Having said this, though, I admire marathon runners, joggers, and sprint racers. The amount of hard work they put into these activities is amazing. But not only does a marathon require hard work, it also requires patience. Whenever I run, many times I ask myself, "When will this end? I cannot wait to get there so I can rest!" Runs can take a long time to complete, and hard physical exertion only makes them seem longer.
This is a perfect metaphor for life. Very rarely is a life goal achieved quickly. "Get Rich Quick," "Get Your License Tomorrow," "Become Fluent in this Language in Two Weeks," etc. sound too good to be true, don't they? Real life requires hard work, sweat, tears, and blood (figuratively). As university students, this is all too familiar to us. But in the midst of exam time, paper writing, and lab reports, we know in our hearts that our efforts will pay off in the end. That degree and subsequent career are going to be ours, Lord willing. We just have to trudge through, endure, and attain them.
The same is true in the Christian walk (or race). Christianity demands a lot from us. We need to change bad habits (repent), reevaluate our beliefs from time to time, overcome hurdles in our mindsets, and actively live out our faith. This is difficult. Sometimes our convictions will cause us pain. But that is not the end of the story. At the end of this hard Christian life is a far better afterlife.
In more than one instance, the Bible compares the Christian lifestyle to a race. The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:24-7 (NIV):
"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; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize."
And the writer of Hebrews says this in the 12th chapter, verses 1-3:
"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. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."
Please note something here. Note how the Christian race is to be focused on Christ, the "pioneer and perfecter of faith." Yes, we do need to make godly decisions in our Christian life. We do need to "put our time in," or as Paul says, to "go into strict training."
But we cannot do it alone. Our race depends on Jesus, through Whom salvation comes in the first place. When Paul talked about the Old Testament vs. the New, he said in Romans 9:16: " It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy." I believe the same can be applied to Christian life. That is why calling upon God in prayer is so important as we live our faith.
And at the end of the Christian race, remember that a grand prize awaits. Keep these words in mind as you run with God in your race:
"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)