January 19, 2018

The Race That Is Set Before Us

Bob Condict

Not one among us is permitted to chart out his own race. But each one of us must “run with patience the race that is set before us.” In our day of highly competitive athletics each runner wants to make sure that the race he must run is the same as that of the other runners around him. But the believer is to be focusing on Jesus, the One who has charted our course and has run His race successfully.

This issue of FrontLine [March/April 2008] highlights the various races that our Lord has charted for Fundamental brethren around the world. For each of us the race must entail persecution. Peter writes for us, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you.” (1 Peter 4:12ff..) The intention of this focus is not for believers to compare or contrast their forms of persecution. Human comparison is not wise (2 Cor. 10:12). Rather, as our brethren suffer, we suffer with them. We pray for them in their tribulation, and we seek to bear their burdens. We also learn that when we suffer, we are not alone in our suffering. Jesus suffered first. All those who live godly in Christ Jesus will follow (2 Tim. 3:12; John 16:33).

Run the Race

In 1981 Bill Broadhurst entered the Pepsi Challenge, a 10,000-meter footrace in Omaha, Nebraska. The fastest participants posted times that year under thirty minutes, but none of those participants caught the headlines. It was Bill Broadhurst who captured the nation’s attention. Bill’s time? Two hours and twenty-nine minutes. Yet when Bill crossed the finish line that day, he was greeted by a roaring ovation of those who had gathered. Bill Rogers, a well-known marathoner and the winner of that year’s race, draped the firstplace medallion over the shoulder of the heavily perspiring runner. What made the interest of the spectators swoon over this runner with a less-than-spectacular time? Bill had become paralyzed on the left side during a surgery just two years earlier while a doctor was attempting to repair an aneurysm. Bill would never post spectacular times, but he had to run the race. His goal was not to come in first. His goal was to finish. And his finish was spectacular.

Finishing is the goal of the believer in the race that is set out for him. The Author of the race has planned each step of the course, and His expectation is for the runner to run all the way to the finish line. This was something in which Paul could boast as he saw his finish line approaching: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:” (2 Timothy 4:7) The race that the Lord set before Paul was one that was to include a large share of suffering. When the Lord was giving instructions to Ananias regarding the baptism and initial discipleship of Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:15–26), he indicated that Paul would suffer much for the sake of Jesus’ name. In Colossians 1:24 Paul indicates that his sufferings were a benefit to the church to “fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh.” Paul enumerates the various forms of suffering he had endured during his sojourn in 2 Corinthians 11:23–28.

Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.

Pauls’ race was filled with difficulty, suffering, and persecution. Your race will be filled with difficulties as well. The goal, then, is to finish the race that God has ordained for you. To compare your race with the race of others would be foolish. Believers will face varying degrees of suffering; the type and purpose of sufferings that will be a part of your race are in the hands of Him who is charting your course.

Embrace the Race

The race set before you is not arbitrary. The same can be said of exercise drills designed by your coach. They were designed to build basic skills that your team needs to be successful. Each young athlete can visualize the thrill of victory, but few relish the sweat of practice—especially when that practice seems meaninglessly repetitive. But every coach knows that drills have purpose. They build the player into what the team needs. God is wiser than our earthly coaches. Suffering and persecution are not random, meaningless occurrences. God is building His people into what they need to become.

Suffering is a God-ordained corrective for sin. David wrote in Psalm 119:67 and 71, “Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now I have kept thy word … It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.” Each believer should remember that a corrective should not be confused with a penal consequence. Believers can and do face discipline that corresponds to their sin. But Jesus bore the penal consequence for all of our sins so that we would bear no condemnation. God’s correctives are not how we “pay for our sins.” Rather, they are tools that God uses to keep us from wallowing in regular failure. Paul identified that one of his forms of suffering (a thorn in the flesh) was given by God lest he should be “exalted above measure.” (2 Corinthians 12:7–10.) Praise God for His correctives that dissuade us from future failures.

Suffering is a God-ordained instruction in righteousness. When I was going through a time of personal suffering, God used a good friend to share Scripture with me that has continued to have impact on my personal seasons of suffering: Romans 8:18 says, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” As my wife and I were broken over the difficulties that we were facing, we were encouraged to know God was doing something worthwhile in us. God has revealed several other truths about our suffering that indicate He is doing a good work in our lives. Paul states in 2 Corinthians 4:17, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” Peter commands us to “rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” (1 Peter 4:13) Suffering reveals our human weaknesses. Suffering strengthens our character when we respond appropriately to the chastening of God. Suffering reflects the sufferings of Christ to this generation. Suffering identifies us with our Master. Suffering removes the props of self-sufficiency. And through suffering, we find that our God is faithful. Praise God for His chastening, which instructs us in righteousness.

As we consider the suffering of our brethren around the world, our own sufferings seem insignificant. Yet to each sufferer the agony of his own suffering is great enough. It seems as if we give little thought to the sufferings of our brothers and sisters around the world. Perhaps we believe that if we come to think of it too often, it may happen to us.

Pray for your brothers and sisters in their suffering. Help carry their loads in ways that will be recommended later in this magazine. When suffering comes to your door, consider Peter’s words from his first epistle to each of us: Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6, 7)

Dr. Robert A. Condict is an FBFI Board Member and pastor of Upper Cross Roads Baptist Church in Baldwin, Maryland.

(Originally published in FrontLine • March/April 2008. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)

Although Proclaim & Defend is the blog of the FBFI, the articles we post are not an expression of the views of the FBFI as a whole, they are the views of the author under whose name they are published. The FBFI speaks either through position statements by its board or through its president. Here at Proclaim & Defend, we publish articles as matters of interest or edification to the wider world of fundamentalist Baptists and any others who might be interested.

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