‘Slow and steady wins the race,’ is not a quote from the Bible, but the principle applies in the strategic disciplines required for ‘growing in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.’
By the time the Apostle John had penned his second letter, I’m sure he had encountered a wide range of ‘professors’ and ‘possessors’ of faith. I’m sure we all have our lists of people, young and old, who are all at different points in their faith journey. Some, who start out with such zeal they put many others to shame, at times ‘pack in’ their faith and call it quits. Others, who hesitatingly struggle with belief and always seem to lack assurance, nevertheless persevere and gain more solid footing each year. As a pastoral friend said to me on one occasion, “I’m sure when we get to heaven, we’ll be surprised who’s there and who’s not.”
John, as a deeply concerned pastoral leader, warns and instructs those in his ‘flock,’ lest they backslide. We are called not just to witness, but to lead those who are regenerated to become strong Christ-followers who may accurately be described as disciples. Note what John says in verses 8-9 –
“Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.”
Running has its proper preparation, attire, pace, etc. I’ve had a few talks with passionate runners whose daily routines make my irregular attempts look mighty feeble! A few years back, I was invited to serve as the announcer for a local marathon. I proudly posted to my friends and family that I was ‘in’ a marathon. I guess serving as the ‘voice’ for the starting and finishing process doesn’t burn many calories.
Spiritually speaking, John is instructing these newer saints who have joined ‘the course.’ ‘Watch out’ he urges them. Take care. Be alert to losing ground in the race marked out for you. Lots of runners have through trials and temptations been led away from a focused pursuit of Christ. Keep in shape. Don’t look back, don’t look around, but as Hebrews urges, “fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith….”
Don’t run ahead. Stay anchored in truth and continue in the Christ-centred teaching, the very core of your faith.
What have you discovered as distractions in your race? Has some sinful habit lured you into a snare? Has some pastime become an all-consuming pursuit so that regular spiritual disciplines end up becoming erratic? Heed the warning of this passage. Don’t let ‘minor’ issues become ‘major’ problems. Be discerning in your reading. Not everyone who claims to represent God actually does. There are MANY deceivers, MANY false prophets who are leading MANY astray. Saturate yourself in Scripture. Know your Bible well, don’t just know ‘about’ your Bible. Be encouraged in your race. Remember the Triune God who has saved you is with you and will lead you safely to the end.