I competed in one of the Spartan races this year for the first time. It was a good challenge of skill and endurance. There were dozens of obstacles to traverse and plenty of mud to trudge through. I’ve always loved competing to win a prize. Participating was great but I came away from that race thinking about how I could have gone harder and faster. The competitive edge in me wanted to do it all over to see if I could run even better.
Being a Christian is full of obstacles. It’s not an easy race to run. The problem is that few people want to truly run it. They are perfectly content as either a spectator or a casual participator. Paul, who wrote the majority of the New Testament used running as an analogy for following Jesus. He said that every runner should run for the prize. (I Cor. 9:24) What is the point in participating if you don’t care about the finish line? Can you imagine a track meet where immediately following the starting buzzer the runners just walked around aimlessly without even staying on the track? You would be thinking, “What’s the point of them being in the race if they aren’t going to at least try.” Exactly.
Being a follower of Jesus is by no means a competition against others. The standard isn’t each other, it’s Jesus. In one of God’s strange dichotomies He has made it clear that we are both hopelessly imperfect and also called us to be like Jesus. It’s not a cruel joke. He’s not setting us up to fail, He’s giving us a finish line to run towards. Without a clear destination we are likely to wander into an empty life. A race without a finish line is preposterous and so is the Christian life.
How do you view your life as a Christian? Are you just going through the motions? Or, are you wandering aimlessly with your time and your decisions? As a follower of Jesus we have been given purpose. Our purpose is to partner with the Great Rescuer to seek and save the lost. Our purpose is to shine like Jesus in a world of need and darkness. Our purpose takes more than mere participation it takes passion. It takes the passion to compete against all the things that try and pull us away from Jesus and from real life. I find this competitive spirit missing in several areas of my life right now.
I’m convicted lately that I’m prone to just coast in my family. My marriage and parenting can easily become a rut of ritual. Months go by without me really putting in a passionate effort to love and lead. We all need a wake up from our complacency now and then. God created us for so much more than just wandering through life. Jesus didn’t die on the cross so you and I could just go through the motions and die of old age. He conquered death on behalf so that we could live, truly LIVE! If you claim Jesus as your savior and yet your life is more about comfort and convenience then His resurrection power is wasted on you. I know that’s a pretty harsh statement. Don’t worry I’m telling myself the same thing right now. I don’t want to house the power of Jesus and treat it like an option. I want to RUN.
Competitors never stop running. I know a few competitive long distance runners. Everything about their life feeds into that purpose. They eat, sleep, train, and live to be the best they can. Their goal isn’t always to beat the other runners but it is to “PR”. PR stands for “personal record”. In the end it’s about personal progress. Being better than last month, last year. It’s a commitment to excel. Do you have a commitment to excel in your life as a Christian? Running with Jesus takes commitment and sacrifice. You can’t just run one lap a week on Sundays. Jesus is calling you to run each day at your school, your team, your work, even at your home. (Matt. 16:24)
I know sacrifice is always a scary word. People think that following Jesus means they have to give up all the things they like and enjoy. They think God doesn’t want them to have anything good. I’m sorry if that’s your view. Somewhere you’ve been confused. Sacrifice is never the end, it’s the means to something better. When God says no to something it’s because He’s saying yes to something better for you. We spend so much time saying yes to things that don’t really matter. Will you say yes to running with Jesus? It will take work. It will require perseverance. It will test your commitment. And, it will be worth every bit of blood, sweat, and tears you shed on the journey.
James finished this runner analogy with a reminder of the “Victors Crown”. (James 1:12) In ancient Rome the victors of the games would receive an ornate crown of flowers. Someday there is a imperishable crown of life for those who run as to obtain it. For those who kept running. Those who kept progressing each year and they fell in love with their running partner. Joy awaits those whose finish line is Jesus and who fix their eyes on Him no matter what is happening around them. May you fall in love with running alongside your Savior.
I hope to see you at the finish line!