Playing by the Rules

Playing by the Rules

Imagine that you are a serious athlete who enjoys running and winning marathons. After intensively training for many months, you decide to try out for the Olympic Games. First, you must prove that your running is up to the super-athlete level by competing against other top-notch runners. If you do well enough, you will qualify to represent your country in the Olympics. If a very capable runner tries to run without first qualifying and registering, he will automatically be ineligible to receive a medal. It does not matter how fast he runs, or even if he finishes first. The run will not count because he did not follow the rules.

Second, you must run at the designated time on the course chosen by the officials. If you decide to run the course at a different time, even if you complete it in record time, your race will not count. If you choose to leave the appointed course and run a different but equivalent route, you will be disqualified. No matter how excellent your run, how expert your technique, or how sincere your effort, you will not be entitled to a prize because you did not run the approved course.

Life is a lot like a marathon. God chooses the course and sets the rules. But, many people live their lives haphazardly, making up their own rules as they go along. Some believe this approach demonstrates their freedom from the strictures and requirements of a repressive lifestyle. However, the Bible says that if we elect to run a different course, or make up our own rules, we will be disqualified from receiving our reward.

God never does anything without a purpose. He provided guidelines for living that would promote wholeness of spirit, mind, and body. We begin by accepting Jesus as our Savior, which qualifies us for running a race that will end at the finish line, in heaven. However, qualifying is not enough. We must continue to follow the course He has planned for us; we cannot choose another route because we prefer different scenery.

Paul reminded the Corinthians, "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. . . . Do not run like a man running aimlessly" (1 Corinthians 9:24 , 26, NIV).

We must obey God's instructions: stopping when He tells us to stop, traveling at the speed He chooses, and taking any detours He directs us to take. We must carry with us only what is beneficial for our race, discarding anything that would slow us down or take our eyes off the finish line and the prize that awaits us.

As Hebrews 12:1-2 says, "Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (NKJV).

Howard W. Stevens

Copyright 2007 by Howard W. Stevens