Written by Deborah Haddix, Resource Director, Christian Grandparenting Network
The Bible often compares the Christian life to a race (1 Corinthians 9:24, 26; Galatians 2:2, 5:7; Philippians 2:16; Hebrews 12:1).
I love this metaphor, not because I enjoy running (ask anyone who knows me), but because it helps me understand the life I am called to live. As a believer in Christ, I am not to be an idler but a runner…
In a culture that tells me I have earned the right to sit back and indulge myself, I am to run!
When my body aches, and I’d rather not, I am to run!
As my family pulls away seeking to live independently of me, I am to run!
Amid declining physical strength and failing mental capacities, I am to run!
With mistakes in my past, I am to run!
Separated from those I love by miles and miles of distance, I am to run!
When it hurts, I am to run!
Lonely, tired, disillusioned, whatever my state, I am to run!
The truth is that no matter the prevailing culture or our current circumstances, you and I have a race to run, and that race was given to us by God (Philippians 3:14).
If left to us, we may not have chosen this particular race, this route, this pace, or even this team. Given the choice, we may, in fact, have chosen different strengths, capacities, and resources for our task.
But nonetheless, here we are – in THIS race, on THIS route, at THIS pace, with THESE people, THESE strengths, THESE limitations, and THESE resources.
Like it or not, this is OUR race.
So… in a culture that blatantly counters God’s Word and in a season of life that brings increasing fatigue and frailty, how do we run OUR race – the one given to us by God – and finish it well?
Might I suggest that we go back to the verses of Scripture that we have already mentioned? These same verses that compare our life to a race, often provide instruction for the running!
How to Finish Well
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
– Hebrews 12:1-3
This text from Hebrews shows us how to run our race and run it well.
1. Learn from other runners.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…”
Your race is your own, but it is not at all unprecedented. While no one has experienced exactly what you have, others have experienced similar circumstances and emotions (1 Corinthians 10:13).
If you want to run well, learn from other runners. Study the great faith-runners in the Bible. Research historical faith-runners who finished well. Consider modern-day runners who are running well and could serve as examples and mentors. Study and train, examining all aspects of their race as you do.
2. Run light.
“…let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely,”
In a foot race every ounce matters. The lighter the runner, the swifter they are.
This verse tells us to “lay aside every weight, and sin.” Notice the conjunction placed between the two words. Weight and sin are not the same thing.
We know that sin is an offense against God and drags us down as we run. To run light, we must confess our sin and turn from it, regularly.
Weights, on the other hand, are things that in themselves may not be sins. Still, they serve as obstacles on the way to the finish line. A good test for determining weight is to ask: Does it help me run the race?
Think hard about your life and the way you spend your days. Get ruthless about what stays and what goes. Run light.
3. Run with endurance.
“…and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,”
Runners learn to provide proper nourishment to their bodies and recovery to their muscles. They also work hard to build endurance. They withstand long runs. They do speed workouts. They lift weights, stretch, and push through pain. They experience aching muscles and tired lungs.
Likewise, you must work hard to strengthen your faith to endure the race. Begin your endurance training by spending time daily with God in the pages of His Word and in prayer. Seek fellowship among other believers and let your fellow church members encourage you in the faith. Learn to welcome rebuke and embrace trials. Personal discipline is essential for the runner whose aim is to finish well.
4. Keep your eyes on the prize.
“…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,”
Jesus, “the founder and perfector of our faith,” finished the race of human life. Without sin, His race was perfect and completed the work of salvation.
And He waits for you. He is your greatest example, your Savior, the source of your joy, and your prize for running well (Psalm 16:11; John 15:11). Look to Jesus. Keep the prize before your eyes. Then “run that you may obtain it” (1 Corinthians 9:24).
It’s your race, set before you by God Himself – for the benefit of others (including your grandchildren) and for His glory. How will you finish?