Anyone who’s ever run a marathon or even a mile race knows you can’t win by sprinting as fast as you can from the start. Those who do quickly run out of steam and fade to the back.
In the same way, the Christian life is much more a marathon than it is a sprint. God wants us to be endurance runners—the kind of people who will run the entire race and finish victorious at the end, rather than starting with a bang but quickly fading away. Because of this fundamental principle of the Christian life, it is important we learn to pace ourselves.
Train Like an Olympian
Remember how Paul used this same analogy when he talked about running to win in the race of life? He used a word picture—an Olympics-like race—that’s just as relevant now as it was during his time. In fact, I believe this message is what what the Spirit is saying to many in the church today.
In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul says this: “You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally. I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself” (vv. 24-27, MSG).
Paul emphasizes the importance of training and discipline, and his vivid description of running to win in life inspired me to do some research on what makes a marathon runner tick. I studied their preparation, their training techniques, their mental attitudes and lots of other aspects of running, and I discovered the very principles foundational for running a marathon in the natural are equally applicable to running our spiritual race. We need to train ourselves to be in this race to the end. It will not happen on its own—especially when life brings extreme conditions against us.
As time has passed, I’ve seen many people who started this faith adventure with me drop out of their race. The absence of disciplined training in their lives meant they didn’t have the spiritual stamina to keep going when the going got tough. Many people have been defeated by disappointment, discouragement, distraction, disillusionment or disease, and because of this, they’ve dropped out of the race.
But I believe we were all created to run our race and finish our course, and in order to do so we need to have vision for every area of our lives.
Vision is simply the ability to see ahead. It’s not about looking back and regretting your past; it’s about looking forward and having enough perspective that you know where you’re headed. Having a clear picture of what the race of life is all about, where we are going and what we are likely to encounter along the way will sustain us for the entire duration. Keeping the end in sight will help us keep going when things are tough—especially when we are struggling over rough terrain or laboring up hills and feel like we can’t go much farther.
The Point Ahead
Proverbs 29:18 in the King James Version says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Many people do not finish their race simply for a lack of long-term vision. At the first sign of opposition, difficulty or adversity, they simply give up.
Pause for a moment and reflect on the following: Are there any areas in your life where you have given up because you’ve lost sight of the bigger picture or lost your vision for the whole race?
Maybe you’ve stalled in your spiritual life and are no longer moving forward. Maybe you’ve lost your vision for life—whether that’s emotionally, physically, relationally or financially.
If so, identify the point at which you gave up. Then renew your vision and pick up the pace again. Remember, in order to have the right perspective, you need to visualize the whole race, be ready for the challenges that are sure to come, and be patient.
Run the race. Finish the course.
Christine Caine is an Australian pastor, activist, evangelist and speaker and the director of Equip and Empower Ministries. With her husband, Nick, she founded the A21 Campaign to fight modern-day human trafficking. Her latest book is Undaunted: Daring to Do What God Calls You to Do (Zondervan).
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