“Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.” — Proverbs 4:26-27
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about some metaphors the sport of long-distance running offers us. In my own life, as well as hopefully in yours, there are some powerful lessons to be learned since, as we know, we’re all in a race of sorts with an eventual and ultimate destination of eternal life. Understanding and keeping these truths in mind as we journey is extremely important because it will impact how we run, who we run with, and even, at times, who we break away from in the pack:
1) You have to run your own race. Modeling your race after someone else’s pace or style isn’t going to help you fulfill what you’re put on this earth to do. Just as runners have an individual training regimen, an individual speed and way they execute a race, so do we. Proverbs 4:25 advises, “Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.” Our race will develop differently and uniquely for each of us, and we have to accept that difference and not buy into the comparison trap so many of us get caught up in.
2) You must remember this is a marathon and not a 100-meter dash. Life is made of this long, sustained obedience in a singular direction. This isn’t a race that we complete in a matter of seconds. Growth, faithfulness and holiness is built over years, not days. This is why perseverance and endurance matter. Ecclesiastes 9:11 reminds us that “the race is not to the swift” — we need to be all in for the long haul. We need to prepare and expect that this is going to take a while.
3) There will be distractions and other runners who try to hinder your progress. Paul spoke to the Galatians and asked them, “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?” (Galatians 5:7). The reality is, some runners try to cheat. If they can’t win or finish, their only way to somehow justify themselves is to try to prevent you from winning and finishing. People don’t always play nice or fair. But Hebrews 12:1-2 says we are to shake off these things, remember those who have gone before us, and, most importantly, look to Jesus, “the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” who endured to the end and suffered so that we might have this gift of eternal life.
4) At times, you must break away from the pack. There will be moments and seasons in life when you are held back by trying to stay with the group instead of running the race you’re intended and called to run. You must be willing to let go of some things and even some people — drop them off as you press forward — in order to accomplish what God has ahead for you.
Running the race isn’t easy. It’s hard. It’s exhausting. It’s painful. And there are so many challenges along the way. But God sends encouragement to us as we run, and we must keep finding a way to continue. In the face of all these things, we must look to Him and stay the course. I pray we finish well, and it starts by implementing lessons like these.
— Katherine Singer
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