I have been running a lot. Only on treadmills, I admit, as I’m not dedicated enough to knock myself out running and freezing at the same time.
The truth is most of us spend a lot more of our lives running than we think. We are usually found either running away from something or running toward something.
We usually make mistakes at both ends.
Instead of running away from our fears or difficult situations, we should stay and face them. The only way to conquer fear is to look it straight in the face and ask God to show himself as the one whose perfect love casts all fear out. It is not easy, it is a process, and we desperately need God’s help and the help of others, but in the end it’s always worth it. Sometimes I think my whole life has been a process of overcoming different kinds of fear.
And what about the things we are running toward? We’re looking for pleasure, comfort, perfect relationships, material wealth and continual vacations. We might as well be chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
That may explain why people are so attracted to popular speakers who tell them just how great they are and how limitless their potential is. That they can do anything if they just put their mind to it.
Of course, it’s an utter lie. It’s likely telling someone with a beat-up old car they can go from 0 to 100 in six seconds. It reminds me of a lady we had many years ago in our church who put up a picture of a nice car on her fridge and felt that if she only believed hard enough, it would somehow materialize in her driveway. It never did.
Yet the Bible tells us we are in a race, and we are to run to win. There will be a cost, but it’s worth it (1 Corinthians 9). In the passage in Philippians 3 based entirely on the Olympic marathon races, Paul tells us to forget looking at the runners behind us, look out for the markers along the side of the road keeping us on track and pointing us to the goal, strain our body forward to gain that last minute advantage as we cross the finish line, and focus on the moment we will be called upward to the judges’ podium to receive the wreath of victory.
The meaning of the New Testament word “repent” draws from its Old Testament counterpart, a word which means to “turn.” Our whole lives are to be based on a turning away from evil, rebellion, fear and the works of the enemy, and a turning toward Christ, his kingdom and his will for our lives.
This is the race we run.
Running away from things we need to face never works. The things just keep confronting us at the next place we’ve run to. Running toward things that are less than the ultimate will of God for our lives never works either, because in the end they are delusions, or even if we attain them, they are unsatisfying.
But there is good news. Unlike the Olympics, everyone who runs the race of faith wins the crown. Nobody loses. God takes ordinary people and makes them extraordinary. He does not call the qualified, but he most certainly qualifies the called.
If you’ve got off track, don’t worry. Now is the very best time to get back on. If you feel you’re behind, don’t worry. The only thing that counts is that you’re moving in the right direction. And don’t stop to look around. The race you run is meant for you alone.
To run the race is worth it, if for only one reason.
Jesus is standing at the finish line waiting for you to cross it.