Running the Race to Win

Have you ever listened to someone speak and you feel like everything they are saying was prepared just for you?  Yesterday morning’s message was like that.  All day, the contents went around and around in my head, re-challenging me each time.  Here’s my reflective “brain dump…” 

You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?  Galatians 5:4-7

Scripture often uses the metaphor of an athlete in relation to our journey with Christ.  In the New Testament, Paul talks a lot about running, fighting, and enduring strict training to “win the prize.”

In the Passage above, Paul is accusing the Galatians of running a good race, meaning past tense.  The Galatians, for one reason or another had given up, they had quit giving their all.

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 a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.  1 Corinthians 9:24-27

I am a competitive person ( I blame my tom-boy past…).  From board games to tennis matches to soccer games, I play to win.  Usually, if I am not winning, I am not having fun.  In High School (during my stint of athleticism) if I would have settled for second best on the tennis courts, I would have never won.  Instead, Iearned the importance of pushing my body in practice, learning new drills, participating in team building activities, and playing hard during my matches.  If you want to win, you must be disciplined.  If you play to win, you must run outside of your comfort zone.  Winning takes disipline and motivation, winning is work.

Likewise, our relationship with Christ takes work.  If you want to win, you’ve got to train hard, and you’ve got to give your all.  There’s only one way to run for God, and that’s with all you’ve got.  If you choose to run half-heartedly, if you choose to run for second or third place, you get nothing.  

God created us in His image.  He created us for relationship, first with Him, and then with others.  God created us to know Him, so we could, in turn, make Him known.  Here’s the part we mess up:  We often get religion confused with relationship.  Religion is when we just merely go through the motions, it is superficial and surfacy.  Too often, we get caught up in looking good, going through the motions of Christianity, yet don’t really get to know Christ.  We learn about Him, yet fail to really know Him.  We learn how to look good, yet fail to be transformed.  When we fall into the snare of religion, we run aimlessly.

On the other-hand, relationship is empowering.  Relationship is established through time and discipline.  When we choose to do the things that build on our relationship with Christ (such as reading our bibles, praying and yes-that includes listening as well as talking…, hanging out with Christians, being mentored and mentoring, and jumping when God says “jump”) we begin to align ourselves with God.  We begin to look more like Him and less like us by allowing Him to transform us from the inside out.  When we commit ourselves in relationship with Christ, it’s then, and only then, we begin running with purpose. 

What are you doing today to finish the race?  What has God called you to?  What are you doing now to get you there?  Are you running, or just merely saying someday? 

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 3:12-14

Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize… (sigh) We have to remember to forget the things of our past.  Sometimes this a daily, if not hourly task… this is why we have a Savior… it’s exactly the reason Christ died for us.  The past is done.  Although our sins were like scarlet, they have been washed as white as snow.  Today’s a new day. Don’t come into agreement with the devil… Remember to forget.  Choose to run forward.  The only way your past can hinder you is if you are running looking backwards.

I am coming to the realization, daily, of how much I am shaped my culture.  I was born into the “microwave generation.”  I am so used to getting what I want, when I want… no work or waiting necessary.  This is so unbiblical.  God (You know, the One who holds the universe in His hand and to whom a thousand years are like a day?) seems to be not concerned with time.  I need to understand that things don’t happen automatically.  God’s concern is to prepare me for eternity, not to make me comfortable or happy.  He’s not uncomfortable with discomfort, instead, He welcomes it.  God understands that discomfort is essential for character.  Transformation occurs through process, beginning inside, not instantly overnight.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.  2 Timothy 4:7-8

We need to run to win.  Expect to finish.  Run with all your heart, giving your everything… that’s the only way.  Run with endurance, with joy, with direction.  

I don’t want someone to say to me, “You ran well, what happened?”  I want to be able to say that I gave it all I had.  I want to be able to declare that I’ve ran a good race, I’ve fought a good fight, and through it all, I’ve remained faithful.

So, I find myself asking:  What has God called me to?  What has God called me to forget?  Am I running well?

2 thoughts on “Running the Race to Win

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