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I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to run. Some people are into running. They just seem to take to it better than others do. But all I know about running is pain, pain and even a little more pain. I don’t like to run.
When I was in high school, however, I was a pretty good runner. I was quite fast and specialized in short-distance runs. I was good with sprints, but I was horrible at long-distance runs.
Running takes discipline, and you have to apply yourself to it. On more than one occasion in the Bible, the Christian life is compared to running a race. The apostle Paul, who seemed to be fond of sports analogies, wrote, “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. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. 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 9:24–25 NIV).
The author of Hebrews speaks about running a race as well: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1).
Also, in Galatians 5:7, Paul says, “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?”
Later, he said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).
And when Paul said farewell to the Ephesian elders, he told them he wanted to finish his race with joy (see Acts 20:24).
Finally, in Philippians 3, Paul once again used the analogy of running a race:
“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.” (verses 12–14)
Here we find four principles that will help us know how we can cross life’s finish line with flying colors.
First, we need to get rid of all extra weight that would hinder us. If you are going to run a race, then you want to run light. You don’t show up at the starting line for a 10K wearing a trench coat and a weight belt. You want to run light. You want to be outfitted for the task at hand. As we are living the Christian life, we want to cut loose any excess weight.
Many of us go into the Christian life hauling excess baggage. We’re dragging things along that we don’t really need. I think it is good to periodically reevaluate what we are doing and ask ourselves, Is it a wing or a weight? This passion, this pursuit, this thing that I am so interested in, is it a wing or a weight? Is it speeding me on my way as a Christian, or is it slowing me down? Is it helping or impeding my progress? If you find that your interest in spiritual things is beginning to diminish, then there is something you need to change in your life.
Second, we must run with the right motive. In the Olympics, everyone wants the gold medal. That is where the prestige is. That is where the endorsements are. As Christians, we are running this race because there is a reward in heaven waiting for us – based on how faithful we were to what God called us to do.
Third, we must have a clear objective and focus. Note that Paul said, “But one thing I do …” (verse 13). Paul was focused. And David had this focus as well. He wrote in Psalm 27:4, “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple” (NKJV). David was going through life saying, “One thing that really excites me is spending time in the presence of God.”
Like David, Paul had focus in life. He knew where he was going. He knew exactly whom he was running this race for. And that is what will keep us moving forward in the race of life. The best way to move a tired horse in the right direction is to turn him back toward home. If you want to get your life moving in the right direction, then focus it on God and move that direction.
Finally, don’t look back. Everyone who has ever run a race knows that you can break your stride by looking over your shoulder to see how your opponent is doing. More than one race has been lost by a front runner who looked back. When you run, when you see that finish line, you are supposed to throw your head back and push your chest out and break through. Sometimes there is very little that separates one runner from another. We have to keep focused. We have to go forward.
“Forgetting what is behind” does not mean that we fail to remember. It means that we are no longer influenced or affected by the past. We need to learn from our mistakes and remember some of the bitter lessons of our lives. But we no longer need to be controlled by them.
It is not enough to start the race; we have to finish it. So fix your eyes on Jesus. He will give you new energy, excitement and power.