It’s a sunny, hot and humid summer morning. Sweat pours down my face, but I keep on pushing my legs across the asphalt, trying not to stop for a breath. The sun seems to laugh at me like a taunting PE coach in Jr. High. “Pick up the pace, Hall!” “You run like a girl!” “Keep moving twinkle-toes!” Maybe that’s just heatstroke talking, but the comments from the imaginary solar coach keep me moving. There is no way I’m stopping. Just a hundred yards to go. “Just keep swimming.” Or running, rather.
I’ve taken up running this year to keep active and be a healthier person. It’s been an on and off again kind of thing. At one point, I wasn’t running for over a month. My excuse: I’m just not one of those super-athletic, physically motivated people. Somehow I missed that gene from my dad, a super-baseball player, who passed it on to my two baseball bros and my softball sister. However, I like the feeling of being healthy and in shape. I like seeing the progress I’ve made so far. (When I first ran almost a year ago with some friends, I almost passed out at 1 and a half miles.) I like the feeling of getting pumped and sweaty in the morning and starting my day with some energy.
I’ve recently found that my walk with Christ is very similar to my running patterns. It can start off strong. I’ll run 3 times a week (maybe). In the same way, I’ll try to keep my faith strong, read my Bible daily, treat people with kindness and patience. But then a week goes by, or two or three, or a month. I slip into the same habits, same tired old patterns. I run once every other week at best. In the same way, I let my spiritual life slip back into bad habits and lukewarm faith. I barely hear God’s voice. I’m impatient and sometimes downright rude to people. The holy habits of reading the Word, prayer and mediation become cold and empty routines. Can anyone relate?
In the letters of the Apostle Paul, he compares the Christian life and walk with Christ to running a race. In Galatians, he asks the church a poignant question that many of us need hear:
“You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?” – Gal. 5:7
To keep this verse in context, Paul was writing to the church in Galatia about the Jewish legalism that had infected their thinking. Their walk with Christ had been hindered by the Judaizers who wanted to make sure the Gentile converts kept to the Law of Moses, particularly circumcision. Instead of turning to Jesus and relying on the power of the cross, they were relying upon the power of their own efforts.
This verse can be applied in our own lives. We constantly face obstacles in our path. Sins such as lust, greed, selfishness, hatred, impatience, and anger entangle us. Pressures of work, money, family and friends, and everyday frustrations trip us up so often and distract us running set out for us. (Not to say that work, money and family aren’t blessings that are extremely important in our lives, especially family.) The problem is in what we keep our eyes on.
We’re all familiar with the saying “Eyes on the prize.” In 1 Corinthians Paul writes about a spiritual prize to keep focused on:
“Do you not know that in a race all runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to win the prize.” – 1 Cor. 9:24
And what is the prize? In his epistles, Paul refers to crowns that faithful believers are rewarded with in heaven (1 Cor. 9:25; 2 Tim. 4:8). Revelation refers to these crowns. It tells us that the saints fall down in worship and cast their crowns before God’s glorious throne (Rev. 4:9-11). Our greatest rewards, crowns of righteousness and life given to us directly by our heavenly Father, are still nothing compared to the King who sits on the throne. He is our great reward. He is our prize.
Do you remember the old hymn “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”? The chorus simply says:
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.”
It’s a lot like when Peter walked on the water with Jesus. He took his eyes off of Christ and started to sink. Same with us. We need to keep our eyes focused on God and keep on running the race marked out for us.
“Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and 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, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1-2