Sunday, September 20, 2015

Run YOUR Race

A bicycle race took place in our area yesterday. The day was sunny and overly warm, but that didn't stop hundreds of cyclists from pedaling mile after mile through the Texas hill country. Down one country lane and up the next. Past detour signs and spray-painted arrows on the road marking the way. Only one person eventually came in first, but I have a suspicion most of the participants were simply happy to have competed and completed the race.

So the past few days I've been pondering the parallels between living life and running a race:

  • A route is marked out by those in charge. They know where the finish line is and the best way to get there.
  • A prize awaits the winner.
  • There are hazards, distractions, and all manner of obstacles between you and the finish line. 
  • It often takes years of training and hard work to win the prize.
  • You can't run someone else's race. 
  • You need the right equipment if you want to win. 
  • If you get lost, you should retrace your steps and get back on the right path. 

God has already marked your race route. From the moment you were conceived, he knew you and he knew how your life would turn out. "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb...All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." (Psalm 139: 13,16) God has a plan and purpose for each of his creations. "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good work, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10) There is work to do -- and races to run -- that God has already prepared. It's up to us to be in relationship with him so we don't waste our time running the wrong race.

God has an eternal prize waiting for us. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:24 "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." Every person on earth is running a race, but only a few will actually win. Jesus himself said, "For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:14) The promise of eternal life in the presence of God is the prize we should all be striving for.

When obstacles get in the way, keep going. We may have to hurdle obstacles both large and small in this life, but we can't let them trip us up. "You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?" Paul asks in Galatians 5:7. Notice he asks "who?" Other people will often get in your way of the prize. Satan, too, will try everything he can to thwart you in your race. Keep Truth in front of you and kick everything else out of the way!

Winning a race takes perseverance. Olympic athletes train for years and years before they get a chance at the prize. While salvation through Jesus Christ happens the moment we confess our sins and accept him as Lord in our lives, most of us still have a lot of life to live and races to run before we reach the pearly gates. "...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." (Hebrews 12:1-2) Perseverance, baby!

I can't run your race and you can't run mine. Comparing ourselves to others is futile at best, dangerous at worst. Each of us is unique. Each of us, as the scriptures above prove, has a race marked out for us. While I may secretly wish my race looked like someone else's, I really have no idea the struggles, hurdles, and pain they've gone through to get to the point where my path crosses theirs. "Now the body is not made up of one part but of many...God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be." (taken from 1 Corinthians 12:14-31) As with a body, different parts preform different functions. The body wouldn't be complete without each one.

God will equip us with what we need to win the race. Having the best equipment goes a long way to helping someone win a race. God has provided everything we need to win our prize. "Put on the full armor of God...the belt of truth buckled around your waist...the breastplate of righteousness...your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace...the shield of faith...the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." (taken from Ephesians 6:10-18) A racer set on winning the prize will never, ever leave home unequipped.

Sometimes we lose sight of the finish line. Even racers with the best intentions get lost. Especially when there are lots of twists and turns and detours on the route. When a racer is lost, one of two things has to happen. Someone needs to go find him, or he needs to turn around and go back to where he took a wrong turn. Jesus, in his great love and compassion, reminded us that a Good Shepherd leaves the ninety-nine safe sheep to go find the one that is lost. "I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over the ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent." (Luke 15:1-7) But rather than waiting for someone to come find you, wouldn't it be better to head back on your own once you recognize your wrong turn? "When he came to his senses..." the prodigal son went home. (Luke 15:11-32) Get back on track! The prize is just ahead!

Racing is not easy. It takes hard work. It takes training. It takes keeping your eye on the prize. You have to stay on the marked route and not get distracted or lost. But once you cross that finish line...


Let the celebration begin!

This week's Prayer Shout-Out countries are:
USA, United Kingdom, Germany, Pakistan, Ukraine, South Africa, France, China, Hong Kong, Portugal, Cote d'Ivoire, Indonesia, Singapore

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