When I was in elementary school, one of my least favorite subjects was P.E.
I remember “running” the mile, which consisted of running when I was within sight of the teacher and walking as soon as she looked away.
Needless to say, I was among the group that finished last every time.
The Christian life can be compared to a marathon.
Though it’s a much longer distance, I know I still run like I did in elementary school.
Whenever people are looking, I make myself look strong and fast, but as soon as they turn away I start walking again.
If I run for any reason other than for God’s glory, I might win a lot on this earth, but I will lose what matters—eternity.
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:34-38).
Imagine my running the marathon with every weight of guilt and shame I have crammed into a huge backpack. The further I run, the more the amount of guilt and shame increases.
Eventually I collapse, exhausted from running and crushed under the weight of the backpack.
I cannot win if I carry the weight of what Jesus has already taken away.
Now imagine the backpack holding my hidden sins, my idols, anything I choose not to give up for Christ’s sake. I face the same problem.
I cannot win if I drag with me what God tells me to abandon and flee.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
In order to win, we must train like athletes. Behind every impressive athlete is an even more impressive team.
The Coach is God. He sees the route to victory because he is that victory.
He has some painful training exercises, but they’re for your good and his glory. He’s always there to listen to any prayer you have.
His Training Manual is the Bible. Read and study it carefully, being eager to practice what it says.
The Team is the Church, the Body of Christ around the world. They’re in this race with you.
Rely on all your teammates: older mentors, younger encouragers, and peers that hold you accountable.
This is no ordinary marathon. The race will strike at your weakest areas, constantly enticing you away from the end goal for a temporary prize.
Do not be fooled. Don’t settle for anything less than the prize.
“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4).
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