A few weeks ago, I bought my daughter some Cross Country spikes as recommended by her coach. As she’s now on the varsity team, I wanted to be sure she was equipped with the equipment that would help her get to the next level. Like her mom, she likes to keep her shoes loose. During her latest run, another runner stepped on the back of her shoe. As a result, her spike flew off. My daughter ended up with only one shoe. I couldn’t imagine running with only one shoe. Even more so, I couldn’t imagine running a few miles without a shoe. Despite the pain, my daughter continued to press forward. She didn’t let another runner disrupt her race. She actually ran faster and more focused. She finished with a personal record. Yes, her foot was a bit sore, but she finished the race and she finished it well.
We are each running a race. The Apostle Paul talks about this race. Remember, we are to run so that we win the race (1 Corinthians 9:24). There are people out there who will step on our shoes. We often think it’s the people who don’t believe that step on our shoes. We make non-believers out to be the enemy. Stop doing that! They are lost people, just like you and I were once lost.
Oftentimes, the reason our race is slowed down is because of the other runners—our brothers and sisters in Christ. The Bible speaks again and again about unity, about harmony with the body of Christ. Jesus Christ is the Head and we all are the body. Yet, we have a terrible time at getting along. We argue over doctrine. We tear each other down, instead of building each other up. We promote our own agenda, even if it means sacrificing what God is doing through the ministry of others. We are divisive. We are judgmental. We live by our opinions and emotions rather than God’s truth. Our human nature leads us off course. We get in the way of what God is doing through others because we want to be control happy.
Today, look at your feet. Are you running the race? Are you running to win? Are you encouraging the other runners, or are you stepping on their shoes? Are you running alongside your brothers and sisters in love, or are you slowing them down as a stumbling block? Live in harmony. “Be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.”
“I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.” – 1 Corinthians 1:10 [NLT]
When my daughter first began running Cross Country a few years back, she noted the importance of running within the flags. There’s a course set up and you have to go around the flags in such a way. If you go off of the course, you are in trouble. Something that I see as a big problem is the spectators. You have your eager parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, etc., chasing alongside the course cheering and screaming encouragement. Sometimes they get onto the course. Then you have those people who have no clue how Cross Country courses are laid out, and they walk onto the course. Many times, you will hear a parent yell for people to “get off the track” or “get off the field.” I have been that yelling parent many times. This weekend, I was that parent on three occasions. Guilty! I don’t usually yell, but when I do, you know it was me.
Thankfully none of the uninformed onlookers caused any real problems. They move quite quickly when you yell at them. However, there have been instances when runners have been slowed down because of some disruption on the course. Despite the yelling of the referees, coaches, and parents, it happens. Can you imagine running miles, training for weeks, trying to beat a record—only to have someone stroll onto the course and cause you to lose all that effort in a blink of an eye?!? Sometimes it’s a few tenths of a second. Boom.
Paul talks about us running a race. Each of us, whether we admit it or not, are running a race. It’s our Christian walk, our walk with Jesus Christ. Sometimes there will be someone who will come along as we are running our race, and he or she will cause us to stumble, to slow down, to get off course. Sometimes there will be that one person who will keep you from being where God wants you to be at and you might not even see it coming. Today, look at the track of your life. Do you have a group of encouragers, chasing along, trying to help you get to where God wants you to be? Do you have people in your life who look out for your best interests and try to equip and empower you? Or do you have someone on the field, walking along, getting you to stumble and slow down? Do you have someone who is trying to enable you to stay where you are at, when God is trying to take you somewhere new? Keep running the race. As Paul, may you finish the race.
“Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.” – 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 [NLT]
Well my daughter’s Cross Country season is over. I asked if she wanted to participate in Track and Field; however, she said she doesn’t think she will. I asked why because I know she loves to run. She said she isn’t a fast runner. She’s a distance runner. Many of the Cross Country team members were fast and they would start out really well, but then she’d be ahead. Their energy fizzled a bit and she kept a steady pace.
In our Christian walk, we can start out really well and fizzle. I see it time and time again. Some people get this passion for Jesus when they accept Him into their lives. They get a huge Bible. They are highlighting. They are raising hands. They start telling everyone about Jesus and they look to be on fire. But that quick burst suddenly fizzles. In time it looks as if the light has gone out.
Paul told us to press forward on the race that is set out before us. It doesn’t have to be a quick rush forward to surge ahead. Our walk with Christ is a steady one—day by day, moment by moment. We aren’t in a race against each other trying to be the “better Christian” as if there was a thing. Each of us is simply to continue fixing our eyes on Jesus and trying to follow God’s will for our lives. We will stumble. We will mess up. God’s grace is enough. The bottom line is—keep pressing forward.
“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 [NIV]
“I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” – Philippians 3:14 [NLT]
On a recent trip I drove from Pennsylvania to North Carolina. The drive did not seem so long except when we were in Virginia. It seemed like Virginia went on forever. When I compared the time we spent in Maryland and West Virginia, it was very apparent that the journey as longer. I started to feel exhausted. I started to doubt if we would ever get out of Virginia and reach our destination. The trip did not look like this on Google Maps.
As we understand our journeys in life, we usually have some sort of perception of what to expect. We use our knowledge, our experiences, and even other experiences to help prepare us for what lies ahead with the current road we are traveling. The problem arises when reality is very different from what we expected. We start to lose momentum, to get exhausted, to even have doubts.
Don’t give up. If God has called you to do something, you will reach the finish line. The road is not always going to be quick or smooth, but He is faithful. Focus on God, not on your expectations of the situation. We cannot know 100% what the situation will bring our way, but we can trust our unchanging God. I eventually made it to North Carolina and you will eventually reach your destination as well. Keep pressing forward. We each have a long road ahead of us, but it promises us a beautiful future.
“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 long ago, a professor and I were having a discussion about having confidence in the Lord rather than in ourselves. We then moved our thoughts to competitions. Within the discussion, the professor challenged me with 1 Corinthians 9:24, where Paul wrote, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win” (NASB). This passage is telling us that running is not the same as winning. We need to win the race. We need to finish the race to win. However, it is not a race where there is only one winner. We each can receive our crowns if we finish the race. It is all about running the race to the finish line. As 2 Timothy 4:7 states, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (ESV). At the end of the race, it’s all about keeping the faith; it’s all about trusting in God to the finish.
The big problem that we have with running our own race is that which deters us and moves us away from our walk with Christ. The writer of Hebrews wrote, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1 NIV). This passage warns us that there are things that will hinder us in this race. In John Bunyan’s book, “The Pilgrim’s Progress,” this man name Christian is on his journey to salvation and the Celestial City, only to meet up with a wide array of people who tell him to turn around or try to give him another way to travel. Each person tries to hinder his race, some more purposeful than others. Paul says this in Galatians, “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?” (5:7 NIV).
You see, this race to the finish is not a race where we are competing against others. We are competing against ourselves and our own sin nature. We are to be running forward, trusting God, running in the way of Christ, obeying the Truth. There are many runners on the course with us, some running right alongside us, others trying to get us to turn around, others falling asleep on the course, and others trying to get us to attempt taking a “short cut” which really isn’t a short cut to the finish line, but a derailment. Then there are those runners who make it a competition in hopes of getting a better position in heaven or to draw attention to themselves here on earth, and these runners have somewhat derailed themselves too.
Philippians 2:6 of the NLT says, “Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless.” Paul encourages us to follow the Word of God, to run the race that is set before us as Christ ran the race, following the Word of God. So keep running. Keep following the course set before us. Many will try to hinder us whether purposely or not, but if we cling to the Word of God and trust in Him who is faithful, we will have victory.