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Running the Race Well

           “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.  Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly.  I do not fight like a man beating the air.”        (1 Corinthians 9:24-26 emphasis mine.)

            In the “race” of life, which for many Believers in Jesus is titled, “Living for Christ Every Day,” I will probably not be the one who gets the prize for, “The Christian who impacts the world for Christ the most.”  Nor will I win the prize for, “The Christian who leads the most people to Christ.”  Or even, “The Christian who leads the most Godly life” or, “...who helps others the most” or,  “...who has the most faith.”  But, that should not discourage me.   Rather, if my running is “in such a way” that I could potentially “get the prize,” then I will have lived my life as God wanted on the course marked out for me.

            This does not mean I could potentially receive eternal life.  I already have received it! 1.  Eternal life is not a “prize” I must “earn,” but a “gift” I receive through faith.  It is guaranteed and freely given to all who believe in the Savior. 2.  By way of contrast, the prizes handed out to believers after death, are uncertain—because they are earned.  They are dependent upon how the Believer has lived his or her life on earth. 3.           

            So... what does it mean to “run in such a way as to get the prize”?  Like an athlete training for the Olympics, I will have done all that was necessary, all that the other top contenders in the race have done, to be in tip-top shape.  Of course, I’m not talking about tip-top physical condition, although that could certainly help me attain my goal.  Rather, I am talking about tip-top spiritual, emotional, financial, mental, and relational condition.  Then, when I finish my race, I will get the best “time” possible for me... even if I don’t “win” the race.  Sometimes the Bible refers to “prizes” or “rewards” for good service to Christ as “crowns.” 4.  There will certainly be more than one “crown” handed out at the judgment seat of Christ!  

            My race to “Live for Christ” has already begun!  Am I in shape?  If not, I must go into “strict training”—right attitudes, spiritual, mental, and physical disciplines, and focused time management, so that I am not running “aimlessly.”  That’s running “in such a way” as to win.  Has God given me goals?  Then, pursue them!  Am I experiencing trials or obstacles to these goals?  Pray through them, or if possible, get rid of them!  Are there family or friendship ties which need strengthening?  Are there relationships that need mending or ending?  Is there a job God wants me to do, or people to whom I need serve?  What am I waiting for?

            The point of the race is not just to finish, but to run well along the route.  Don’t walk, crawl, stop, or go backwards in my faith journey!  Get in shape, and run!  To avoid spiritual “flabbiness,” do my spiritual “exercises” every day!  What are those exercises?  Choose joy!  Be gentle.  Quit worrying!  Pray.  Give thanks, and trust God.  Guard my thoughts. 5.  By the way, no pity parties... stop complaining and arguing! 6.

            Here’s a strenuous exercise, “Love one another deeply.” 7.  It’s easy to equate polite behavior as being “loving.”  But, if I am loving someone “deeply,” I will be digging deeper for ways to express it, and will “go the extra mile” 8 for them.  This is especially important for me to put into practice with other runners I meet along the way. 9.  For me, this might be a simple thing like taking out the trash for the child who normally does this, because he has a big exam tomorrow, and is busy studying for it.  Or, it might mean harder things, like speaking lovingly to the church member who has just embarrassed or hurt me, rather than avoiding him or her.  In my run for Christ, “loving others deeply” means I will often share my resources with fellow runners.  10.  

            Don’t forget 2 Cor. 5:17-21, which admonishes me to invite bystanders and spectators to join the race.  I must remember to tell them there is no entry fee for joining the race. 11.  Rather, a free gift package, full of valuable, expensive items, is given to each one the moment he or she begins his or her race. 12.  I do this by telling them about my personal coach.  He is an amazing person... both human and divine.  He has been in my shoes and is able to sympathize with all my weaknesses.  Yet, when it was His turn, He ran the race perfectly. 13.  Therefore, He is also qualified to be the judge at the finish line. 14.  

            I must practice discipline in eating, drinking, exercise and rest, such that I am able to meet the demands of God’s will for my life.  I personally have found it more difficult to reflect the fruit of the Holy Spirit’s presence in my life when I’m too tired, too full, too busy, hungry, or sleepy to trust God with the normal stresses that confront me each day.  Different excesses or deprivations may be a greater hazard for other runners.

            Read and study the training manual. 15.  Do I ever actually study the training manual for myself?  Or, do I always rely on second hand information from those who have?  Rest and be refreshed at the water, food stations, and campsites along the route, while also offering encouragement to friends I meet at those rest stations. 16.  Then, go back to running and following the course.  Don’t make up my own detours!  Be wary of strangers who suggest directions not in the training manual or who distort its instructions. 17.  

            Realize that “the course marked out for me” will be slightly different from the course marked out for someone else.  So, follow my personalized map, delivered in person by my coach. 18.  He knows the right route for me.  Don’t compare. 

            Wherever possible, let go of the things, activities, or people that weigh me down while I’m running. 19.  Expect problems along the route.  Jump over or go around roadblocks and hazards.  If I fall down, brush myself off and get back up!  Attitude check.  

            Emotional trauma or drama in the real world is the main encumbrance that keeps me from “running well.”  Instead of trusting God while I am in the middle of frustrating circumstances or deep disappointments, its like I become temporarily paralyzed.  I lose my forward focus.  Perhaps it is a protective/defensive move.  Fearing that I will sink deeper into anger or depression, I just shut down, emotionally and spiritually, while my mental “wheels” spin and spin in the mud.  It’s kind of like sitting down on the track, in the middle of the race.   

            What I should be doing is “pressing on” by faith—which means trusting in God in the midst of the “drama.” 20.  Or, I could seek out a rest stop, where I could talk to my coach one-on-one, and review His instructions and encouragements. 21.  That would help me feel ready to start “running” again.  Continually trusting in God, displaying His character, and following His directions, glorifies God.  This is the equivalent of “running” in this race. 

            Keep the finish line and the prize in the forefront of my mind, and don’t quit!  A friend once told me that the reason why we persevere in the race called “Living for Christ,” is so that we can finish strong.  After all, none of us knows where the finish line is, until we get there.  She said, “The finish line could be right around the corner, just past the bend in the road, but still out of my sight.  Just think how sad and embarrassed you would be if you dropped out of the race just a few hundred feet before the end!”  She is absolutely right.  I want to push myself so that when I do cross the finish line, I will still be running.  I desire to make God happy because of what Christ has done for me.  Then, God will say I ran “in such a way as to get the prize.”  And, if God is pleased, then I will be, too!

            “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.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”  (Hebrews 12:1-3 emphasis mine.)

 


1.  John 5:24

2.  Ephesians 2:8-9; John 3:16

3.  Matthew 6:1-6; Matthew 16:27; Luke 6:35

4.  1 Thessalonians 2:19;  2 Timothy 2:5,  4:8;  James 1:12;  1 Peter 5:4;  Revelation 2:10, 3:1

5.  Philippians 4:4-8

6.  Philippians 2:14

7.  1 Peter 4:8

8.  Matthew 5:41

9.  Galatians 6:10

10.  1 Timothy 6:18

11.  Romans 3:23-24

12.  2 Corinthians 9:15;  Ephesians 1:2-14

13.  Hebrews 4:15

14.  2 Timothy 4:1

15.  2 Timothy 2:15

16.  Hebrews 10:24-25

17.  Hebrews 13:9

18.  Psalm 32:8

19.  Hebrews 12:1

20.  Philippians 3:12-16

21.  John 15:5



gratefulsue 

5/4/13

Copyright (c) October 15, 2013