Running the Race
5. The last point is the most important in the text. It is the object on which our eyes are to be fixed: we are to run our race "looking unto Jesus." We are to run, depending on Him for salvation, renouncing all trust in our own poor frail exertions and counting our own performances no better than filthy rags, and resting wholly and entirely, simply and completely, upon that perfect righteousness which He worked out for us upon the Cross. We need not run uncertain of the end, we not not fight in ignorance of what shall follow; we have only to behold the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world, and believe that He hath born our griefs and carried our sorrows, and will soon present us spotless and unblameable in His Father's sight. And then we are to run, making Jesus our Example, taking no lower pattern than the Son of God Himself, endeavoring to copy His meekness, His humility, His love, His zeal for souls, His self-denial, His purity, His faith, His patience, His prayerfulness, and as we look we shall daily become more like Him. And then we are to run, looking for our blessed Lord's appearing, praying always with all prayer and supplication that He will hasten His coming and kingdom and accomplish the number of His elect. Unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation, and their vile bodies in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, shall be made like unto His glorious body, and they shall be for ever with their Lord.
Oh, this looking unto Jesus! Here is the secret cause which kept that cloud of witnesses steadfast and unmoveable in this narrow way! Here is the simple rule for all who wish to enter on the course which lands a man in Paradise! Look not to earth: it is a sinful, perishable place, and they that build upon it shall find their foundation of the earth earthy; they will not stand the fire. Set not your affections upon it, or else you will perish together; the earth shall be burned up, and if you cling to it in death you shall not be divided!
Look not to yourselves! You are by nature wretched and miserable, and poor and blind and naked; you cannot make atonement for your past transgressions, you cannot wipe out a single page in that long black list, and when the King shall ask you for your wedding-garment you will be speechless. Look simply unto Jesus, and then the weight shall fall from off your shoulders, and the course shall be clear and plain, and you shall run the race which is set before you. Truly a man may be mistaken for a season, and walk in darkness for a time, but if he once determine to look to Jesus he shall not greatly err.
Who now are the men and women who have not entered on the grant struggle for life? This day, ye Christless, sleeping one, this day I charge you to be honest and merciful to your souls. Turn ye, O turn ye from your evil ways, turn ye from your self-pleasing and self-indulging; seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near; cry mightily unto the Lord Jesus Christ, before the night cometh and you sleep for evermore. I know the thoughts that are in the hearts of those among you who ever think, (for many come and go without thinking): I know your thoughts, you cannot make up your mind to lay aside every weight, you cannot throw overboard the sin that doth so easily beset you. Alas! like Herod you would do many things, but not all: your will not give up that Herodias, that darling bosom-sin - the world, the business, the drink, the pleasure - you cannot give it up, it must have the first place in your heart. I testify, I warn you, I take you to record, that God hath declared there shall in no wise enter into heaven anything that defileth, and if you are determined not to give up your sins, your sins will cleave to you like lead and sink you in the pit of destruction. You need not wait: you must show some inclination; God will not covert you against your will; except you show the desire, how can you expect He will give you the grace?
But where are the men and women who are running the race and struggling towards the heavenly Jerusalem? Think not that you have anything which makes your journey more difficult than others; the saints at God's right hand were perfected through sufferings; and you must run with patience; millions have gone safe through, and so shall you.
Beware of cumbering yourselves with any weight of earthly chances; examine your hearts most closely, and purge out each besetting sin with a godly prayerful jealousy. Remember that blessed rule, "looking unto Jesus." Peter did run well for a time, when he left the ship to walk upon the sea to Jesus; but when he saw the waves and the storm he was afraid and began to sink. Thus many a one sets out courageously; but after a while corruptions rise high within, corruptions are strong without, the eye is drawn off Jesus, the devil gets an advantage, and the soul begins to sink. Oh, keep your eye steadily fixed on Christ, and you shall go through fire and water and they shall not hurt you. Are you tempted? Look unto Jesus. Are you afflicted? Look unto Jesus. Do all speak evil of you? Look unto Jesus. Never say, "I will heal myself and then look unto Jesus, I will get into a good frame and then take comfort in my Beloved." It is the very delusion of satan. But whether you are weak or strong, in the valley or on the mount, in sickness or in health, in sorrow or in joy, in going out or in coming in, in youth or in age, in richness or in poverty, in life or in death, let this be your motto and your guide - LOOKING UNTO JESUS."
~J. C. Ryle~
(continued with # 11 - "Ready and Waiting")