Running the Race

Any of you been watching the Olympics?  I did some research
and discovered there were about 11,400 athletes competing from 205 nations.
Each of these individuals came with their own back story.  We
haven't heard them all, but I can only imagine that a common thread for each of
them was a decision to set a goal for them to become an Olympian.  Some
made the decision as a child, others as teen agers but making that choice to go
for the gold caused them to miss out on the other choices they could have been
doing.  The time, money and emotional energy this path took them on was
incredible.  I have no idea how expensive it is to raise an Olympian, but
I know it is not cheap.  

For some the journey ends far before the Olympics due to injury
or financial expense.  Those dreams can come to an abrupt ending.
For those who make it to the Olympics it is an amazing accomplishment.
As of today only 47 of the 205 countries have won any medals. The
athletes from those other countries still go home with pride for accomplishing
the goal of just getting there.  It makes me wonder if I ever had what it
takes to fulfill such a dream.  Perseverance, passion and the ability to
persuade myself that I could ever achieve such a dream seems unlikely.  

As believers and followers of Jesus Christ, we are already
enrolled in a marathon of sorts.  Paul uses the race analogy in several
scriptures.   

Don't you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one
person gets the prize?  So run to win!  All athletes are disciplined
in their training.  They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we
do it for an eternal prize.  So I run with purpose in every step. I am not
just shadowboxing.  I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to
do what it should.  Otherwise I fear after preaching to others I myself
might be disqualified.
 1Corinthians 9:24-27 When he is talking about running the
race to win, it pricked my spiritual conscience.  Am I running my race to
win, or am I running it to finish?  What does "winning" look
like in this Christian life?  As a runner I control my speed and effort.
I control my nutrition and training times. I can either submit to my
coach (the Holy Spirit) or choose not to.  If I lose sight of the
importance of running my race through discouragement or failure, I will
haphazardly run my race.  If I look around and do not see those who are
running with purpose, I will slow down and not use the tools He has given me to
the most effect.  I listened to Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, both USA
teammates share how running the race together spurs them on.  Phelps has
won more medals than Lochte, but they need each other.  We need to spur
each other on to run our individual races well, in doing that we are
encouraging someone else.  Sometimes it feels like the only other runner
we have with us is Jesus Himself.  What a great teammate He makes!

When we accept Jesus as our Savior we are entered into this
race.  We then choose to learn to run the race His way.  Learning how
to conform our ways to His ways, to trust His coaching when He tells us to
start doing something or stop doing it!  Our nutrition becomes the Word of
God.  Our training partners become the local church community.  As we
listen to His coaching we begin to think His thoughts and receive His instruction.
There is joy in fellowshipping with Him, even when suffering.

We enter the marriage race when we say, “I do”.   The prize
is to stay committed to each other till death do us part.  The marriage
race come with many obstacles and challenges to overcome.  I was blessed
to marry a man who wanted to finish our race together.  We chose to link
up and tackle the adversities as a team.  When we began the race in 1974 I
did not ever expect the race to come to an end as it did.  Thirty eight
years of learning to be a team ended with his heart attack and stroke.  By
God's grace I was able to finish our race even with an injured runner.
Sometimes races ended with disappointment.  But by trusting my coach, I
will continue to run my race without him.  It is still worth the running,
because of Jesus my lead.

There are many other “races” that He can ask us to
enter.  The most important is running the
race of a life which brings glory to His name. 
It is allowing the discipline of His coaching to change our character
into His character.  It is choosing to
love the things and people He loves.  It
is choosing to run the race knowing they will be challenging to our flesh and
our old ways.  Choosing to run brings
great joy to our Savior.

 Entering the parenting race brings another set of challenges.
That sweet cute little infant brings with it so many unknowns. It takes
perseverance, passion and a desire to parent well.  Each child represents
its own challenging race.  They are all so different.  Our Coach has
strategies for winning the parenting race also.  I am so glad that we have
Him to help provide the insight needed to help raise each individual child.
When your stamina runs short, take the time to wait on Him for wisdom,
insight and refreshment.  He loves each child more than the parent!

 Philippians 3:14 I press on to reach the end of
the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus is
calling us.  
 Paul wrote that he is pressing on to the end of the
race.  Our heads may tell us there is no need to continue, for we have
already lost some of our races.  Don't listen to those lies.
Pressing or straining means exerting to the utmost.  If your
marriage race has failed, take the time to do more training before you enter in
another race.  If you are challenged by parenting, take the time to meet
up with your coach and discover some new training techniques.  Every
marathon runner takes the time for refreshment along the way.  

Father, I ask that you help us to run our races with intention
to win.  Stir up those areas where we have grown lazy or discouraged.
Help us to grow into mature believers so we can encourage others behind
us.  Michael Phelps met Katie Ledecky at a young age and she is now an
amazing swimmer.  We don't know who we are influencing to run their race
because of our own running.  Thank you for stirring our passion for being
the best Christ follower we can be.  In Jesus Name, Amen