RUNNING THE CHRISTIAN RACE
I’m sure all of us have at one time or another have watched a race, maybe even cheered for someone we know a good friend or family member, or perhaps you’ve even been the one in the race.
Whether it is running, swimming, skiing, rowing, skating, bicycle, car, boat or horse racing, all races have a start and a finish, they have competitors and rules. What happens?
In between can be very different. Some races are short a matter of seconds like the 100 Yard dash or hours long like a marathon. Everyone has there own reasons for entering a race, often those who enter a marathon are not in it to win they have simply set a personal goal to finish. Some people have over come great physical and emotional challenges to enter and finish a race, inspiring those around them. Others train for endless hours to be the fastest in the world and nothing other then crossing the finish line first will do.
A race can tell a story of triumph or of defeat, of hope or disappointments, a story of failures or accomplishments. Regardless everyone who enters a race enters to do their very best.
I recently discover The Bible has several references that compare living the Christian life to running a race.
1 Timothy 6:12 says “run your best in the race of faith, and win eternal life for yourself”
When I think of the Christian life compared to a race I think of the Tour de France. If your not familar with this incredible race, it is a bicycle race over 2,000.00 miles through the country of France, conducted in 20 stages over 3 weeks an average of over 100 miles a day. This race includes a little of everything -- all out sprints, long days traveling through the French country side, agonizing climbs over the Pyrenees mountains: and then of course the terrifying descents from these same mountains, in which the cyclists reach speeds of 70 miles an hour. In short it is one of the most gruelling athletic contests ever devised by man.
Training for such a race takes, years of dedication, hard work and perseverance.
A cyclist can never be fully prepared for the Tour De France there are two many unknown factors and varibles. The athletes have to contend with all kinds of hazards: narrow streets, blown tires, crashes, sickness, and of course the weather: cycling through wind, rain, even hail. At times our lives can feel like a sprint and at other times it can feel more like a long, slow, painful climb up a mountain. At various times, our lives can be exhausting or exhilarating, it can be tedious or full of surprises. They can be full of hope and joy, or discouragement and suffering. Like the tour de France we don’t often know what challenge we may face or what triumph we may accomplish,
One very important difference: Races have only one winner, only one person stands on the podium, gets the gold medal. But in life everyone of us has the potential to win the Christian race every one can receive the victors crown and hear the words of the Lord “well done, good and faithful servant”
Listen to what the apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9: 24-25
“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 in 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.”
I learned at a very young age that I had a competitive personality, I loved playing in sports, and I could turn almost anything into some kind of competition. I really didn’t like loosing. I had a poster hanging on the wall in my bedroom, that read “IT DOESNT’S MATTER IF YOU WIN OR LOSE, UNTIL YOU LOSE” and that pretty much sumned up how I felt.
So let me take you back a few years to 1988, I was asked to curl with a group of girls I didn’t know that well but I did know it was a great opportunity to get on a winning team. An opportunity I could not turn down, even though I was a very busy young mother. So we started out our first year with dreams and high hopes. We practiced allot and spent countless hours together. We knew building a winning team would take time and so we agreed that if for the first year together we could win our district and make it to the provincials we would be happy.
Someone needed to remind us of this as we stood on the podium, at the world curling championship 8 months later accepting the silver metal. After winning the provincials, then the Canadian championship we found our selves representing Canada at the world curling championship and loosing the finals. We felt like we had not only let ourselves down but also our country, and this was only magnified when at a layover in Toronto on our way home from Scotland looking like we had just lost the worlds, complete strangers would come up to us perhaps having watched the final on TV -----and with all good intentions I’m sure ---- they expressed their condolences for our loss by Saying things like oh so close too bad you lost, ------ or I thought you had it----- if only…..
It was then that Heather our skip and leader, finally said ok girls shake it off we need to start looking like the winners we are. We just won the silver metal at the world curling championship. We did our very best. And best thing of all we have each other and we have next year. We needed that pep talk and when we changed our attitude, the attitude of others changed as well.
As Christians we are part of a team, our fellow Christians are our team mates. We need our teammates to encourage us, lift us up when we fall, get us back in the race. We are not in competition with each other, our job isn’t to out run each other, and our job is to run for God the race that he has planned for us to the best of our ability. From God’s perspective, winning is not based upon being number one, we win when we do our best to please God. We will never become a champion until we see ourselves as a champion. As Christians, we are champions and winners in the Lord, after all we are children of God we are worth a lot to him we are the apple of his eye. Run with confidence for your strength is in the Lord.
During the Athens Olympics one of the most bizarre things happened during the marathon. Vander lei de Lima of Brazil was leading the race at the 22 mile marker when he was attacked and forced off the road by a lunatic in a red kilt - a former clergyman to boot.
To me this is what can happen to us sometimes in our race. We are running along just fine when were suddenly surprised or attacked by something that threatens to slow us down or knock us off coarse, something that is keeping us from running our race. Some times these are things of our own doing, bad choices we make or sins we commit.
Sometimes these can be things we really have no control over like death, illness, job losses or broken relationships. These things can be devastating so difficult that we just don’t feel like running anymore. And in these dark times we are tempted to look at other people’s lives at how blessed they are, and wonder, why isn’t that my race? But as you know we all have baggage. The race we run has been marked out especially for us. God does not ask us to run our race alone he is with us every step of the way. He promises he will never give us more then we can handle. He promises all things will work to the good of those who love the Lord. We can run with faith.
Vander lei de Lima didn’t give up. Instead of letting his attacker ruin his race, he got back up and kept running. Although now in third place instead of first, he entered the stadium with his fists in the air, running with both arms extended up. When asked why he was filled with such joy considering he had been robbed of the gold medal he said, “Most athletes never have this moment. I was able to medal for myself and my country. I’m happy with my medal. It may be bronze, but it means gold.”
There is a fable about a dog who loved to chase other animals. He bragged about his great running skill and said he could catch anything. Well, it wasn’t long until his boastful claims were put to the test by a certain rabbit. With ease the little creature outran his barking pursuer. The other animals, watching with glee, began to laugh. The dog excused himself, however, by saying, “you forget - I was only running for fun. He was running for his life!” This does make a difference; Motivation can be an important factor in everything we do. Our motivation to run the Christian race: We should live our lives for God because he loved us so much that he sent his Son to die on the cross to save us from our sins! The grace the undeserved love that he shows us should motivate us to run the Christian race with all of our hearts!
I don’t know about you but I often feel over whelmed at times with the busy-nests of life. I feel like I’m in a race called the race of live a rat race of sorts. Often running in circles hardly being able to catch my breath. Busy with work, cooking, cleaning, the children, camp, shopping, my church commitments, friends, exercise, parents, entertainment, and then of coarse there is my favourite TV shows. But nothing absolutely nothing is more important then our relationship with Jesus.
When there is a race to be run the wise runner must make careful preparations. The same is true in a spiritual race as well. We will never reach our fullest potential for the Lord until we are willing to make the preparations and sacrifices that are necessary for running the race. God has provided us with a coach ----- the Holy Spirit --- and a training manual, the Bible. Let’s take our training seriously.
And look up and a head to Jesus the author and finisher of faith. Jesus himself ran the race. And no matter if we finish with a flourish or merely limp across the line, it means gold, because we are following the steps of Jesus. As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ we are created by God to win the Christian race to one day stand in eternity robed in righteousness, wearing a crown of glory and blessed with eternal honours and rewards.
Mathew 5: 12 says “Rejoice and be glad for great is your reward in heaven”.
As the New Year begins and so many of us have set goals, and New Year resolutions Let us commit our lives today to running in a way that pleases the Lord. So that we like Paul can one day say I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
Let us pray
Dear Heavenly Father
We realize that you made us for a purpose and that you have a race for us to run.
Forgive us for the times we have gotten distracted.
Help us to resist discouragement.
Help us to renew ourselves daily by spending time with you.
And thank you for loving us and giving us the strength we need.
In Jesus Name