (Apostolic, Evangelical, Prophetic, Pastoral and Teaching-
the Lord would bestow a Christian with different gifts. The type of gift and the measure of it would vary from person to person
(1 Cor 12),
depending on the kind of Ministry the Lord has planned for him. The measure of the Spirit a Christian receives at the point of his regeneration and one
at the beginning of his service unto the Lord are different. It would not be plain joy but a joyous experience nevertheless even as the FIRE passes through him.
I would never forget the experience of FIRE settling on me one, rainy July evening in 1989 (after six years of my walking with the Lord),
as I began preaching my FIRST sermon in a youth service in St Georges Church, Abids, Hyderabad. Truth to tell, afterwards for a few hours,
I was afraid even to go to the washroom…
Without the inner equipping it would not be possible to be an effective “Lord’s spokesman”. Imagine, within 24 hours of being born again Yours
Truly preaching on Oct 17th, 1983 in the Youth Service of St Georges Church…(I repeat the day after being Born again). NO WAY…HEY, BABY NEEDS TO GROW,
LEARN TO WALK BEFORE RUNNING…a Christian Minister needs to understand the Character of God besides nuances and intricacies of Christian life first properly
before speaking about them with conviction and authority (to other Christians) empowered by the Spirit of the Lord from within. So what about Apostle Paul,
who was well-grounded in OT Scriptures trained as he was by a seasoned Rabbi Gamaliel but not familiar with the teachings of New Testament dispensation
propounded by Saviour Christ? Did the Ministry responsibility come his way immediately after his conversion? Well, let the Scripture answer….
Immediately after my calling—without consulting anyone around me and without going up to Jerusalem to confer with those who were apostles long before
I was—I got away to Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus, but it was three years before I went up to Jerusalem….-
Gal 1:16-20 (The Message)
Hey…you need to be coached by the Divine Coach before you are fielded in the “Race” of serving the Lord in the capacity of either an Apostle, Evangelist,
Prophet, Teacher or a Pastor (the 5-fold Ministry of the Church-
C-CONFORMED TO THE IMAGE OF CHRIST
“…And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.”-
2 Cor 3:18
After being anointed by the Lord’s Spirit and made fit for Ministry. Is the Christian race (one of the most important aspects of it is becoming Christ-like)
over? No…not at all!!! With consistent Cross-bearing (Ah, yet another C) which is all about saying YES to all God-honoring acts (a process which begins
from day one of Christian life-even if it means silently bearing insults and persecutions like Christ did-
1 Peter 2:18-23)
and NO to all selfish desires
(including the temptation to get even when being insulted, I repeat with the indwelling Spirit empowerment) a Christian slowly but steadily becomes conformed
to the image of Christ
With Ministry responsibility coming the way of a Christian, the persecutions (weight of the Cross) are bound to increase (as Satan’s Kingdom of darkness is
being invaded, the villain would hit back) which would keep a Christian not only more humbly dependent on the Lord (pride may invade if there is overwhelming
success in Ministry resulting in popularity-
2 Cor 12:7-10)
but also expedite the process of one becoming Christ-like. Mind you, even if persecutions increase for a Christian, there is always Divine strength of the
indwelling Holy Spirit inside him/her manifested in the form of 24*7 inner spiritual, heavenly joy to sustain him/her
1 Peter 1:7-8.
Here, I would like to proclaim the COMPLETE purpose of the Final Adam’s (Read Jesus-
1 Cor 15:45)
First Coming. Figuratively put, if “searching and saving the Lost” is step one of His 2-step Grand design,
then step two is all about “re-forming” in us the pristine, God-like image the First Adam created with the same
(Genesis 1:27) had lost due to the FALL. If by His stripes we are healed
(Isaiah 53:5), does it not follow that by His marred image/disfigurement that Crucifixion brought upon him
(Isaiah 52:14), He set the process rolling of restoring the original God-like image in us?
Long before Apostle Paul penned his dying declaration
(2 Tim 4:7)
on completing the course, a look at his approach to the “Christian race of life” (with emphasis on becoming Christ-like despite being already used
mightily in God’s Ministry) would seem to be the very definition of the Olympics motto…Citius, Altius, Fortius… Faster, Higher and Stronger…here goes…
"I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection.
But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters,
I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,
I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus,
is calling us "-
Hmmm…didn’t somebody say Christian life is also like riding a bicycle…if you do not keep pedaling forward,
you are bound to fall down.
By the way, the words enshrined in the Olympics motto were penned not by the founding Father of the Modern
Olympic movement namely Baron de Coubertin but by a Pastor friend of his…thanks Pastor Henri Martin Didon
(his picture is given below). As a Pastor myself, am I not proud of this fact!!!
Father Henri Martin Didon
Oh yes Marathon calls for a long haul. If there is one virtue in Christ which stands tall, it is
His infinite patience borne out of His infinite love. Truth be told, if one is called Christ-like, it simply means that
He is as patient and long-suffering as Christ, which takes us to yet another Pauline personal account under the next and concluding sub-heading
"Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned.
Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys.
I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles.
I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers
but are not I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone
without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm."-
2 Cor 11:24-27
Add to this the “thorn in his flesh” which refused to go away
(2 Cor 12:1-10)
and the picture emerges of a marathon runner battling exhaustion chugging along one weary mile after the other,
with the flesh crying halt but the spirit spurring on.
The Master did not sugar-coat the demands of walking in the straight and the narrow
nor did Paul
Yes Christian life (leave alone Ministry) is not only tough but impossible if you try to go it alone. I too would like to
echo the same sentiments reminding everyone of the Scripture portion, which best sums up the Christian life
‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord.
But justifiably to Apostle Paul should belong the last word
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, BUT CHRIST LIVES IN ME. The life I live in the body,
I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”-
Coming to Heavenly imperishable Olympic medals… who then would begrudge Apostle Paul the Imperishable Crown
(I Cor 9:24-27)
for disciplined Christian living , the Crown of rejoicing
(1 Thess 2:19-20)
for stupendous evangelism , the Crown of Glory for Pastoral work (yes, he was a Pastor at Ephesus for three years
preaching the full counsel of God-
I Peter 5:4/
Acts 20:27/31), the Crown of righteousness
(2 Tim 4:8)
for constant anticipation of Church rapture and the Crown of Life
(Rev 2:10) for eventual martyrdom .
The moot point now is, with stalwarts like him watching us from the Heavenly stands
how are we running our race? Carry on Christian…
Yours in His service,