I went to a pretty small high school where if you were athletic, you pretty much played every sport. If you ran track, you didn’t just run one race, you ran several which meant several heats for each race. We had to be in great shape. I remember my running coach teaching me to breathe a certain way so that I wouldn’t get that pain in my side. She also taught me aerodynamics so that my body would channel the wind. Then there was the conditioning to get my body in shape to survive so many races. I put a lot of miles on my shoes so that I could win the races I ran. After high school, I decided had ran enough miles for a lifetime, but in the course of it, I had won many races.
Running takes discipline and mental strength to push through when your body wants to quit. It’s a lot like living out your faith. It takes being dedicated, being mentally focused and being disciplined. Your flesh is always fighting against you and is trying to slow you down so you have to be prepared mentally to push back. It tries to play against your sympathies to get you to stumble and fall. You have to be disciplined enough to catch it early so you can stop that line of thinking. You also have to keep your eyes on what’s at stake in your life and in the lives of others. It’s not a 5k Fun Run. This is more like a marathon or an Iron Man. Every part of you must be disciplined so that you’re making determined progress and are be becoming more like Christ every day.
1 Corinthians 9:24 says, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run [their very best to win], but only one receives the prize? Run [your race] in such a way that you may seize the prize and make it yours!” (AMP) Each of us are running the race God has called us to. No one can run your race for you. It’s up to you to run your race in a manner that you’re not just providing traffic for the other runners, but that you’re running in order to win. When you’re running to win, you push yourself to stay in the front of the race. You lean on lessons you’ve learned from the past and ensure that you’re spiritually fit. You use the discipline of reading and applying God’s Word to keep you on track. You continually seek God and His presence so you can endure. You invite the Holy Spirit into your life to encourage you daily to keep going. If you’re going to live a life of faith, be 100% committed and give it your all.
Photo by Pietro Rampazzo on Unsplash
My son thinks somehow age and height are related. When he sees someone tall, he thinks they must be really old. No matter how many times we’ve tried to explain it to him and show him, he still doesn’t want to change his thinking. What he’s doing is comparing his age with kids younger than him and also against adults. It might work some if the time, but what I’ve tried to explain to him is that just because it works some of the time, you can’t apply it to everything. Comparing ourselves to others usually ends up creating these inequalities in our minds.
Since we were kids, we have been comparing ourselves to other people. Parents sometimes ask their kids, “Why can’t you be more like so and so?” It creates a dangerous line of thinking that makes us constantly co pare ourselves against people we have no business comparing ourselves with. What if we compared our singing ability to Frank Sinatra? Or our Christlikeness against Billy Graham? Or our intellectual abilities against Einstein? How would that leave you feeling?
Einstein is often given credit for saying, “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” God gave you unique abilities and talents. You aren’t supposed to compare what He’s given you you do versus what He’s given someone else to do. Nothing good comes from that. Yet, as Christians, we do it all the time. We can’t pray as well as that person, or live as holy as the other, or do work for God’s kingdom like them. We’ll never be able to fulfill what God made us for if we do that.
James 6:4-5 says, “Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life” (MSG). It’s time each of us reflects on the skills, talent, and work God has called us to, then put our efforts there. Comparisons keep us from our calling, and cause us to fall short of our potential creating insecurity. Live the life God called YOU to, not the one He called someone else to.
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.