Winning the Amazing Race of Life

Yesterday I watched the finale of the Amazing Race as the last three teams standing vied to cross the finish line first and claim the million dollar prize.  Each team made a major mistake in the final leg that could have cost them the race.

Art and J.J. appeared to be out of the race when they couldn’t decipher a riddle sending them to twin skyscraper.  They bounded back into second place when Rachel and Brendon hurriedly read a clue and missed an important piece of information.  Rachel and Dave seemed to have cruised to an easy win, only to be informed that they had missed a challenge. They hurried back to find Art and J.J. in the midst of the challenge. Fortunately for them, Art had a difficult time riding a narrow sled down a hill, while Rachel managed it with ease.  Rachel and Dave finished the challenge and were crowned the winners of this seasons Amazing Race.

As I watched the teams partake in extreme challenges, I had no doubt that I would never want to be a contestant on the Amazing Race.  Not even if I were young and fit.  I have no desire to repel off a 44-story building, as the final three teams did, or to haul buckets of manure as contestants did in a recent episode.

I was reminded, however, that we are all in an amazing race.  And this race is for much higher stakes than a million dollars.  Our participation in this race will determine our eternal future.  Those who “win” the race receive eternal life in Heaven as their reward. In the Amazing Race, there is only one winner; however, in the amazing race of life, we can all win.

Winning the amazing race of life requires accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior.  Many people claim that there are other paths to God, but the Bible teaches us that “there is no other name under Heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)  Salvation is attained simply by acknowledging my need for salvation, believing that Jesus died on the cross as punishment for my sins, and confessing Him as lord of my life.

Winning the amazing race of life requires resisting the temptation to quit or be sidetracked.  Contestants in the Amazing Race face roadblocks, detours, and u-turns. Likewise, Satan tries to block our path, send us on detours, and u-turn us back to a life of sin and selfishness through temptation.  We can overcome Satan’s wiles by keeping our eyes fixed firmly on Jesus. God promises that He will be there in your moment of temptation. “God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (1 Corintians 10:13)

Winning the amazing race of life requires focus and dedication with your eye firmly on the prize. The Amazing Race contestants are highly motivated, as they want to win the million dollar prize. Paul explained in his first letter to the Corinthians that our goal in life is much more valuable. “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.  They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” (1 Corinthians 9:25)   He said toward the end of his life, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me a crown of righteousness.” (2 Timothy 4: 7 -8)

Winning the amazing race of life involves making mistakes, acknowledging them, and getting back on track.  Contestants on the Amazing Race frequently take a wrong turn or misread the instructions and make a mistake.  They continue on the wrong path until they realize their mistake and have fallen behind in the race.  At that point they have the choice to quit and give up or turn around and keep competing.  Sometimes they are able to overcome their mistake and remain in the game; other times they are too far behind and are eliminated.  In life, when we acknowledge our mistakes (sins) and seek forgiveness, God promises to forgive our sins.  “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)  Forgiveness gets us back on track with God.

Rachel and Dave were greeted by the cheers and applause of their competitors as they crossed the finish line and won the Amazing Race.  One day my life on Earth will be over and I will be transcended to Heaven where my Savior will be waiting and rejoicing that I have run a good race and have finished the course.

What path are you following in the race of life?  Can you look forward with joy and a grateful heart to a life in Heaven and a crown of righteousness?  If not, I pray that you will allow Jesus to guide and direct you to the path that leads to eternal glory and reward.

A Sudden Goodbye

Upon my arrival at work on Wednesday, I was informed that a coworker, Larry, had died during the night.  I was stunned!  I spoke with Larry on Tuesday and nothing seemed to be amiss.  He was smiling and friendly, as he always.  Yet Larry, at 54 years of age, had suffered a massive heart attack and passed away without any warning.

Larry was a “salt-of-the-earth” guy.  The kind of man the world could use more of.  Larry did everything with a smile.  In fact, Larry received an award in May entitled, “We couldn’t do it without you.”  His nominator wrote that Larry was “flexible support with a smile.” 

Outside of work, Larry was supportive and helpful to those around him.  He donated time to tutor at-risk children and volunteered with hospice.  He taught Sunday school and VBS at his church, where he also served as chairman of the deacon board.

I will miss seeing Larry’s smiling face at work each day and our frequent chats.  However, I take great comfort in knowing that Larry is in Heaven.  Larry did not make it to Heaven because he was a wonderful man, although he was.  And Larry isn’t in Heaven because he was kind to those in need or faithful in church attendance.  Rather, Larry is in Heaven because Jesus Christ loved Larry (and you and me) so much that He died on a wooden cross to pay the penalty for our sins.  Larry believed that and invited Jesus Christ into his heart.  Larry accepted Jesus’s free gift of salvation. This gift is available to all who will call on the name of Jesus.

When Larry left work on Tuesday evening, he had every intention of coming back to work Wednesday morning.  He was looking forward to many years left on earth.  I don’t think Larry had any thought that Tuesday would be his last day on earth.  Fortunately, Larry was prepared for death when it came. 

If today turns out to be your last day on earth, are you prepared to enter eternity?  If not, I urge you to accept Jesus’s free gift of salvation today.  None of us are promised tomorrow.

In Celebration of Kristi

Yesterday I learned that Kristi DeVore Shores’ life on earth had ended. I was saddened by the news that this beautiful, vibrant thirty-nine year old woman had lost her brief battle with stomach cancer.  She was diagnosed with the illness less than three months ago.  As she fought her brave battle, family members and friends interceded with God on her behalf.  On Tuesday God healed Kristi.  It was not the healing we had hoped for, yet it was an answer to our prayers.  When Kristi’s eyes closed, her soul was transported into the presence of her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

My heart aches for the family she left behind:  her loving husband Ryan who dreamed of growing old with her, three precious children who are young enough to need a mother’s daily care, godly parents who set a wonderful example for their children in their marriage and their daily walk with Christ, and three siblings who have stayed close despite busy lives of their own.  From their Facebook posts, I know the family members are sad, but they are also happy that Kristi is pain-free and they are secure in the knowledge that they will see Kristi again when their time on Earth comes to an end.

There are hundreds of posts on Kristi’s Facebook page and web site.  Some friends share the many ways Kristi touched their lives, while others tell funny stories about her.  Most offer words of condolences to her family.  All loved her and were better off for having known her.

Those of us who knew Kristi have perfect assurance that Kristi is in Heaven.  Kristi is not in Heaven because she was kind or loving.  She didn’t earn her way into Heaven through generosity or good works.  She isn’t there because she was a loving wife, a caring mother, a dutiful daughter, and a precious sister.  Kristi was all those things and many more.  Yet, Kristi knew that she could never be good enough to get to Heaven on her own. Many years ago Kristi acknowledged what is true of all of us, that she was a sinner in need of a Savior.  Kristi believed that Jesus Christ died for her sins and she confessed Him as her Lord and Savior. And because she did, she is spending eternity in Heaven.

Perhaps you’ve been told that there are many roads to Heaven.  It sounds nice and many people believe that.  However, God’s Word teaches us that Jesus is the only way.  “There is no other name under Heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12.

Where will you spend eternity?  If you haven’t accepted Jesus’ free gift of salvation, I urge you to do so today.  The rest of your life on Earth will be better, and you will receive the promise of an eternity in Heaven.