Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 1 Corinthians 9:24
My sophomore year in high school I tried out for the track team. The first day of practice the team gathered and the coach asked me what event I’d like to run. I looked towards the starting-blocks that were being hammered into the ash track and said, “I dunno, the 100 yard dash maybe?”
To his credit, the coach held back his laughter and said, “Alright then, have a go at it.”
The other sprinters were not so kind.
We ran the race and I walked off the track shaking my head in disbelief at how incredibly slow I was. The coach encouraged me to run the mile. I would soon discover that I was slow at any distance. I never placed in any race I ran.
One race however I was determined to finish in the top three. Before the event I decided I would sprint the fourth and final lap, regardless if I might die in the attempt. An amazing thing happened; I sprinted past the fourth, third, second, and first place runners and took the lead on the back stretch. The cheers from my teammates were exhilarating. Then it happened—I ran out of gas. One by one, each of the competitors passed me. As hard as I could I tried to hold third place, but gave it up about 20 yards before the finish line. Several of my teammates pounded my back and said, “Great run,” and the like, but my eyes could only focus on the others who looked away shaking their collective heads with disgust.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7
That race plagued me for years. It plagued me because a) it was never about running; it was about winning and b) I was running a race that I was never going to win. I was never going to win because I hated running.
When we practiced we could run off the school property. Want to know where I ran to? I ran to the boardwalk and grabbed a hotdog with sauerkraut. My heart wasn’t in running; therefore I was never going to win. I was off-course in more ways then one.
When I became a Christian, as you might imagine, 2 Timothy 4:7 did not sit well with me; finishing races well was not my strong suit. Then it occurred to me that the spiritual race Christians are in is not a competition. It’s not really even a race! We’re not vying against other believers to win an event. Our pace has no bearing whatsoever! If we wanted to, we could lie down and roll around the track.
Think about it, all that really matters is that we stay between the lines.
Consider the finish-line. It’s not a location, it’s a moment-in-time; it is the second you take your last breath anywhere on the track and your first breath in Heaven…almost simultaneously. In actuality, it doesn’t matter ‘where you were’ on the course, but ‘that you were’ on the course. It’s not a line we cross, it’s just the cross!
If you want to walk, walk. If you want to sprint, sprint. If you want to pause and throw-up, go right ahead. Just whatever you do, do not go off the course. The other runners are not there to beat you to the finish line (or least they shouldn’t be, but that’s a whole other blog), they are there to assist you and you’re there to assist them. Christ in us the hope of glory!
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. Hebrews 12:1+2
Remember the thief on the cross; where was his finish line? I’ll tell you where it was. It was the second he stepped onto the track despite having never gotten out of the starting blocks. Looking unto Jesus he finished gloriously.
These ramblings are typically (but not always) a byproduct inspired by God through my personal Bible study at SearchLight with Pastor Jon Courson and with my pastor at my home church, Calvary Chapel Coastlands