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Run For the Prize, Part I

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. (I Cor. 9:24-25)

Every spring my P.E. teacher would send us out on cross country runs. I was the worst whiner, complaining to my friends about side stitches and the torture of this type of exercise. As fate would have it, I married and promptly moved to the famous running community of Eugene, Oregon which boasts the likes of Prefontaine, Mary Slaney, and Alberto Salazar. My husband, too, joined the running craze, so one day I put on my sneakers, stepped out the door and scurried around the block, managing to propel myself forward for five full minutes. Hmm, I thought, maybe I CAN do this. After all, I’ve given birth to babies, so what’s a little sweating and huffing and puffing? Soon I worked up to fifteen minutes a day, then thirty.

My husband ran 10K races and even won some prizes. I never entertained those kind of dreams—my times were too slow. It never crossed my mind to train very seriously because I didn’t believe that I could win anything. I ran to get a little exercise and keep my weight down. It was only a hobby.

Many Christians appear to have the same attitude. We know we’re no Mother Teresa, Beth Moore, or even as spiritually fit as the pastor’s wife, so why put much effort into our spiritual lives? Our attitude says: I could never be a “spiritual professional,” so why not take it easy and bask in the sunlit glory of others?

But Paul says to “run in such a way as to win the prize.” The Christian race cannot be a hobby; it must be a passion that consumes our whole life.

Despite wonderful support and encouragement from believing friends, ultimately, Christian running is not a team sport, but an individual one. In this race a crown awaits every single participant. In a very real sense, each runner is competing against himself, not others.

Comparison games are futile anyway. By what standard could we accurately measure the unique differences people face in their challenges? Only the “Sovereign Judge of Life’s Race” has the ability to comprehend all our gasping, panting and laboring as we strain toward the goal—He alone sees the terrain from beginning to end that each of us must travel; He alone recognizes the type of obstacles each of us must face; and He alone understands the many liabilities we carry within.

Despite running an individual race, we are not running alone—we’re observed by two audiences. The first is a heavenly one: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us…run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1) The angels and saints are cheering us on! In the same way that God is for us, this invisible crowd is on our team. Can you hear them, going wild in the stands…for you? Come on, let’s step up the pace!

Secondly, we run before an earthly audience. Family, friends, and even strangers are watching us—we have a responsibility to them by how we live. Will we run in such a way that inspires others to follow?

By God’s grace, whether we’re ungracefully knocking down hurdles, flying like the wind, or only limping our way forward, may our wholehearted passion for the Lord be unmistakable as we keep our eyes on the prize.

  1. Amen!Though in reality I have never been a runner I can run the race of faith and end well too!Blessings and Love from Salem~Sharon

    Comment by Sharon Goemaere — February 2, 2010 @ 7:18 am