– Basilea Schlink
Don’t Look Back
When I was a youth playing baseball, I was told to never look back or to my side at the infielders who were fielding the ball to try to throw me out at first because it might take a split second or so off of my time, and that might be all it took to not reach first base in time. I never forgot that. Maybe that’s why Paul wrote that “one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead” (Phil 3:13). Now if Paul kept looking back, over his shoulder, he couldn’t see where he was going and might forget what was lying ahead. Jesus said, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).
Keep Pressing On
Paul understood the Christian life and wrote, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:14). Paul argued, “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” (1 Cor 9:24)? Sometimes it seems like the whole world is pressing down upon us, but we must keep moving forward and pressing on, reaching outward and upward as to get the prize or take possession of our reward, which comes at the finish line of this life.
Give It All You Have
King Solomon wrote that “whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might” (Eccl 9:10), which means “whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (Col 3:23). Most of us must work for an employer, but the final authority is God, so really we work for God, as Paul said, and “not for human masters,” and we must give it everything we have and run each day’s race with all our might.
Which Is the Real Tragedy?
I heard of a couple who retired at the relatively young age of 55, and then there was a young couple who had been sent by their church to South Africa on a missionary trip for the third time. The older couple spent their life collecting seashells and playing miniature golf, but the young couple was killed while taking the gospel to a remote area in the Amazon jungle. Which was the real tragedy? It was the couple who spent their retirement and enjoyed their life in luxury and pleasure, not the young couple who died on the way to preach the gospel. On the day of Jesus’ return, when we all stand before the Lord, the older couple can say, “Lord, look at all the beautiful seashells we collected over these 25 years,” but the young couple will say, “Lord, we weren’t able to finish our third trip to preach the gospel, but we were on the way.” There’s nothing wrong with living a retired life, although the Bible never says that’s our goal. But the young couple crossed the finish line with a greater purpose than the older couple, and their reward will be worth a lot more than seashells. They kept running each day with all their might.
The Races to the Swift, Not the Slothful
Slothfulness is a sin, but if you “commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it” (Psalm 37:5), whatever it is you’re doing. Paul wrote, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Col 3:23), because “if anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” (2 Thess 3:10b).
It is so easy to grow tired and not persevere, but if we keep our eye on the goal of the kingdom and doing the work of the kingdom, our rewards will be given according to what we’ve done, and God “will render to each one according to his works” (Rom 2:6), either good or bad.