At our house, fall Saturdays (and several summer Saturdays, too) are all about cross country. My son is a senior and has been running cross country since 6th grade. And this momma has grown to love watching the boys compete. I wonder how much more our Heavenly Father loves to watch, encourage and cheer on His children who are giving it their all out on the course.
Perhaps the writer of Hebrews was a runner himself, or had been to the games to cheer on his runner. He wrote, “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1). There are indeed so many parallels between the sweaty, tiring, exhilarating, physical sport of cross country racing and the spiritual race we are all in – for even when we are hunkered down, unmoving – the race is going on around us.
First off – it is most important to know that the race isn’t just what is done on Saturday morning on the course. It is all week long, all season long, all the training – effort – preparation – dedication – time – perseverance – discipline. Likewise, if your spiritual race consists solely of an hour or two at church on Sunday morning, it will not be a very impressive race. God desires more. The daily workouts – Bible reading. The high protein snack after a work-out – digging deeper into Scripture study. Hydrating daily throughout the week – prayer. Avoiding the ice cream, pizza and pop – staying away from negative and harmful influences, entertainment and activities. There are disciplines to follow to be a great runner – just as there are disciplines for being a follower of Jesus.
Paul also got some good mileage from the racing metaphor. He wrote to Timothy, “Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules.” (2 Timothy 2:5) On the cross country course it goes without saying that you actually have to run the assigned, mapped out race and follow the rules in order to compete. Yet, in our spiritual race so many times we try to create our own course or our own rules.
One thing I didn’t know about cross country 6 years ago was how much it is a team sport. Sure, every runner wants to compete their best, finishing the race in a shorter time than before. However, a team won’t win if they have just one or two top finishers. Their team score is compiled by what place their first 5 racers take – and the lowest score wins the meet. So, it is in the best interest of every member on the team to run the best race they can – while at the same time helping and encouraging and motivating their pack of runners to finish well. Similarly – the spiritual race is not an individual event. We are called to carry each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), not give up meeting together (Hebrews 10:25), look out for the interests of others (Philippians 2:4), build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11), gently restore one caught in sin (Galatians 6:1), and of course, love (lots and lots of verses, including John 13:34). How can you help a fellow runner better prepare for a strong race this week?
It’s God’s course – run it well according to His rules.
Jesus makes an awesome coach – he’s run the race and knows what you need to succeed on the course of life. Keep your eyes on him.
Be disciplined – daily. Your race requires dedication
Help your fellow runners.
Keep Running with Perseverance,