In Hebrews 12:1-3, we are exorted to race, with perseverance, the race marked out for us and reminded of the example that Jesus set us, in enduring His burden and persecution, for the sake of the faith.
Similarly, 2 Timothy 4:7 echos the view of the Christian being someone who is competing in fight or race, and in doing so keeps the faith.
In a modern secular world, we are also encouraged to compete, whether it be with each other, physical sports, business, finances, possessions, status, the list goes on. But are we being encouraged to compete for the right things?
There is a difference between what God considers to be of value and what this world teaches us we should value. Just as God’s ways are above our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9), so are His values above those of a secular world.
So if God’s thoughts and ways are so much higher than ours, how do we know what things we are to compete in, or make our battleground? Fortunately, God did not leave us without help. He sent His son, Jesus, that we might find our way back to Him and His ways (John 3:16). And even after Jesus returned to Him, He was gracious enough to send us another Helper, that He might remind us of what Jesus taught us, the Holy Spirit (John 14:26).
When Jesus came, He taught us that the most important things were to repent and be born again; to love, God and others; to help the weak and vulnerable; and in so doing, we store up for ourselves heavenly treasures, rather than seeking the riches of this world, which will perish and count as naught when we go on to the next, eternal life.
In the words of our Lord, what does it profit a man of he gains the whole world but loses his soul (Mark 8:36-37). Particularly as our time here is brief, compared with that which is to come (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).
In this respect, the futility of man’s time on earth, persuing status, wealth or power (as mankind often perceives it) becomes clear. As a child, I had hamsters as pets and often marveled at how frantically they would run around their exercise wheels in their cage, only to get nowhere. You could say, that the life of those who seek the treasures of this temporal world, rather than doing that which brings us closer to God, are not too disimilar.
Jesus specifically taught us, that we should seek to store up heavenly, eternal treasures, rather than temporary earthly treasures, as we cannot serve two masters, we must choose between pursuing God and persuing earthly treasures/money (Matthew 6:19-24). Serving [seeking] one of these, will deplete your ability to serve the other, you must choose which you value more. As Christians, we are to seek God, so that He and His works, in part evidenced through our lives and His works in us, may be glorified on earth.
So, how do we store up heavenly treasures, whilst in this temporary realm, with its many distractions? The answer, is to Love God and others; to walk in the Spirit, instead of in the flesh; to seek God and His ways, before all else; and to value people over property. Although, strictly speaking, genuinely loving God and others, helps the other attributes we need to have florish within us.
Love God and Others – When Jesus was asked which of the Old Testament commandments were the greatest, He responded that those which told you to love God and other people as yourself, summed up the law (Matthew 22:36-40).
Furthermore, we are instructed to let all we do, be done with love (1 Corinthians 16:14), wise words indeed, for if we act in love, we should not harm others and will become as innocent as doves, as Jesus instructed us to be (Matthew 10:16).
There is more about walking in love here
Walking in the Spirit – We are encouraged to walk in the Spirit, rather than the flesh in many places in the new testament but how is this done? Quite simply by behaving as more spiritually enlightened beings, than the secular ones we were before coming to know Jesus. By casting down pride, darkness (bad thoughts) and destructive desires within ourselves, and instead choosing to walk in love, humility and kindness, as Jesus taught us.
There is more about walking in the Spirit here
Seeking God and His ways – The Bible tells us to seek God, whilst He may be found and we are instructed to seek God and His righteousness, before all secular things (Isaiah 55:6-7; Matthew 6:33). This can be achieved through prayer; learning about God, through His word and Spirit; and being prepared to do as He would wish, rather than giving into darkness or desire, which would seek to turn you about.
I don’t know about you, but if I am to be ruled by anything, I would rather it be our Heavenly Father, than some base urge, desire or any wrongdoing, that would otherwise lead me towards destruction.
As Jesus made clear, if your hand causes you to sin, it is better to cut it off and be saved without a hand, than for your while body to perish, on account of the hand (Mark 9:43-44). I understand this as being a principle which goes further than the simple bodily terms Jesus taught in, for the sake of our understanding, as with many of His teachings and parables. It extends to any area of our lives, which would see us acting in any way unbecoming to the elect of God. Whether it be putting wealth, status or any secular thing above God’s ways in our lives.
What would you not give up if you really believed it would be fatal to you? If we truly have faith, we should be able to ignore the fogging of the mind and soul, which comes from the desires for and of this world, blinding people to the truth and light of God and His will for us.
To Value People More Than Property – This is exemplified through how charitable we are prepared to be, and not just with our friends! We are told to help those who have nothing of worldly value to repay is with, whether it be orphans, the pre or the vulnerable. What’s more, we are to do so silently, without drawing attention to any generosity we exhibit, for we do what we do for God, not for the praise of man, or that will be our only reward (Matthew 6:1-4).
We are told to give to those who ask, when they ask, if it be possible, and not to delay in the giving. Not only are we to give what is asked for but we should also be prepared to give more than asked for and even to our enemies (Matthew 5:38-48)! Truly, Godly wisdom can seem like insanity to man but I believe we are helping to show God’s values, for people before things, when we accept and abide by His word. If we, the salt of the earth, can’t demonstrate how little secular “treasures” are worth, in the grand scheme of things, who will? When we pray for God’s will to be done on earth, we can all do our bit to help make that happen, by showing His will through our lives and walks. Especially when we are able to extend this same degree of love to those that would otherwise be considered our enemies.