My son Ben began running in grad school as a way to stay healthy. In the last year he’s moved into running races; half-marathons, full marathons, and even two 50ks (31 miles)! When I asked Ben his race strategy, he said the key was to stick to a pace his body could maintain. If he went too slow, his legs felt too heavy to keep moving. Running too fast drained him of energy and cardio strength too soon. By running every day, Ben learns what pace works with his body instead of pushing against it.
Runners encounter physical, mental, environmental, and emotional barriers. The challenge of navigating these difficulties and crossing the finish line motivates runners to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Paul encountered numerous barriers: prison, shipwreck, beatings, loss of relationships, etc. and yet he found his own pace in pursuing Christ.
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, NIV)
Many times I hear Christians beat themselves up for not being farther along in their walk with the Lord. Rather than asking God to show them how to set the pace, folks either run too slow or too fast. We can become weighed down by rules, beliefs, and burdens which God does not call us to carry. Defeated, the spiritual race can become too legalistically heavy to run. Or folks will often push themselves to take on an overwhelming amount of tasks (praying more, extra Bible studies, ministry work) as a way to quiet internal guilt.
We each have barriers to overcome in our sanctification journey. Hurt, pain, fear, legalistic beliefs, etc. all separate us from God’s heart—the spiritual finish line. For some, healing comes through finding acceptance and love through ministry. God calls some folks to take great leaps of faith in order to press through fear. Others are called to sit on the sidelines and rest. Comparing your race with someone else causes you to run someone else’s pace. Learning to follow God’s timing gives the necessary perseverance and endurance to finish the race God has set before you.
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