Recently I have observed the rigors of participation in running competition. My son has been in multiple triathlons and my grandchildren are participating in long distance running at school and running with their dad in area 5Ks. I remember how fun it was to run races as a child, but this kind of running for a competition is a completely different thing. There are commitments that are critical in order to achieve the prize.
I have observed that preparation, perseverance and personal best are areas that must be a part of the plan. Preparation includes training and a healthy lifestyle. Perseverance is also important because there are many times that step one does not look attractive. In addition, personal best is the mindset and the motivation to stay focused as the competitions begin. Each time a race is completed there is an evaluation that focuses on improvement.
In many ways, this applies to our daily walk as Christians. We prepare so that we can run with endurance by avoiding things that would slow us down or distract us, such as the sin of the world. We look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. He was the ultimate example of great endurance, as Paul explains in Hebrews 12:1-2.
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
As I begin the New Year, I want to evaluate my commitment to finish the race well. I want to remember that God is forgiving and does not keep a list of wrongs (Corinthians 13:5). I can move forward, persevere and press on —
“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 NIV).
So, what should this look like as I evaluate?
Preparation: The runner knows that a routine that includes faithfulness and diligence is critical. It is not easy, but God, even in our suffering, will restore us and make us strong, firm, and steadfast. Daily reading and studying God’s Word will reveal His requirements and His will as we train and prepare. Be on the alert for distractions from God’s purposes. As we are reminded in 1 Peter 5: 8-11,
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.”
Perseverance: Recognizing it is not going to be easy, the runner expects obstacles such as rain, heat, cold, hills, and bad terrain. Knowing this, remember the words God told Joshua,
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
Personal Best: In an article, What to Expect in 2019, David Jeremiah wrote, “Remember: This is not about performing for God. Instead, it’s about moving further and further toward God’s design for you to represent Him in all the areas of your life. The more we set and meet expectations based on His design, the more fruitful and fulfilling our life will be. Let us demonstrate to the world the excellence of our God by making His expectations our own! Every year we should expect more of ourselves—it’s called growth” (emphasis mine).
As we review our progress, remember the reward God has prepared for us, the crown of righteousness, a prize showing I am right with God. The Lord, the judge who judges rightly, will give it to us on that Day. Yes, he will give it to me and to everyone else who is eagerly looking forward to his coming.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (II Timothy 4:7-8).
Finally, in our comparison of a daily Christian walk of faith and service to a runner who perseveres and strives for his personal best, read the Apostle Paul’s encouragement for all of us:
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run [
theirvery 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! Now every athlete who [goes into training and] competes in the games is disciplined and exercises self-control in all things. They do it to win a crown that withers, but we [do it to receive] an imperishable [crown that cannot wither]. Therefore I do not run without a definite goal; I do not flail around like one beating the air [just shadow boxing]. But [like a boxer] I strictly discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached [the gospel] to others, I myself will not somehow be disqualified [as unfit for service]” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27 AMP).
Dear Holy Father help us to be vigilant to throw off anything that weighs us down or hinders us from your design of us to represent you in all the areas of our life. Help us to run this race with determination showing the world your excellence by making your expectations our own. You promised that you would finish the beautiful thing you have begun in us. We praise you, Holy Father.
In Jesus’ Holy Name, Amen.