At this very moment, you are running a race. You are running a race even if you are sitting on the bus reading these words on your phone, even if you are reading this to take a break from the drudgery of your work. Everywhere and at all times you are running the race of all races, the Christian life. The question is not if you are running but how. Are you running well or running poorly? Are you out for a leisurely jog, or are you sprinting hard with your eyes on the prize? Through the living Word, the Apostle Paul pleads with you, “Run to win! Run to win the prize!”
In this new series, I am calling men away from apathy toward a zealous pursuit of the imperishable prize, away from worthless habits toward godly disciplines, away from aimless wandering toward purposeful living. Each article will be centered on one imperative for winning this race. It is fitting that we begin with the matter of purpose, for only when you know your purpose will you be motivated to run this race and to run it with all the effort required to win it. Only then will you be able to share the joyful conviction of George Whitefield, who declared, “I am never better than when I am on the full stretch for God.” My friend, if you are going to run to win, if you are going to be on the full stretch for God, you must embrace your purpose.
The Purpose of Your Salvation
Why did God save you? Paul tells you exactly why: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:11-14). It would take whole volumes of books to unpack all that Paul says here, but I will make just a few observations.
- First, God saves you to sanctify you. God extends his saving mercy to you so he can undo the deep damage caused by your sin. In a moment he redeems you, and over a lifetime he purifies you, teaching you to hate and renounce whatever is ungodly and to love and pursue whatever is worthy. As you walk with Christ, you find a new longing to put to death those old deeds and the desires that motivated them and to bring to life new deeds born of purer desires (Colossians 3:1-17). This is called “sanctification,” the lifelong process of becoming holy. God saves you to sanctify you, to restore you to the life he intended for you before you gave yourself to sin.
- Second, God saves and sanctifies you so you can do good to others. Your sanctification has a purpose: to make you “zealous for good works.” Good works are deeds that are done not first for your own good but for the good of others. You are called to put aside the natural selfishness that once controlled you and to put on the Christ-like selflessness that compels you to bless to others. You are to live as a good-works extremist, a man who will stop at nothing to be a blessing to others. “We are [God’s] workmanship,” says Paul, “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).
- Third, God does all things for his glory. God does not save you so he can make much of you, but so you can make much of him. The good deeds you do are not meant to make yourself look great but to make God look great. They stand as proof of the great change he has worked within you, for only by his grace can you turn your desires away from your own comfort, your own enrichment, your own fame. “Let your light shine before others,” says Jesus, “so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
Men, this is your purpose: to bring glory to God by doing good for others. This means your life is not first about you. You’re not the point of your existence or the hero of your salvation. You were created by God and for God. You were saved to bring glory to God by doing good to others. This is your purpose.
However, I suspect you already know most of this. The problem is you still struggle to find sufficient motivation to bring to your life the focused self-control that will enable you to run to win. So let’s turn back to Paul to see where he found the motivation to embrace this God-glorifying purpose.
An athlete runs to receive a reward and to enjoy the fame and acclaim that come with it. All the training, the exertion, and the self-control are judged worth it when the wreath is placed upon his head and when the crowd stands to pay tribute. Their self-control is driven by the greatness of the prize. So what prize could be sufficient to motivate Paul to live this life of extraordinary fervor and intense zeal? Only one thing: Jesus Christ. Paul, who had been the self-proclaimed chief of sinners, had been suddenly and dramatically saved by Jesus. In a moment he had been plucked off the highway to hell and set upon the pathway to heaven. He was forever transformed. And with this new life, he had a new purpose. He now lived to be a faithful representative of Jesus Christ, to be absolutely devoted to growing in Christ-likeness and making Jesus known to those around him. When Paul embraced Jesus Christ—or rather, when Jesus embraced Paul—Paul also embraced a new purpose.
Men, have you been transformed by Jesus Christ? Have you been given new life? With new life comes a new purpose! Let go of the ridiculous notion that your life is about you. Let go of all of the selfish purposes you once held on to. Let go of the cultural wave of apathy and self-indulgence that is plaguing so many. And once you have let go of all that might hinder you, grab on to a lifelong pursuit of Jesus! Embrace your purpose, and align every area of your life with it: You are here to glorify God by abounding in good works.
This is your challenge and mine. Your family needs you to be holy, to see a husband and father who models what it means to be a mature, Christian man. Your church needs you to be holy, to see a believer who has been set free from sin and who is committed to their good. Your neighborhood needs you to be holy, to see a man who has been utterly transformed by Jesus and who now puts aside anything that might hinder the gospel of Jesus. Your world needs you to be holy, to be evidence that Jesus Christ continues to save his people and continues to transform them into his image. In the inestimable prize of Jesus Christ, you have all the motivation you need to embrace a new purpose and fix your eyes on the glory of God.
Run to Win!
You are a few minutes further into your race than you were at the beginning of this article. You’ve taken a few more steps. And I hope you have come to see that if you are going to succeed in this race, you need to know the reason God saved and sanctifies you. Only then will you be motivated to put aside the selfishness of apathy and put on the selflessness of holiness. Embrace your purpose, then run to win!