My grandson is running "cross country" this year. In his very first race he ran two miles in 14 minutes and 21 seconds. He didn't come in first but he finished in the top 20 (in a field of 100). We (parents and grandparents) were very pleased with his first performance and glad to see him taking on a new discipline. His effort also reminded me that the Bible has much to say about "running" and the lessons this discipline teaches us about life...
Several passages of scripture come to my mind:
Heb. 12:1: "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."
This verse reminds us of several spiritual life lessons: 1). If we are going to run a race effectively we need to get rid of the extra weight. The writer of Hebrews speaks of "throwing off everything that hinders us." He specifically mentions sin which can "entangle us." We need to be diligent about removing everything from our life that is going to hinder us from running effectively. 2). We must run with perseverance. The race of life is not a sprint, it is a marathon. It involves discipline, training, and perseverance. With Christ we "struggle our way through" the times when the road is rough or uphill. When weary, we seek the renewing resources of the Holy Spirit. No matter what happens, we keep on running in a way that is pleasing to God. 3). We stay on the course. We run the race "marked out for us." There is no reason to get "off course" or try to find a "short cut." We simply run down that path that God has set before us.
2 Tim 4:7: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day."
The goal of our life race is to "finish well." We run to finish the race in a manner that is pleasing to the Lord. No matter what challenges are set before us, we must "fight the good fight" and "keep the faith." The result will be an award - a "crown of righteousness, which the Lord himself will one day award to us.
John 20:1-3: Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, 'they have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him!' So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first."
Through every stage of our life race we should "run to others" to tell them about the risen Lord. Further, we should "run to Jesus" in every time of trial and need. He is the One who can help us run the race of life effectively.
I'm glad that my grandson is participating in cross country this year. My hope is that soon I will get to watch him run one of his races. But my greatest hope for him (and all of my family and friends) is that they will run the race of life well - keeping their hearts and minds fixed on the goal of knowing and living for Christ!
Dr. Allen Schneider is a United Methodist pastor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist presently serving the Sapulpa and greater Tulsa communities.