As we think about our lives as followers of Christ, we should be constantly reminded of a few foundational truths:
- We belong to Christ. We have been redeemed, and we now live for Christ and His glory – not our own.
- We have been given the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20) and Great Commandment (Matt. 22:36-40) and been empowered by the Holy Spirit to live these two pillars of our faith (Acts 1:8).
- In living out these commands through the power of the Holy Spirit, we should also consider how we run the race set before us. Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV): “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
I always loved watching my children play sports and compete. It brought me great joy to see them giving their all. I celebrated their victories and agonized over their defeats, but I was always most proud when I knew they had done everything they could to win. Knowing they gave their best made the victory that much sweeter, and it really did help take a little of the sting out of defeat – though I never liked losing.
Cross-country and track eventually became my favorite sport to watch as my children competed. This was partly due to the fact they had the most success in those two sports and, as my son grew older, it was the primary sport he competed in. High school cross-country for athletes in Alabama typically consists of a five-kilometer race. Except for sectional and state meets, the races were typically among students from all school sizes and, because of that, there were dozens competing all at once, and in many cases, there were hundreds of athletes competing simultaneously.
In a high school 5K race, there will inevitably be a large gap between the winner and those who finish in the back of the pack. There is also a great range of athletes on the course together. Some athletes are seventh graders who have never competed in organized sports in their lives, while others are on the verge of signing four-year scholarships to universities, and some of them will wind up competing for a shot at the Olympics.
Kids of all shapes, sizes and abilities would line up, and the gun would sound. Some bolted off the start line like they were going to break a world record and others would lag toward the back of the pack just hoping they would have enough energy to finish the 3.1 miles. Some had a race strategy, and others just ran. There was always a strong sense of pride for the schools represented and the athletes wearing their teams’ colors.
As the athletes moved along the course, the spectators would cheer as they passed by. Some yelled encouragement, and others would be harsher in their demeanor. But every runner ran their own race, not anyone else’s.
It seemed as though every race would have some of the same situations that would arise. There would be a few who ran the race of their lives – setting a personal record for the day. Often there would be an injury that would keep a runner from finishing, and there would almost always be some who were neck and neck with another runner or two all the way to the finish.
One of the most common responses at the end of a race like I’m describing would be the fallout. After the runners crossed the finish line, they were almost always completely exhausted and unable to even hold themselves up. Tears would often flow, and it would be evident they had not left anything in their proverbial “tank.” This was a real source of pride for those who were there in support of their friend, son, or daughter because it would be clearly evident, they had done their best.
Another common ending to the race, however, would be a few runners who would come to the last few meters of the race and realize the end was near. It was not uncommon to see a runner, who had barely broken a sweat over the previous 4900m, to suddenly burst into a sprint and run the last 100m. While it did seem somewhat impressive that runner finished with such a flourish, I was always left wondering why they had not put more effort into the previous portions of the race. Surely, they could have exerted a better effort. Surely, they could have begun running much harder earlier in the race.
Sometimes this was simply a case of the athlete being afraid of not having enough to finish or being inexperienced or maybe just having a bad day. I’m convinced, however, that sometimes they just didn’t try very hard and when they knew people were watching more closely at the finish, they ran hard to make it look respectable. There were even some who I’m sure that realized they had misjudged the race and thought they’d at least need to give a good effort for a portion of what remained.
Brother and sister in Christ, don’t wait until the last minute to run hard. Don’t wait until tomorrow to begin striving with all your might for the cause of Christ. Begin today giving your all to Him. Don’t hold back. Don’t hold back serving through your church. Don’t hold back giving of your time and energy for the glory of God. Don’t hold back giving generously toward the cause of Christ around the world. Don’t put off doing what you know God has called you to do and be. The time is now – run!
State Missionary Jay Stewart serves as director of the Office of Cooperative Program and Church Financial Resources. He may be contacted at 1-800-264-1225, ext. 2283, or (334) 613-2283, firstname.lastname@example.org.