Our son Colson has been on the high school cross-country team for the past three years and it's been a great experience! He's had great coaches, nice teammates, and has learned a lot about athletic competition. Since cross-country is a Fall sport, Summer is an important time for training. So part of his daily routine is to go out and run 2-4 miles at a time. We are proud of him because no matter what the weather is like, he will go out and run, and is developing discipline and perseverance that will hopefully help him the rest of his life. Do you like running? I like running. Well okay, I don't ever actually run . . . except when I'm late for stuff (like when I'm a couple of blocks from home walking the dog and realize I'm supposed to be on a Zoom meeting in five minutes). Then I run! It's amazing though how quickly I get winded. So I think I like the "idea" of running more than actually running.
Despite my laziness, running is the perfect analogy for the Christian walk, especially long-distance running. Life is not a straight sprint, right? Sprinting means going as hard as you can for a short period of time and then stopping. This may work if you're going to run for 50 yards but not for 5 miles or 50 miles. Approaching life as a sprint can lead to collapse and long-term burnout. So much of life is an ebb and flow of good times & struggles, joys & sadness, ups & downs. We experience these things in our homes, our relationships, and our physical, emotional, and spiritual lives. Part of the key to life then is being able to navigate the highs and lows we experience and remain stable over the long haul. I think the past four months has been a microcosm of this. With coronavirus infections beginning in early Spring and businesses and churches needing to close, we were shocked. Then we were encouraged after a couple months by the re-opening that took place as the virus appeared to be under control. Only now to be discouraged with establishments needing to close or pull back again as infections have spiked in the past month.
There are a couple of places in the Bible which compare our Christian walk to running a race. I Corinthians 9:24-26 says "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. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly." In this passage, the apostle Paul explains the need to live with purpose. When we embark on the Christian journey, we need to always remember what the goal or prize is. Our walk (or run) with Christ in our lives is to seek His kingdom and His righteousness, and to receive the crown of eternal life. But this requires the self-discipline of a runner or athlete to do what may be difficult to do in order to ultimately achieve the goal, because life is full of trials.
Hebrews 12:1-2a calls us to run the race or live the life of faith that God has marked out for us. It says "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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith." So in addition to focus and self-discipline, living for Christ requires throwing off the things that might hinder us from living life well which includes sin and worldly distractions. We are to live and run with perseverance like a long-distance runner who knows that life is more like a marathon of ups and downs than a sprint. And again, we must keep our eyes constantly focused on the prize of Christ and His kingdom.
Because of the pandemic, all California high school Fall sports have been postponed. It remains to be seen if Colson will be able to compete this year but we will encourage him to remain disciplined, focused, and run for the long haul. Let us all do the same in our walk with Christ.