Running the Race

By John Ballinger

May 25, 2015

Greetings, fellow rats!

 I am not being cruel here calling you all a bunch of nasty rodents but rather I am simply describing our lives as they were defined back in the 1940s when the term “rat race” was first coined. The phrase came about at a time when technology and its associated “progress” were being developed at a faster pace than ever before. Of course looking back, it doesn’t seem near as hectic as the world we live in today but at that time, people were already regretting those simple days of yore. Many of us would love to go back to the simpler times of the ‘40s but life goes on and at an even faster speed each year. It seems the motto for the world is “the faster, the better.”


We are now in the season of racing as the Indianapolis 500 is behind us and a whole string of NASCAR races are coming up. Life has been compared to a race many times; we are even referred to as the human race. But where are we going? How will we get there? Do we have to get there so fast? In this race of life, the Bible has a lot to say about the pace at which we handle life.


First, we need to talk about training for this life we lead. Just as racecar drivers and marathon runners don’t simply decide one day to race, so we are to put in some training if we are going to run a race of life that counts. When the Apostle Paul wrote to his student Timothy, he shared these words of advice:


Train yourself for a holy life! While physical training has some value, training in holy living is useful for everything. It has promise for this life now and the life to come (1Timothy 4:7b-8, CEB). Training ourselves for a holy life requires focus and hard work just like any athlete does to get ready for the race. Paul tells Timothy there is value in being of good physical health but training in holy living is good for everything in life.


How is your workout coming? Do you exercise? Do you hold some pride in how good your body looks or are you looking for the next fitness craze to guarantee you perfect abs and bigger biceps? How is your spiritual workout coming? Do you exercise your spiritual life? Do you hold some pride that you can quote Scripture and name all of the disciples without looking them up? Do you try to impress people with your knowledge or are you hoping there still may be a “Reader’s Digest Condensed” book coming out that will tell us all we need to know about Scripture without having to spend time in books like Numbers and Philemon?


If we are to walk the walk of faith, we are called to walk as followers of Jesus Christ. With that commitment comes the commitment to get the right workout to prepare for the race of life. For instance, to the Corinthians, Paul wrote:


Don’t you know that all the runners in the stadium run, but only one gets the prize? So run to win. Everyone who competes practices self-discipline in everything. The runners do this to get a crown of leaves that shrivel up and die, but we do it to receive a crown that never dies (1 Corinthians 9:24-25, CEB).


The key words in these verses are “practices self-discipline.” Unlike most athletes, we Christians don’t have a coach beside us urging us to push harder; we need self-discipline. Even though we may belong to a dozen weekly Bible studies, those people are not there when we need encouragement the most—in our day-to-day calisthenics. We need to stay connected to God’s word on a daily basis if we are to even begin to get in shape. We need to discipline ourselves to stay at it. We should be encouraged not by how a coach scores us but how the more time we spend in God’s word the closer he draws us to him.


The race of life is sometimes a difficult one and yet worth every mile if we keep in touch with God and run with the greatest coach ever, Jesus Christ. In time, we will reach that checkered flag that tells us we have won the victory. That should be our goal as Paul wrote later to Timothy:


I have fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith. At last the champion’s wreath that is awarded for righteousness is waiting for me. The Lord, who is the righteous judge, is going to give it to me on that day. He’s giving it not only to me but also to all those who have set their heart on waiting for his appearance. (2 Timothy 4:7-8, CEB)


Keep running the race, brothers and sisters, and keep the faith!

Keywords: corinthians, timothy
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