I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7
I’m always amazed by people that run. I’ve never been a runner and have never been accused of running too much in my life (is there such a thing?). But you people that I see jogging out on city streets or at the gym on treadmills; I salute you! You’re sticking to something. Maybe you are training for a half marathon or a 5K. Maybe you just want to get in shape and be healthy. Whatever the reason, you’re making exercise and physical health a priority and that is a good thing! Keep it up.
It’s no wonder to me that the Apostle Paul compares the Christian journey to a runner training and competing after a prize. It’s such a beautiful metaphor and for any of us who have at least tried running, we realize the idea fits well to describe matters of faith. Just as we train and make our bodies fit for running a race, we train spiritually and take means to keep ourselves in alignment with God as we read His Word and spend time in prayer. (You can read my blog The Benefits Of Staying Spiritually Fit for more insight).
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about leaving a legacy and what is looks like to finish well. Right now I’m in a job transition and really a life-stage transition. I want to end well where I’m at. Furthermore, as I take a longview of life I want to be prepared to end well...whenever the finish line of this physical life comes.
Running the race hard and ending well means we have to be prepared to win and minimize the ways in which we can lose. How can we lose the race? I’m glad you asked!
I believe we can lose the race in 2 ways: by falling short (i.e. quitting or giving up) and by being disqualified.
We fall short in the race when we choose to stop running further. Maybe we get tired due to factors beyond our control: we lose our job, our marriage falls apart, we hit a financial crisis. Those are physical types of problems, but the spiritual ramifications can manifest in many ways. We stop talking to God or reading our Bible. We stop going to church and don’t reach out to other Christians. In all of this, we turn away from the Lord because we believe He’s not there and He is not truly good. All of these are lies of course. But in the moment and in the day-to-day, the lies become more believable than the truth. And under the weight of it all, giving up on the race seems most logical.
We can also lose the race by being disqualified. A runner can be disqualified if it is found out that he or she cheated in some way. Taking steroids or performance-enhancing drugs has caused Olympian medal-winners to be stripped of their prize. We get disqualified when we aim for less than what is God’s best. This is simply known as sin and when we run, we must take steps to guard ourselves from sinning.
It’s been said that the Christian life is a marathon, not a sprint. I think the saying holds true when thinking about how we need to run in order to win. Life will throw us curveballs; some are ordained by God as tests and trials and others we fall into because of bad decisions. I believe we have to persevere through the times that are difficult by keeping our eyes on the prize (our heavenly calling). Likewise, we have to daily work out our salvation with fear and trembling knowing that we are prone to sin and falling away from our love for our Lord and Savior.
In all of this let me be clear: just because we might be losing the race right now does not mean we cannot turn back to God and be placed once again on a winning path. There is always hope and you can always return back to Jesus.
As I’m praying for you today, I’m asking the Lord to help you stay in the race. To finish strong and to run for His glory. We are not islands alone and adrift from each other in this. Rather, we are brothers and sisters in Christ and must hold fast to Him as we also bear one another’s burdens. How can I hold you up in prayer this week? What are you wrestling with that I can stand in agreement in prayer for God’s strength and deliverance?
You can reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org I’d love to hear from you and if you are looking for a “running partner”, I’m here!
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:24
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14