Run the Race
Are you running in a race? It certainly feels like it is a race. But with whom are you competing? Now there is a good question. Are you trying to beat your neighbor or friend or enemy? When asked, “Who is my neighbor, Jesus replied with the parable of the Good Samaritan. I think most readers are familiar with the story of only the so-called “half-breed” or Samaritan stopping to care for the injured traveler by the side of the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. He said, ‘“Go, and do likewise’”(Luke 10:37).
Why do I bring up this parable in a story about running the race? The Apostle Paul used athletic metaphors several times in speaking about life. “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” (1 Corinthians 9:24). He tells all runners to go into strict training for the race so that they will win the race marked out before them. He says that only one will win the prize or crown that will not last. “But we do it to get the crown that will last forever” (v.25). He does not run aimlessly, but he trains hard in the faith, the gospel and “the Way” as God articulates in His Word, the Bible that he is preaching. “I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (v.27). He is talking about running the race for eternal life. This race is further clarified in Hebrews 12:1-3 saying,
“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, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
God is the “Perfecter” of our faith and race. We are running with Him and for Him. We are to be the Good Samaritan stopping along the way as the Holy Spirit directs to care for and serve mankind. We are as John 13 tells, to wash each others feet, love our brothers. This is the race set before us. It can only be run by keeping our eyes on Jesus and His Word. It requires perseverance. And seemingly paradoxically it is running with joy in the trials or pain or shame from the enemy as Jesus did on the cross. This is the Christian race.
The race of life is a race, but it is more so a walk in His way. It is listening to His voice and obediently going or doing it His way. It is enduring the rocky slopes or dark and uncertain tunnels of life. This is a marathon, whether on foot or horseback. Have you ever attempted one? I trained for the Lakefront Marathon in Milwaukee, which brought stress fractures in both feet, disqualifying me for the race. I have raced and completed the 55 km Birkebeiner cross country ski race three times. This world cup race is skied in remembrance of the Norwegians escorting a child heir to the throne through the treacherous mountains to safety from the enemy in 1174.
I completed the race exhausted, bleeding ironically from a collision with a Norwegian skier and chilled to such a degree that I needed to jump into a hot tub with my soaked and frozen clothes to regain warmth. I drank the traditional hot blueberry soup to be renewed. Nearly 10,000 others raced and many were injured or didn’t finish. The world class racers finished hours before me. I had run the race and finished the course. I received a medal that hangs in my study. But this crown will fade and not last. I do not race the “Birkie” any longer, but I do run the race set out for me fixing my eyes on Jesus.
‘“This is the way; walk in it’”(Isaiah 30:21). These were the words that God audibly spoke to me to begin my calling as a hospital chaplain some 20 years ago as I began a new career leading me “From the front office to bedside.” This is the title of my book of the same name called, Hospital Parables. It delineates my story of moving from hospital CEO to Chaplain a course of 48 years. The first half of the race almost killed me, the second has been a blessing as this is what God called me to do.
Find your calling, follow God’s Word, find godly counselors and walk in it. This is the race set before you to endure with joy for the Lord God Almighty who set it. One of the lesser prophets, Habakkuk said regarding our hoped for revelation, “Though it linger; wait for it, it will certainly come and will not delay…The righteous shall live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:3,4). In his travails he was able to write, “Yet I will wait patiently for the day…yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer. He enables me to go on the heights (walk on high places)” (Habakkuk 3:16,18,19). Yes God is always working in our lives to do His will, His good and prefect will. Stay in the race!