Has Traditional Santa Duped Us Into Being Liars?

By Greg Cooper

Nearly every child in the West believes in Santa Claus today - a fictional character slowly transformed over time to appeal to children's imaginations all around the globe.  Santa has slowly evolved into a fantasized version of the real deal: Saint Nick, a persecuted 
Christian in the third century devoted to following Jesus, whose motto was to "sell what you own and give it to the poor", a man with a deep love for children and for the truth."
And yet, many of us Christians have largely disregarded the true meaning of Christmas and have convinced our kids that Santa and the made-up stories that come with him are the more important items of focus.

Most of our children, having such precious faith, have been misguided to "believe" in fictional Santa. During this precious window time of their innocence, they have a natural, simple belief in the supernatural.  With all the lies that are influencing culture and our vulnerable children who are a part of it year-round, should professing Christians be solely pointing them to God during Christmas or include something that is blatantly untrue? 

While parents are certainly not intending to purposefully deceive their children with ill-will, the tradition of how Christmas is celebrated has deceptively - and effectively - whisked away much of our spiritual discernment.  Parents and other well-meaning adults are far-too-often negligently withholding the true meaning of Christmas (and other Christian perspectives in light of an unbelieving world), and what ought to be the sole focus of the true and historical figure of Christianity: Jesus Christ.  

While the fascination of Santa and tradition of the stories that encompass it can be fun and heartwarming, we who sincerely want to follow Christ should be promoting Truth instead of what we feel as being the "innocent" things we do based on family tradition.  From a Biblical perspective, our children should hear nothing but truth from us, especially when it involves spiritual realities.  Since it is Christmas season, they especially need this joyous celebration of Jesus’ birth to revolve around belief in the prophesied birth of the Savior of the world in the Old Testament:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

To those who vehemently disagree (and sometimes quite firmly), the argument is often made: “What’s the harm in Santa?”  
I could answer, let's face it, a child's childhood won't be ruined because they know Santa isn't
real.  But their eternal destiny may be shattered if parents fail to point them to Christ in every situation and in every holiday, especially during the Christmas season.  Proverbs 22:6 says, "Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it."  

One lie begets another, and to them, they may question what else you may say is "real", including Jesus. So what can be gained by convincing a child to believe in the existence Santa Claus? 

It is important to heed Scripture for guidance.  Lying to children is one of the worst things you can do.  Jesus said, "If anyone causes one of these little ones--those who believe in me--to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea" (Matthew 18:6).  
When we lie in any way, we are inadvertently siding with Satan, a relentless enemy of God.  Jesus described him:  "He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it." (John 8:44).

This holiday season, let’s not make our children stumble.  Let’s speak truthfully to them, and stop deceiving them for the sake of family tradition.  Jesus warned: "'You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.' And he continued, 'You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!'"

Simply put, there is no substitute for Jesus Christ, the god-man who sacrificed himself for us all, the one who offers the ultimate free gift of salvation. 

Sure, keep the tree and the dancing Santa and nativity scene, but I challenge you, if you haven't already been practicing this, resolve to speak truthfully to your children by turning Christmas into a celebration of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ the newborn King, rather than a fictional character bringing only temporal, vain gifts hidden in a bag stuffed full of untruths.  Saint Nick would bid fair to heartily agree!

For Christians, TV Viewing Habits and Halloween Participation May Go Hand-in-Hand

By Greg Cooper

Today, it is reported that over three-quarters of professing Christians celebrate Halloween (Source).  Of the 323 million people living in the United States, the vast majority identify themselves as being Christian (Source). This means that there are literally millions of professing believers actively participating in and endorsing Halloween, the day on which Satanists, witches, and occultists prefer to sacrifice animals and children to the devil (Source). Could this also be linked to what Christians are ingesting through television and movies? 

Christians Swayed By Media?

Christians may in fact be more easily swayed to accept Halloween, with all its evils, by what they watch.  It is a sad fact that there are believers today who have immersed themselves in the entertainment media culture which surrounds us.  
Instead of heeding God’s warning to “come out of them [temples of idolatry] and being separate,” as the Bible urges us (2 Corinthians 6:17), some have instead embraced it. Mainstream shows such as Supernatural, Twilight, Charmed, The Walking Dead, True Blood, Ghost Whisperer, Medium, Witches of East End, and even America’s Got Talent, and movies like Harry Potter and the classic The Wizard of Oz – to just scratch the surface of the immense amount of material out there – has been relentlessly flooding the entertainment industry market with an anti-Christ agenda. 

Satan has been figuratively having a “field day” with vulnerable eyeballs, which he is using to desensitize mainstream culture…right along with Christians!  One poll found that Christians average 3.1 hours of television a day (that’s 21.7 hours a week!), even more than Atheists who clock in at 2.7 hours (Source). 

Certainly, most of this material does not edify the professing believer, not does it spur them on to put down the remote and pick up their Bible.  In fact, less than 20% of church-goers read their Bible on a daily basis (Source).  A shocking low number, less than 20% percent, even go to church (Source), making the number of actual Bible readers relatively few and far between.  Among our Christian youth, who are the most desired targets by the enemy, also seem to be moving away from the Bible as well. According to one poll, a majority (57%) of those age 18-28 read their Bibles less than three times a year, if they pick it up at all (Source).

The Blurring of Lines

The television shows we Christians watch may actually be helping to blur the cultural line between what is morally acceptable and what is not.  What was once sacred in television – the family unit – has now overwhelmingly become a welcome agent to an evil agenda as well.  With the “world” running the show, and with so many Christian families sitting on their couches as a willing audience, the fact that 99% of shows about the family violate Christian morality (Source) is a horrifying thought, and is certainly not helping Christians to cling to traditional family values. 

For the 2016-2017 season, it was expected that 4.8% of the characters would be presented as LGBQT (Source).  No doubt we can conclude that this is likely due to a rising acceptance of homosexuality across the broad spectrum of American Christianity (Source).

With Christians subjected to mass amounts of material increasingly promoting family disunity, divorce, sex, drug use, same-sex agendas, violence, and the rampant mocking of moral living in general, Halloween may seem like just another day.  With the help of demonic influences, our culture has taken us further and further deeper into moral depravity. 

The Halloween costumes out there are a reflection of what is popular in culture: Women and even young girls, for example, can choose to be a witch, a sexy nurse, the Grim Reaper, or a male-conquering female superhero (or a bunny in their midst).  The “shock value” is lessening, and the uniforms chosen for Halloween may well simply be a visual display of what is actually lurking about deep within the souls of parents and children.

Taking a Stand

As genuine Christians, we should be seeking the Lord, what He has to say, and avoid participating in what the world does.  The Bible instructs us to 'abstain from all appearance of evil' (1 Thessalonians 5:22) and, 'The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.' (Romans 3:12).  The Bible tells us to 'put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:12), and to 'clothe ourselves with humility' (Colossians 3:12).

The grim reality is that the enemy is winning the hearts, souls, and minds of our culture through media, and it is only reaffirmed through the dark holiday of Halloween.  

If you plan to celebrate Halloween this year, or want to enamor yourself with a horror movie, consider being obedient to what the Bible has to say: “have nothing to do with evil”.  Resolve to 'have nothing to do with the fruitless deed of darkness' (Ephesians 5:11).  Let us instead lead our children by the hand to the Lord, and not down dark sidewalks, alleyways, and haunted houses…which can only lead them towards evil.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand - Ephesians 6:13

A special thank you to Tony Palacio for his contribution to this article.

Girl in a jacket


Since Playboy’s founding, Hugh Hefner has “helped” millions of fathers shift their eyes, hearts and minds through the allure of his images. As a vessel of immorality, he has pushed men to perhaps unintentionally break the very cisterns that were designed to protect these children from the lies of the enemy...

Christian Music Theology - Bad to Worse?

If you have listened to Christian music lately, you may (or may not) have noticed a trend, or a movement, that has evolved throughout the Christian Music Industry. It isn't what it used to be.  It is an ever-evolving theatre of Millennials and aspiring Generation Zs that are reflecting a new culture of mainstream Christianity through their music. More and more, Christian music is leavened with bad theology.

Why the 'Shack' Artist List May Shock You

It could be said that it is probably not an accident that some of the biggest names in Christian music, including Hillsong UnitedLecraeFrancesca BattestelliLauren Daigle, and for King & Country are found on the soundtrack of the widely accepted and hugely successful film The Shack - or, is it?

A Church on the Outskirts
Imagine for a moment that you're hanging out with a crowd that says they are following Jesus  - and, you've decided to pursue Him as you see so many of your friends also doing.  You consider yourself His "disciple" after they told you about how much love He offers people, and since you'd only heard good things about Him, you think that it is only reasonable to give it a shot...

Are You a 'Hypocritical' Parent?

Many times when I am correcting my adoptive children's “bad” behavior, I am frequently reminded by the Holy Spirit that I'm really no less sinful than my child, the one whom I just disciplined. In fact, most every one of the sins I am addressing in my child's heart also reside in my heart. The difference is I am just mature enough to be able not to act all of them out.
  It took me over four decades to get to where I am now - to be able to hold my tongue about half of the time. This begs the question: how can I hold my child, who has been in this world less than I, at a greater accountability than myself?

Sexual Sin: A Scriptural Exhortation
Are you a Christian struggling with sexual sin? Are you desiring freedom? Many books and programs have been written and exist to combat the problem. Most of these contain man's wisdom in psychology, brain chemistry and may include some promises from Scripture, which are meant for those of us who are walking in truth.

'New Life Live' Unsound Statements

Family and Marriage Therapist Dr. Sherri Keffer uttered a very unexpected message to caller Dottie from North Beach, Maryland, who dialed in to the nationally syndicated show, New Life Live, on May 22, 2017 needing some advice regarding her friend's behavior: "I'm the mom you never had", she told the caller - twice!

Enduring Through the Race to Eternal Life
We take a look at the life of Paul and his "race" towards his creator, and how we are to also be running and finishing well as understood by various Scripture.


This blog seeks to exhort, question and expose many truth-claims and Christian principles found among many mainstream Christian leaders and those representing the faith.  Since the Bible hasn't changed, and is the only reliable source of ultimate truth, we need to focus on what this proven text says against all other truth claims - even from well known, highly regarded sources.  

The Harder Truths was birthed out of a strong desire to help Christian musicians see that they must maintain theological integrity within their lyrics which prompted me to write my first article, "Christian Music Theology: Bad to Worse?"  In it, I address my greatest concerns as I expose certain Christian artists and groups who claim definitive, unbiblical truth claims.  Since many people are not reading their Bibles, the only Christian message they may come across in their life could be only from the music they hear.  This is why it is so important that musicians communicate a proper, sound message that does not mislead people into a wrong idea about God and the message He is communicating through His Word.  

Since I wrote this article, subsequent articles have since followed. 

My aim not to attack my fellow Christians, but to expose false truth and exhort them as well as those on the fringes of the faith.  In this pursuit it has greatly helped me in the examination of my own faith and has increased my own spiritual growth.  

I hope you enjoy the articles, and I hope it sparks a fire in your heart to live your life wholeheartedly for the Lord in accordance with Scripture.

If you wish to contact me you can do so at satfreak5@yahoo.com.

God bless you!

About the Author

Greg Cooper is a born-again Christian since 2000.  Having a passion for the Truth of the Gospel, he recently began a blog after being lead to write about the changing dynamics within the Christian Music Industry.  His writings have expanded into other areas of Christian life, which are designed to challenge the body of Christ.  They include topics which straightforwardly expose false Christian ideas to what can be considered the “harder truths” of the Bible.  Greg lives with his wife Francesca in Simi Valley, California and has four adopted children.  They are in process of adopting a fifth from Haiti.  Their family story has recently been shared in a recent short documentary, “Committed: An Adoption Story”, which explores their family journey with the intent of encouraging the church to make an impact in children's lives through adoption. 

Hugh Hefner’s Death is a Reminder of Pornography’s Toll on Families

By Greg Cooper

If you haven't yet heard, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner recently died at the ripe old age of 91. He founded the Playboy Enterprise in 1953. For him, it was a fulfillment of a “dream”.
While the vast majority of the public is reacting to Hefner’s death by reflecting on a supposed “positive” legacy (as many often do when eulogizing deceased “celebrities”), scores and scores of men, women and children’s lives have been detrimentally affected as a result of the fruit of his life. Without argument, he left a legacy, but not an admirable one. Rather, a legacy which left an immeasurable trail of destruction - one which will undoubtedly also continue to adversely affect generations to come - with eternal ramifications that could be far worse than we may ever realize.

Through the success of Playboy magazine, the luxurious empire existed around his masterpiece and den of immorality: The Playboy Mansion. Biblically speaking, it can be likened to the altar of Israel’s forbidden Baal worship, upon which they built “high places” of worship toward false gods and away from the One true God.  At the altar, they would negligently sacrifice their children in the flames as an act of worship (Jeremiah 19:5). Though such literal sacrifices are virtually unheard of today, the Playboy empire has “helped” move entire generations off the path of righteousness and towards the darkness of an impure life through lust and impurity…through its images of nude women. This has become the modern altar of idolatry - mostly for men - with our children caught in the crossfire. Figuratively, we are sacrificing our young, impressionable children in order that we might serve the god of sexual immorality.  As a result of "free sex" outside of biblical marriage as advocated by Hefner, over 600,000 babies yearly through abortion are also subsequently "sacrificed" by its influences.  One can only wonder, was this a part of Hugh Hefner's "dream"?

Hefner's successful empire has left countless numbers of children hanging in the balance.  These children, having an all-too-common story as adults, are still dealing with pornography issues by the millions. They have strikingly similar childhood experiences. Through a discerning eye, we see can what dangers await a person who is exposed to pornography early in life.  What often begins as a seemingly innocent and natural fascination has been found to result in a life long, and sometimes faith-destroying, addiction to sex and pornography.  For whatever reason, the devil seems to expose boys to porn at around the age of 9, prompting an early start to an evil lifelong pull into sexual sin.


Since Playboy’s founding, Hugh Hefner has “helped” millions of fathers shift their eyes, hearts and minds through the allure of his images. As a vessel of immorality, he has pushed men to perhaps unintentionally break the very cisterns that were designed to protect these children from the lies of the enemy. For many men (and women), their journey to addiction and sexual immorality began with the fascinating and lethal discovery of a Playboy magazine in their childhood years. Without a doubt, most of those discoveries were a direct result of someone close to them possessing one of Hefner’s evil publications. 

In the wake of Hefner’s passing, as many praise his accomplishments throughout his life, his immoral leadership has also greatly contributed to end “the Age of Innocence” in countless lives. Without question, he has set many on a lust-filled ride on their way to hell itself. Having produced such an incredible amount of fruitless deeds, which the enemy has used bountifully, Hefner’s unrepentant life journey and subsequent death naturally leads one to question the eternal consequences of his actions. The Bible warns about the leading of His children towards sin:

“But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.” Matthew 19:6

One can only hope that Hefner breathed his last with a regretful, repentant heart of faith toward his Creator.


Hugh Hefner was in good company during most of his 64-year run. Society has mostly embraced and glorified Playboy images, but this wasn’t the case during its beginnings. Hefner was arrested after promoting ‘obscene’ literature in 1963 when he published an issue of Playboy featuring nude shots of Jane Mansfield. The case went to trial, but resulted in a hung jury (link). Today, the public would have sarcastically called for the jury to be literally “hung” if they attempted to call this act “obscene”. Wow, how far we have come!

In a sense, Hugh Hefner has encouraged freedom and liberty for both men and women. However, about the only liberating thing that has taken place is that women have been liberated from their clothing, and men from their responsibility. Children have been defiled and corrupted. Marriages have been ruined. It has been reported that viewing pornography actually doubles the rate of divorce (link).  It is perceivable that up to 500,000 divorces incur annually as a direct result of pornography in the home (link).  


Playboy’s patrons not only include the unsaved, but also professing Christians. According to one poll, 64% of Christian men and 15% of Christian women have admitted to watching porn at least monthly (link). One can only wonder how many professing Christians have shipwrecked their faith as a result of the creation of Playboy.  Perhaps it continues to be one of our greatest sexual outlets since we were kids - when we first discovered it.

We can grieve at the fact that one man’s life brought much evil into this world. If anything, the death of Hugh Hefner should remind us that the call to repentance from pornography within the church should be greater now than ever. It should mark the beginning of our death to this deadly sin, a sin which has the potential to separate us from Christ - for eternity.  This is something we should be taking very, very seriously!

No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish
Luke 13:3 

A special thank you to Eddie Buraye and Tony Palacio for their contribution to this article


'New Life Live' Radio Host's Unsound Statement

'New Life Live' Radio Hosts Compromise to the Philosophies of Psychology

By Greg Cooper

Family and Marriage Therapist Dr. Sherri Keffer uttered a very unexpected message to caller Dottie from North Beach, Maryland, who dialed in to the nationally syndicated show, New Life Live, on May 22, 2017 needing some advice regarding her friend's behavior: "I'm the mom you never had", she told the caller - twice!

Odd messages such as these are coming from therapists and those who can be described as "Christian Psychologists", in the long standing #1 nationally syndicated Christian counseling talk show New Life Live , whose goal is it to help people with a variety of personal issues.  Its reach spans over 150 named Christian Radio markets.  Off-the-wall statements such as this warrant continued concern over how psychology conflicts with sound, biblical truths, and how it may be leading people away from sound doctrine.

While the case can be made that therapy-based tactics are often effective in resolving temporal problems, psychoanalysts such as the hosts of the show - whom likely have the best of intentions - go to battle against issues such as addictions, stress, relationship problems, depression and other dysfunction with methods that are often worldly and extra-biblical. Yet, they also stake a claim on the authority of Scripture, occasionally referencing verses and alluding to Christian concepts, which oftentimes exist only as side-notes in addressing a particular situation.

The attempt at mixing these two can become problematic.  On the radio program, one will rarely hear the hosts ask a troubled caller if they are a believer in Christ, or if there is a belief in the authority of the Bible, or if they are even seeking Christ or making efforts to walk in the light and turn from sin on behalf of the Lord.  The absence of such questions is troublesome.

Interestingly, there are at least some practicing Christian psychologists who at least understand the preeminence the gospel takes over human wisdom.  Sara Rainer, Doctor of Psychology, explained the relationship between psychology and Christianity:  "For Christian psychologists, our worldview must be determined by Scripture", she writes (link).

However, Christ-following believers who are called to be in leadership (and this can include psychologists, especially if they are practicing as a declared Christian) are instructed to use the Word of God for reproof and instruction (as well as many other requirements as listed in 1 Timothy 3), and are instructed to gain converts to the faith within the bounds of the gospel, something not practiced often by self-identifying Christian psychologists and therapists, and as in the case of New Life Live. This is unfortunate, since the opportunities that have presented themselves to share the gospel has vast potential to gain converts to the faith.

Much to the dismay of caller Dottie, her friends were seeking signs from their dead relatives, an open and shut case, biblically-speaking.  But instead of going to Scripture to address the issue (which strongly and affirmatively condemns communication with and signs from the dead, i.e. Leviticus 19:31), the show's co-host immediately focused in on the unrelated topic of Dottie's past: "I am going to probably start out with a question about you", said Dr. Keffer straight out of the gates, and perhaps unknowingly creating a completely fabricated challenge: " I wonder if when you were growing up, when you were little, if you felt like you mattered.  Or if you felt like you were more invisible...you weren't really seen, were you?"

In a near-psychic fashion, host Keffer had an immediate and starkingly accurate introspective on Dottie's childhood, with little to no information given, to which the caller reacted, "I am amazed that you picked up on that with very little I said about myself!" 

The question, which flipped everything on its head by focusing on the caller's hurt-filled past, does in fact sound similar to an approach a non-Christian therapist would take, such as the "No Nonsense" relationship radio host Dr. Laura Schlessinger,who often authoritively turns tables on callers and often makes direct, blunt judgments on their character and current situation.

It seemed as though Dr. Keffer were setting caller Dottie up for something else.

New Life Live Founder Steve Arterburn
Founder Steve Arterburn, who has been introduced as "a leading authority on human relationships" (link), was also at the helm, and laughing off Kerri's insightful abilities in a light-hearted manner.

Dr. Keffer inappropriately placed caller Dottie in an awkward position in identifying a deep mother wound, and then claiming she herself was the 'mother Dottie never had' - all within minutes of her engaging her in conversation. Apparently, Keffer believed she was the only one who deeply understood and heard her pain, as a mother who listened well would.

But why a therapist would say such a thing to a caller after two minutes into conversation - one dealing with this kind of situation - is borderline demonic, if not just strange.  For Dottie, she only wanted advice as to how to deal with her friends' behavior, to which no biblical answer was given.  Instead, she was faced with an unfair and unrelated challenge of what Keffer described as her desiring "accolades" in wanting to be "seen and admired, remembered and acknowledged in legacy..." because of her concern over her friends.

With the doctor clearly on a tangent, this left the caller in an awkward position in defense of her own well-being: "I don't know about all that", she said,"but I have a husband that's..he's wonderful, and he practically cherishes me - is that different?"  Dr. Keffer responded by explaining it in from her own spiritual perspective:  "I would call that God's love for you, and God's redemption in giving you a man that sees you." 

The problem in this response this is that God's redemption to mankind is the sacrificial offering of Jesus Christ, who appeared to take away the sins of the world to those who would believe, which has absolutely nothing to do with a supportive husband.  The bible makes it clear:

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace. (Ephesians 1:7)

In this example, Dr. Kerri failed to properly address the problem biblically, created confusion and diversion regarding the concern at hand, assumed an authoritative motherly role in the caller's life, and followed it by offering an unbiblical truth claim.  All the while, Mr. Arterburn remained silent on the matter, except for offering up the idea that a sign from the dead could be chalked up to "coincidence", and not once alluding to the possibility of any demonic or spiritual influences, or that it could be answered biblically.

A third co-host, clinical psychologist Alice Benton, agreeing with Dr. Keffer, also pressed in on the caller: "When we hold back a truth about how we are feeling...it tends to deteriorate the relationship at some level" she told her caller.  " I think you have a truth here with your emotional reaction here with your friend", she said. Aside from sidestepping the real issue of Dottie's friends' behavior, her comments also bring up a greater concern about what she means by "a" truth, when Christians should be primarily concerned about "The" Truth.

Mr. Arterburn, seemingly having no problems with what had been said, finished up the conversation with Dottie by offering her a hand-out from one of his book collections, "Toxic Faith", which can only be assumed as the kind of faith he had diagnosed her as having.

With numerous psychologists also presented as an authority on the show, and with New Life founder Steve Aterburn preaching on pulpits as a guest speaker in churches all around the country, having co-written over 100 books accepted under a Christian genre, and being that it is broadcast on Christian radio and claiming to be Christian-based, the biblical bar for the show should be set much higher than it is.  New Life Live, with their arguably compromised hosts (Dr. Keffer and Dr. Benton's website both do not specify whether or not they identify as Christian or not), can be opening themselves up to spirits other than that of the Holy Spirit in influencing the hearts and minds of both callers and those listening in on their local Christian radio station, which it seems to be doing on a regular basis.

In avoiding this kind of bizarre advice stemming from human insights and wrong theology, New Life Live, rather than continuing to remedy broken human relationships with human wisdom, would be much better served ministering to the needs of their callers by speaking directly to their sinful condition and need of repentance in faith unto salvation, as well as encouraging and leading people to the cross of Jesus Christ by implanting biblical truths, and pointing hurting souls to churches and grounded Christian fellowship.  Instead, New Life seems to be offering people an overwhelming amount of worldly wisdom through a psychological, man-centered approach to healing, and hence missing the mark on sound doctrine, which, as we have seen in this case, can be quite detrimental to the cause of Christianity, the truth, and a right living before a Holy God.

Hear the full New Life Live show here:


Enduring Through the Race to Eternal Life

A believer must not simply declare victory at the beginning of his conversion, but must endure and finish the race before him to completion in order to obtain the prize of eternal life.

by Greg Cooper

I know of no dedicated couple who has walked into a chapel on their wedding day expecting to very soon spitefully hate their spouse months later, or no supercharged Olympic long distance runner charging forward following the starting gun with the thought, 'I'm starting this race, but I'm definitively not finishing it'!  No established building contractor would likely be found not expecting to complete an end-product; perhaps no seasoned, highly recognized school teacher may even have a fleeting thought that she will end up utterly despising and abandoning her little first grade students by the end of the year.  It would be surprising to hear of someone even slightly expecting such a devastating result that from which they firstly had in mind. 

With the Christian, any supposed acceptance of the basic moral expectations of conversion in a person will likely result in a similar expectation of success.  Like the Olympic runner, he starts mentally and physically dedicated, fully expecting success (and like the world, pushing away 'negativity' and 'bad thinking'), though he may be aware of any possible impending dangers of injury or other pitfalls along the way, the thought does not dominate or hinder him, nor typically any of his coaches.  The goal for everyone and for the athlete is to finish, and that is where the expectation lie.

Winning after the first step

With many conversions to the faith today, the 'win' mistakenly comes at the immediate point of conversion.  When a person “receives the Lord as his or her Savior”, the 'coaches' around that person (what we might call teachers, pastors, bishops or lay believers), having misunderstood the gospel in its completion as relating to salvation, mistakenly believe that the race has already been won, and no further endurance is remotely considered.  In their eyes, the new convert has already obtained the crown, which, biblically speaking, will only be given at the finish line: 'Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.'[1]

As for the Olympian, he knows where the finish line is; it is several miles away.  The first step of the run is just the beginning of the journey. Any reasonable person understands that this man starting such a race doesn't qualify him to win, or to even come close to finishing due to unforeseen distractions, impeding people or other catastrophic failures.  No coach, runner, or coordinator knows if he or any of the competitors will actually finish the race, nor who will win.  Similarly, not one soul knows the fate of a believer (or supposed believer), whether a person will finish strong and enter into Heaven upon his death, except for the Lord.  As the runner who has complete confidence in his start, he is obviously not handed over a guarantee of a certificate of completion, as will not many professing Christians looking to Heaven either. 

Paul's running analogy

While this running race analogy may make logical sense from a human perspective, it certainly does not prove the point spiritually.  In the Paul's letter to the Corinthians, he addressed the far-too-frequently sin-struggling, compromised Church residing there, who appeared to have been take “shortcuts” in regards to their faith-journey.  Paul addressed their condition by giving them an analogy as related to the Games performed in his day: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.”[2]  He implies that one must run with all of his might, and emphasizes its order: “An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.”[3]  Obviously, many were willing to start the race, but not willing to endure the sufferings or trials and on to the finish line.  There were difficulties in finishing the course set before them in the overwhelmingly evil, sensual, and unbelieving world in which we they lived.  So much so that evidently not everyone who confidently started off in the faith looked like they were going to reach their intended destination. Paul addressed the heart of the matter: 'You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?'[4].  The believers in Corinth were cutting corners, and dropping out of the race that was leading to eternal life, being led astray by sinful people, and their own wicked, sinful desires. 

Paul knew he himself must endure patient suffering and to deny his sinful nature as to finish the race: 'Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.'[5]  Disqualification from a race means not finishing, and consequently not receiving the promised prize of eternal life.

Paul was dead-set on finishing well, and in order to finish his race, he also had to endure much suffering, trial, endurance long-suffering along the way, and as he indicated, a far greater amount than his brothers throughout his life as a Christian, in which he described in detail: '”...far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure...'

Having proven his faith, Paul had the authority to judge their course; he was an example of someone who persevered until the end. He himself was a genuine believer and lived out his faith, from the point of his conversion on the road to Damascus, and until the end of his life, in which he died by beheading: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.'[6].  He finished well.

Imagine if this man had completely given up following Christ just after his first trial of being struck by someone on the cheek.  If he had thought, "this just isn't worth it", these New Testament writings may as well have never been written, which would have been extremely catastrophic to the church as well as his race, just as he warned others: 'And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.'[7] Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.[8] 

Job as an example of endurance through trial

A good example of an enduring saint who didn't once draw back is Job, whom the Lord called '”My servant'”, a man who was described as '”blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.'”[9]  Satan accused Job to the Father by looking to destroy him through the testing of his faith.  Job's faith was in fact tested thoroughly, but he was later found to be genuine and proven – but not after having endured terrible loss and immense physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual suffering.  If Job had followed the advice of his wife, who was at her wits end with his suffering, and scrutinized: “Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die.”[10], a case can be made that Job would most certainly not have ended up even more blessed and victorious than before his great trial [11], even though he would have received a conversely opposed blow.  Jesus spoke of this well after the life of Job: 'And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.'[12]  Also saying: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.[13], and as such God's moral Law also applies to even Job, the rarest of men in righteousness who ever lived. 

Our faith-journey requires endurance through trials such as Job experienced as well - if God so allowed it to happen to us.  The truth of the matter is, we are almost always tested on a much, much smaller scale as Job was.  The amount of faith required to endure such a test as he was tested with is simply mind-boggling.  He lost his children, his grand collection of livestock, his health, endured much physical pain, was given grief by his companions, and last but not least, his “helper” wife turned on him, and threw him a towel to give up!  Most everyone of those who casually consider themselves a Christian today would not survive this great trial, in fact may simply give up very sooner than later.  For us, the first endurance test may well be the unwillingness to turn away from sinful desires: 'Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”'[14]

Our hardships in endurance need not destroy our faith, and not only so but trials can be fully expected: 'Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.'[15]  When we are tested, we are in need of consistent fighting in order to receive what 'God has promised to those who love Him', as in the case of the Smyrna church as spoken of by Jesus in the Book of Revelation: 'The devil will throw some of you into prison to test you. You will suffer for ten days. But if you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life.'[16]

The course set before us today in our current time is also a very challenging one.  As a believer pushes on through his life on the road that leads to Heaven, obstacles can and do arrive.
It is not by accident that they do relentlessly present themselves in our weakest moments, and are specifically designed for us to give up trying to run the race of our lives completely. The adversary who is setting these obstacles is Satan himself, and his legion of fallen angels, who does in fact even accuse believers to the Father in Heaven[17]

As believers, we must push on through trial and obstacle, centering on Jesus as the Author and Finisher of our faith.  If we enter the race, we are most certainly expected to push through the course, and to finish well.  As the Scriptures testify, many along the way will not make it; they will give up and will drop out of the race.  Sadly, their end will be hell, but those who continue in the faith, finishing strong, and enduring to the end of the race will indeed be saved, and inherit the crown of life promised to those who love him.


[1]James 1:12 (NASB)
[2]1 Corinthians 9:24 (ESV)
[3]2 Timothy 2:5 (ESV)
[4]Galatians 5:7 (NIV)
[5]1 Corinthians 9:26-27
[6]2 Timothy 2:7 (ESV)
[7]1 John 2:28 (NIV)
[8]Hebrews 10:38 (KJV)
[9]Job 1:8
[10]Job 2:9 (NLV)
[11]Job 42:12 (NIV)
[12]Matthew 12:32 (NIV)
[13]Matthew 5:17 (ESV)
[14]Matthew 16:27 (NASB)
[15]1 Peter 4:12 (ESV)
[16]Revelation 2:10 (ESV)
[17]Job 1:6-8