As the sun beat down onto the flattened grass path, the long-awaited runner finally came into view in the distance. Her sweat drenched hair was flattened against her head, and the beads of perspiration on her forehead glinted in the vibrant sunlight. Her ragged breaths came out of her parched lips, gasping at the almost unbearable strain of her legs. But it was clear that the runner had her eyes fixed on one thing and one thing only- the finish line.
In his letter to the Corinthiains, Paul compares our lives as Christians to a race competed in by trained determined runners. 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… They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. “ (1 Corinthians 9:21-24)
But as we run this exhausting race of life as Christians, it’s clear that sometimes we fall, get distracted or discouraged, and we forget the true motivation that drives our feet forward and gives us the strength to complete it. Sometimes our endurance fails, and we allow our feet to stray from the right path.
But before we can start running to our fullest, every true runner knows that we must learn the race course first.
The race course of life
It is pointless to train without knowing the path set out for us. What exactly does the race course consist of for us as Christians?
- Share His Word
Jesus Christ himself has instructed us to proclaim the gospel to the nations, seen in the Great Commission. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). He instructs us to be ‘teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you’ , whether it be to the multitudes or to a single friend. A warning from one fellow runner of Christ to another – you will not and cannot be able to share God’s saving gospel to any person if you do not ‘know’ it. I am not referring to an intellectual perspective of ‘knowing’ – such as memorising catechisms and Bible verses – but to ‘know’ in a personal way. A more accurate definition can be found in the original Greek of this word, translating to ‘ginosko’. Ginosko means to know through personal experience and an intimate relationship cultivated through time spent together. We often forget to spend time reading and meditating on His Word in our rushed daily lives, but without a relationship with God, all our service in His name will be in vain.
- Obey His Truth
In Galatians 5:7, we see Paul rebuking the Galatian church saying, ‘You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?” As we stride upon the path of righteousness, we must not only share His Word to others with our lips only, but we must diligently exercise the fruits of the Gospel in our lives too. Without our own bearing of spiritual fruit, we would be no more than the hypocrite Pharisees who served God with their mouths, but whose hearts served themselves only.
Training for the race
If we are to run this race to the brink of our strength, we need to recognise the hindrances liable to cause us to fall and fail, and the ways we can o’erleap these obstacles.
- Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles (Hebrews 12:1)
Anyone will admit that attempting to sprint while your feet are entangled in a cord is not only ridiculous, but highly dangerous. It must be questioned then, why only a few realise the hazard of running the race of life with your soul entangled in the net of sin! We mustn’t excuse any sin, even the smallest wrong doing that we think that God couldn’t possibly care about. For if we let sin remain in our hearts, we ‘let the devil have a foothold’ in our hearts, Just as a mere whisper can trigger an enormous avalanche, this small sin left unchecked will gradually corrupt our entire body, and lead us onto the alternative path of destruction.
- Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:3)
But some of the obstacles that agonise us the most are the ones produced by the ones closest to us.
The persecution that we face here may not be as extreme as the torture faced by the Christians in the New Testament, and in the present day in foreign rural areas. Scorn and exclusion by the public, our classmates, our friends, or even our family often discourages us and causes us to stumble. We must recognise that as Christians running the race of life, it is impossible for us to not be treated with contempt by the world. Jesus tells all who follow Him that, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (John 15:18) The world is stained with the filth of sin that only Jesus’ blood can wash away, but we who have been redeemed, are now an entirely new creation. The world, under the sinful bondage of sin, cannot accept us unless God opens people’s hearts.
But even here, our Coach is still faithful! His comfort through His promises in the Bible lifts us back onto the track, even from the deepest and darkest holes we fall into in our life. He encourages us to strive on with grit and perseverance through the community of Christians, both the men and women of God who have completed the race that we can learn from, and the family of believers that we run together with now.
The finish line
After countless trips and falls, and now with a pounding heart keeping in accelerated rhythm with the thudding of feet on the well-worn track, we approach the finish line.
Our eyes fixed on Christ, we can anticipate with eagerness the glorious crown of salvation we will receive upon finishing the race that is promised to all believers who love and seek the Lord with all their hearts. (James 1:12).
And then we will be able to declare, just like Paul in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”