I have never been a runner. I rarely break into a jog when I am out on a walk. Even when jogging was the craze I resisted. So I have no personal experience with running a race. Yet the Christian life is often pictured as just that. Paul uses this analogy often. In I Corinthians 9 he tells us to run in such a way that you may win. In Galatians 5 he says, “You were running well, who hindered you?” In Philippians 2 Paul speaks of his own life, “I did not run in vain.” Experienced runner or not, it sounds to me like once we enter the Christian life, we have entered the race of our lives!
For all of us non-runners, Hebrews 12:1-2 gives insight into how to run this race. There is more to it than just showing up. Practice, training, focus and perseverance all go into a successful race.
Sometimes when a runner is training he wraps weights around his ankles and runs wearing a jogging outfit and jogging shoes. But when it is time to run the race, he takes off those cumbersome weights and peels down his clothes to the minimum. He slips on light track shoes.
Is there something in your life that you are hanging onto, something that is weighing you down, keeping you from running the race? It may not be a sin, but an encumbrance --- something that isn’t necessarily wrong, but something that the Lord is showing you that you need to lay aside. Will you ask Him if there is anything that is holding you back in the race? Lay it aside! You need to run unencumbered.
Even an extremely talented natural runner doesn’t just waltz out to the race with no preparation and expect to do well. She trains and practices. She gets into shape and employs strength training. She will exert discipline to stay in the training zone. She runs until she reaches her limit, then she pushes herself and runs some more. She develops the quality of endurance ---- perseverance, bearing up under pressure, not giving up. Think of the proverbial race between the tortoise and the hare, the tortoise won that race because he developed perseverance.
We can get discouraged so easily. Just one critical word, one harsh response, can cause us to want to give up. Circumstances come into our lives and knock us down. Sometimes we just get bogged down with daily living, overwhelmed and disheartened. Weary. We are tempted to walk away from the Christian life and live for ourselves.
It is time to draw from the character quality that the Lord seems to value so highly, perseverance. Don’t let the enemy have the victory by giving up. Like a runner who has been knocked down, pick yourself up and get back in the race.
What would it be like to run your heart out in a race only to find you are on the wrong track? All the hard work, the training, endurance and perseverance that goes into the race, all for nothing! Ephesians 2 teaches that we are God’s workmanship created for good works that the Lord prepared beforehand for us to walk in.
God has a plan for your individual life. He knows your gifts, abilities and opportunities. He has good works for you to walk in. Yours are different from mine! We need to seek the Lord daily to find His guidance for our individual lives. He wants you on the right track.
Every runner knows to focus straight ahead, on the finish line. It is a killer to look back to see where you have been or to look over your shoulder to see how you are doing. A runner must stay focused and keep his eyes on the prize.
There are so many things, even good things, clamoring for our attention in this life. When we focus on the things of this world we can easily get bogged down. We can look back and our past can weight us down with guilt. We can look around and our circumstances can cripple us with fear. Even focusing on the blessings of our lives can cause us to forget the One who has blessed us. Keep you eyes fixed on Jesus.
Sometimes our lives seem small and insignificant. Most of us haven’t done mighty things for the Lord. We have just been leading ordinary lives, making small everyday choices that no one even sees and don’t seem to matter. Our “mini” steps of faith don’t seem to be accomplishing anything “mighty”.
Some of us have been clipped by our life situation. Hindrances block our way. The finish line looks unobtainable. The good news is we aren’t running this race alone! The One who set us on this course is the One who will see us all the way through. We may be taking mini steps, but we have a Mighty God who is the author and a finisher of our faith. Underneath are His everlasting arms. He will carry you.
Non-runner or not, we only have this one life to run this race. Fix your eyes on Jesus and run your heart out!
We thank you that you are the author and finisher of our faith and that even our mini choices have eternal value and are significance in your eyes. Give us the grace to lay aside the sin in our lives that hinders us. Help us to throw off every encumbrance that impedes us. Develop perseverance in our characters so that we will not give in to discouragement. Guide us on the path that you have for us each day. May we fix our eyes on You, Lord Jesus. Amen