The Race is On
Last fall, on a whim, I signed up to run my first half marathon (taking place this spring), a distance of 13.1 miles (or 21.1 km). Immediately afterward, I had serious misgivings and doubts. But I gave my middle-aged body six months to train and I began to appreciate Scripture’s instruction to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).
Here are some lessons learned by this amateur runner:
Permit me for a moment to step away from one sports analogy to another. When basketball legend Michael Jordan was asked for the first thing he would advise kids who wanted to play basketball, his response was, “Enjoy the game”. In any pursuit, it’s easy to get caught up in the technical aspects while the joy of it all diminishes.
Likewise, there have been times when I’ve been so involved in ministry that I’ve neglected the Source and Goal of my faith (Hebrews 12:2). I know a brother in the Lord who signs every email with, “Enjoy the Lord”. In this journey, the ‘joy of the Lord is your strength’ (Nehemiah 8:10). When was the last time you enjoyed the Lord?
You’ve heard it said before that running is as much of a mental game as it is physical. There can be distractions from both the outside and from within that affect our pursuit of the goal. This is especially true when long-distance runners hit that proverbial “wall”.
Satan wants nothing more than to discourage our walk in the Lord. Inevitably, a bad day at work can adversely affect our family responsibilities and assembly duties. Praise God, there is One who Has chartered a course for His beloved ones. Focus on Him!
Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.Hebrews 12:2
Dehydration in athletes may lead to fatigue, headaches, decreased coordination, nausea, and muscle cramping. The general rule of thumb for fluid consumption during runs is: Take in 4 to 6 ounces of fluid every 20 minutes.
In Scripture, water refers to spiritual life. It can refer to the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 7:38) and the cleansing of the Word of God (Ephesians 5:26). If we don’t regularly nourish ourselves with His water, it will cause spiritual atrophy. We need His water to regenerate us, refine us, renew us, refresh us and revive us!
Pacing requires patience and discipline. Without proper pacing, setbacks (such as injury) are inevitable. Fueled with adrenaline, many beginners start off way too fast, burning out along the way. It’s important to conserve your energy so that you can endure to the end.
When I first got saved, I was exposed to some great preachers who had honed their gift over years, even decades. When I was first asked to share God’s word, I aspired to be like them right away but wasn’t patient enough to gradually develop my own gift. I now cringe at the youthful recollection of my ambition exceeding my ability, and the results were all over the place.
Thankfully, people were patient and gracious with me! Remember, not everyone goes at the same pace. Don’t worry if your brother or sister in Christ seems to be ‘ahead’ of you in certain areas of faith. Continue to encourage one another along the journey.
I’m not foolish enough to think that I’m good enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon; I’m just happy to finish a race in which every finisher gets a medal. But in order to medal, you have to finish, and in order to finish, you have to run. Paul relates to this when he writes “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it”. (1 Corinthians 9:24). R.E. Harlow once said, “The Lord rewards late starters but not early quitters”.
British sprinter Derek Redmond exemplified this spirit during the 1992 Barcelona Olympics when he tore his hamstring during his 400m semi-final. Instead of allowing himself to be carried away by a stretcher, he got up and insisted on hobbling toward the finish line, which was still 150m away. The worldwide audience witnessed Redmond’s father, Jim, leaving the stands, breaching security and helping his son all the way to the finish line while his son leaned on his shoulder. Although Redmond didn’t get the result he hoped for, he crossed the finish line nonetheless.
Some of you reading this may feel like an injured runner hobbling toward the finish line, tempted to quit. Or, you might be the one who needs to get out of the spectator stands and lend your support to someone in need. Regardless, we’re in this race together. Let’s support and encourage one another until the day of Christ!
Photo by Braden Collum