On May 15th, 2015, Andrew Nelson, a good friend and preacher at the Homerville church of Christ, and I ran a 5k. This was my first 5k and I honestly did not know what to expect. There was some nervousness and honestly, my goal was to finish the race without having to be carted off. Thankfully, I was able to meet it. While in the middle of this race, there were a number of biblical thoughts that occurred to me. I would like to briefly share them.
Every Christian is Running the Race.
There are various sections of scripture which compare this life to a race that is run (Heb. 12:1-3, 1 Cor. 9:24-27). All of us are striving to complete the race that is before us. Now, this race is not like others. Paul wrote that many run in the race but only one is able to receive the prize (1 Cor. 9:24). The race we are involved in is a bit different. There will not be one winner but all those who are able to complete it will receive a prize. Furthermore, the prize in other races are corruptible in nature but the one we strive for is eternal life (1 Cor. 9:25). No one is exempt from this race and we all must compete.
We Must Train for the Race.
While I am not in the physical condition I would like to be, I am not as bad off as I was two years ago. Two years ago I made the decision that I wanted to run a 5k. There was a certain amount of training I had to complete before I could do that. Two years have passed and I have lost around thirty pounds, added muscle to my body, and am in better physical condition than I was. Had I not done these things I surely would not have been able to finish. In order to run the race set before us, we really should shed the “…weight of sin that does so easily beset us…” (Heb. 12:1). Excess weight is going to slow us down. That is exactly what sin will do. It is important that we also condition ourselves so that we might be able to run. Paul said that he “buffeted” his body (1 Cor. 9:27). The phrase has ties to the training and hardships a boxer would endure to strengthen his body for competition. We, too, must take the time to strengthen our spiritual bodies through study, prayer, and fellowship with our fellow Christians.
We Have Encouragement in this Race.
I am ashamed to admit this but about halfway through the race, I wanted to quit. I wanted to stop running, start walking, and who cares if everyone finished before me. I was out of breath, my calves were getting ready to put a hit out on me, and all I could think of was how dumb it was for me to enter this race. Every time I stopped, there would be a voice calling out from in front of me. “Hey, we’re just a little over halfway done. Look how far we’ve made it! Let’s keep running!” It was Andrew Nelson encouraging me to keep running. I can honestly say that he kept me running. I also drew encouragement from the fact that people were standing by the side of the road to encourage others to keep running. “You’re almost there!” “The finish line is up ahead!” “You’re doing great!” These were all lines I heard from the sidelines. It was masterful of God to inspire Paul to compare our lives as Christians as a race for this reason. It is easy to get discouraged when you feel things are not going as you would like. It is even easier to say, “I give up.” Thankfully, we have many encouragers in the church to help us keep going. We can look to those who finished the race long before us (Heb. 12:1). They were able to finish. We can as well. We also have each other to look to for comfort. We provoke each other to gook works (Heb. 10:24). In the words of Bobby Liddel, “You can do it!”
One Day We Will Finish the Race.
One of the strangest sensations I have ever felt was seeing the finish line. There was a surge of energy through my body and I ran harder than I did throughout the entire race. 00:36:03 was my final time. I placed fourth out of everyone in my age group. For all I know, I probably finished fourth out of four but I did not care. There was joy in realizing that I finished the race set before us. One of Paul’s focuses was something he called “the mark” (Phil. 3:13-14). That was the finish line in the race of life. He pressed forward and kept running to the finish. He crossed the line shortly after penning 2 Timothy 4:6-8 as he said that he “…finished [his] course…”. We should pay attention to what was waiting for Paul at the end. Since Paul finished the race there was waiting for him, “the crown of life” which will not just be given to Paul but to all those who are faithful Christians. Now, while I did not win a prize for running in the 5k and placing fourth, I would not have finished had I given up. If an individual chooses to give up living the Christian life, he cannot finish the race, and he cannot receive the crown given at the end of his life. Now, we do not know when we will finish but if we live our lives prepared for the end it will not matter. One day we will finish this race. Keep running. The finish is closer than we may think.