Long-distance running has been one of my favorite activities. I am not too old to try a marathon one day, but so far I must remain content with completing several half marathons. My favorite race is the Marine Corps Historic Half in Fredericksburg, Virginia. It truly is a community event. The race starts at the exposition center high up on the ridge west of Fredericksburg, and for about eight miles runs gently downhill through the historic city and past Mary Washington University until it reaches the Rappahannock River. All along the way there are bands playing, choirs singing, school and church groups handing out water, a children’s drum chorus from a local school, and of course Marines everywhere. They mark the course, direct the runners, provide first aid when necessary, and cheer on everyone just by their presence. There is something very special about a Marine, and even in a long race like a half marathon the sight of that uniform brings encouragement and confidence. And the runners do need it, particularly as the miles add up. Once the course reaches Sophia St. next to the river, it runs level for about two and a half miles, and the cheering crowds begin to thin out. About the time the runners pass the VFW post, the only people there to offer encouragement are a couple of representatives from the Rappahannock Nation, beating drums to remind everyone that long ago all the land was theirs.
So how do we avoid the sin of Cain? We do that by learning what God wants. And where do we learn that? Where else but His Word. That’s why Paul offers this advice:
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (II Timothy 2:15 KJV)
But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance,persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (II Timothy 3:10-17 NKJV) Please click here to continue reading
Hopefully by now you understand that our eternal reward for trusting Jesus is not sitting around in heavenly comfort, but doing something useful for His Kingdom. But there’s more. Do you realize there is a merit system in the Kingdom of Heaven? That might sound wrong to us Americans who think salvation by grace through faith is the whole story. You mean God saves us, but doesn’t guarantee where we stand in the Kingdom? That’s exactly what I mean. Jesus speaks more than once about those who are greatest and least in the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 5:17, 11:11, 18:1-4, 20:20-28, 23:1-12; Mark 9:33-37; Luke 16:9-12, 22:24-30). The work you do in this life doesn’t just put food on the table or good education in your head. It determines where you stand in eternity. And why is that? Because God tests every one of us to see whether we are worthy of His trust (Luke 9:46-48). That’s the whole point of Jesus’ parable about the talents. I encourage you to read that over again. It’s in Matthew 25:14-30 and Luke 19:11-27. Let me summarize it. Please click here to continue reading