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.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (The Message)
When I was in high school I hated to run. I did a lot of sports, but I really didn’t like running. I even when out for track, but I still didn’t like running (I went out because of girls…. and to stay in shape for football). But I still knew I had to run. Running for me was sprinting. Give everything you can, and get done as fast as you can. This mentality works well for a 100 meter dash, a 200 meter dash, or even a 400 meter dash, but if you try to run as fast as you can from the get go on anything over 400 meters you probably won’t finish strong.
I got lucky and didn’t have to run too many 800 meter races, but over the past few years I’ve started running longer distances. I’m now looking forward to and training for an Ultra Marathon near Lynchburg, Virginia this fall (Mountain Masochist Trail Run). This type of race is completely different than a sprint. In this race you have to take bathroom stops, consume food and water, hike, run, and just keep moving forward. It has a ebb and flow to it, that a sprint doesn’t.
I think this kind of running (marathons) is the kind of races Paul is talking about here. A sprint is quick and done, but a marathon takes time. Our faith builds and grows with time. There are seasons of pain and suffering, and there are seasons of great joy and prosperity. We have to stay focused on the prize, which is Jesus himself. This means staying focused and moving forward regardless of the pains, joys, and different seasons of life.
Keep it up, life and faith are a marathon, not a sprint.