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Run Your Race



I enjoy watching sports of all kinds. I love watching them because of the struggle, the competition, the will to be the best and to see the sacrifices people make to push themselves to the limits. One of the sports I love to watch is running. Part of it is because I used to be a runner and the other part is that it is as much mental ability as it is physical ability. There are also many correlations between running and our spiritual life. Paul knew this and drew several of those in his letters to the early church. He knew that our Christian lives demand the same type of discipline.

One of the first things you learn in running is form. Yes, there is a proper way to run and an improper way. You can reduce wind resistance and drag by how you shape your body and move your arms. When you don’t have proper form, you create resistance that slows you down and wears you out. It’s the same when it comes to running our faith race. There is a proper way to do it and a way that slows you down. The New Testament spends a lot of time describing how we should live as believers. The writers knew that it wasn’t the great sins that defeat us, it’s the little ones over time. That’s why Hebrews 12:1 says, “Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. (NLT)” 

Another thing you learn in racing is to keep your head and eyes forward. So many races are lost because the runners are looking side to side to see where everyone else is. That’s a major no no for runners. It slows you down, distracts you from your goal and creates resistance. You have to keep your focus on your breathing and your eyes on the finish line. Solomon wrote in Proverbs 4:25, “Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. (NLT)” We need to lose the distractions in our lives that keep our eyes off of Heaven. Keep your focus on the One who is faithful and true so you can finish your course.

The last thing I’d like to mention is that you have to run your own race. God has a specific course for you. Your race isn’t the same as everyone else’s. Keep your focus on what and how God called you to live not on how He’s called others to live. Don’t compare yourself, your race or how you run to others. You have a different race, but the same goal. Paul knew Timothy was facing this distraction so he wrote to him in I Timothy 6:12, “Run your best in the race of faith, and win eternal life for yourself; for it was to this life that God called you… (GNT)” You run your best race by focusing on what God called you to, not what He called someone else to. So get rid of the weights that hold you down, fix your eyes on the prize and run your race.

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The Marathon Message

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There’s a story about a man named Pheidippides who lived in Greece in the fifth century. After fighting in a battle against the Persians, he ran from the town of Marathon to Athens to announce the outcome of the battle and that the Persians were headed there to attack. He burst into the assembly and shouted, “Victory!” Shortly thereafter, he collapsed and died. To honor what this man did, people now run about the same distance he did in Marathons. They push their bodies to run over 26 miles as fast as they can.

I’m reminded of the race that you and I are in. Paul told us in I Corinthians 9:24-26 that we need to run our race in order to win. He said that it’s for a temporary crown, but for an eternal one. He then finishes off by saying, “I run with purpose in every step.” Pheidippides ran with purpose as well. He knew that he had to get the message to Athens. He knew there would be trouble if he didn’t. I’m sure he was tired and sore from fighting all day in heavy armor, but he still ran. With every step, he thought about the message he had been given.

What about us? Are we running every step of our race thinking about the message we carry? There is no life too ordinary or too complicated that it is not our responsibility to carry and deliver His message. II Corinthians 4:7 says, “We carry this precious message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives.” Paul recognized that each one of us who have received Christ have this message in us. There’s no life to ordinary that you can’t share “Victory” with someone else. There are too many people who need to hear the Good News we carry for us to remain still and silent.

Eventually we will all get to the finish line. We will all have to stand before God and give an account of how we ran our race. Will the story your life tells be one where you kept the message bottled up and hidden or will it be one where you gave your all in this race so that others may know? If it’s the first of the two, the good news is that your race is not over. There is still time to run your race with purpose. There is still time for you to pick up the pace and to finish strong. When you get to the finish line, you want to be able to shout, “Victory!” And then be able to say like Paul did, “I’ve run hard right to the finish, believed all the way. All that’s left now is the shouting – God’s applause.”

Don’t get caught up in running for the applause of man. That’s the temporary crown that fades. The applause of God is what matters. The way to get the applause of God is to run this race for His glory, not our own. It’s to make His name known and not our own. This treasure that we have inside of us was meant to be shared. The message of Christ’s victory at the cross must be shouted in the assembly until all have heard. Until then, how can we rest? How can we live our lives without purpose? It’s why we were created. It is our purpose.

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Keep Running

I got to hear Kirk Franklin share his testimony last year. It was the first time I had seen him in person. He told the story of how he grew up without a father and how he always wanted to be there for his son. He told how his son ran track and he was watching him run a relay race. When the second guy on their team went to hand the baton to number three, he dropped the baton. The third guy picked it up and started heading for Kirk’s son.

When Kirk looked ahead at his son, who was now at a disadvantage, he didn’t see him give up. Instead he saw him readjusting his stance, timing the space between he and the other runners and preparing to receive that baton. When he finally got the baton, he ran as if he had a chance to win the race. He ran as fast as he could all the way to the finish line knowing he wouldn’t win.

That took character. Many of us would have jogged to the finish line. If we can’t win, what’s the point in trying that hard? No one in the crowd expected him to run that hard to the finish line. Well no one except his dad. His dad had instilled in him the value of never giving up. In a time when running fast didn’t really matter, the character that was taught to him came shining through.

You and I are in a race. I’m not talking about the race to the top of the corporate ladder. We’re in a race of faith. Paul likened our lives as Christians to race a few times. In 1 Corinthians 9:24, Paul said we should run to win the prize. You shouldn’t slow to a jog just because someone you looked up to dropped the baton. You shouldn’t slow down because you may have dropped it.

The truth is that none of us have been handed a perfect baton in this race. None of us are capable of running with it without dropping it. It’s what we do when we receive a dropped baton or drop it ourselves that matters. The easy thing is to give up and say, “I tried, but there’s no use now. If they can’t carry it without dropping it, how can I?” The hard thing to do is to pick up that dirty baton, wipe it off and keep running like you will win.

I played a lot of sports in high school. One school we used to play had a banner up that said, “Sports don’t build character, they reveal it.” The same is true in the faith. What you do when you or so done else messes up reveals your faith. You have the ability to get forgiveness for your mistakes, to start running again and to do your best to not do that again. Being a Christian isn’t about being perfect, it’s about getting back up and continuing to run after you’ve fallen or have been knocked down.

Proverbs 24:16 says, “The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again.” What about you? Have you tripped recently? Are you jogging and taking it easy to the finish line? I want to encourage you to get up, pick up your baton and sprint towards the finish line. Run like you’re going to win, trust God for the victory. Don’t stay down when you trip. Get back up and join the race. The body of Christ is here to help you and your father is in the stands watching and cheering you on.

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Training for Godliness (Pt 5)

This week, I’m doing a series on training for Godliness. Many Christians don’t look at the life they lead as a marathon and therefore don’t train their spirit to handle struggles that come. These lessons will provide you with the tools you need to keep your spirit strengthened for a lifetime. Our core scripture I Timothy 4:8. It says, “Physical Training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come. (NLT)”

Links to previous parts: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

Training

Once you can do everything that we discussed this week, it’s time to really start training. Training is about pushing yourself beyond your limits. Jesse Owens, the Olympic sprinter, talked about how he learned to push beyond the pain. We must too. We can’t let life’s pains stop us from our training and running our race. We can’t let other people’s faults interrupt us from reaching our goal. It’s time to start really putting our faith into practice daily. Each day I ask God to allow me to be His hands and feet to at least one person. I ask that He would use me to speak His words to someone.

Training is hard work. Hebrews 12:2 in the Message says, “It means we better get on with it. Strip down, start running – and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how He did it. Because He never lost sight of where He was headed – that exhilarating finish in and with God – He could put up with anything.” Start running and never stop. Keep your mind on things above and look to what awaits those who finish the race.

Keep your mind on the prize. Paul said it like this in Philippians 3:14, “Friends, now don’t get me wrong; by no means do I consider myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward – to Jesus.” Just like in a marathon, you need to keep your mind on your goal of completing the race and hearing Jesus say, “Well done.” Hebrews 12:1 says that there is a great cloud of witnesses cheering us on! We aren’t alone in this race. We have others who are out there to help us complete it. Find a running buddy and challenge each other daily to keep going further than you ever thought possible.

Conclusion

There are many similarities in training for a marathon and training for godliness. Both require mental strength and endurance. One is for temporary gain and the other is for eternal gain. Set your mind on the things that are above and remember that this world is not our home. We should be working towards our eternal home. Spend time each day working on getting there. Philippians 2:12 says, “Work hard to show the results of your salvation.” Keep working. Keep pushing. Don’t let set backs discourage you. You are not running this race alone. You’re in it to win it!

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