The Bible is full of word pictures. Jesus used parables, simple stories to explain spiritual concepts, and Paul was fond of metaphors. One comparison Paul used throughout the New Testament was the idea of the Christian life as a race. Everybody knows that it’s not how you start a race that determines the winners and losers. It’s about who perseveres to the end.
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”Hebrews 12:1
A Race Compared to Christian Life
What starts the race? The race begins when the pistol fires or someone says “Go!” We start our Christian race at salvation.
How do you prepare yourself to run? Athletes workout, practice racing, eat right, and take care of their bodies. They want to be in tip-top shape for race day. We live the life of a devoted servant to God with regular prayer, Bible reading, church attendance, and an attitude of faith in God in all areas. We strive to be doers of the Word and not hearers only (James 1:22).
What kinds of things could keep you from finishing the race? Athletes don’t finish when they stop before it’s done. Sometimes that’s because of injuries. Other times, people just simply give up and quit running or even leave the track. A Christian quits the race when he/she stops believing and striving to please God. Sometimes that looks like going back into the world. It may start small, but over time, a person’s focus can change so that spiritual things become an afterthought.
How do you know the race is over? The race is over when athletes cross the finish line/someone wins. Our Christian life ends when we see Jesus face-to-face and He says, “Well done.”
Paul’s Metaphor of the Christian Life
Paul asks a rhetorical question in 1 Corinthians 9:24-25. He says, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.”
He’s talking about being intentional in our Christian lives. Athletes work out and train hard for races so they can win a medal. In the ancient Roman games, the prize was a crown made out of a laurel wreath to symbolize triumph. How much more should we use great effort to live the Christian life of faith when our reward is the Imperishable Crown and an eternity with Jesus? (See the website Got Questions for an explanation of the 5 crowns for believers.)
We Can’t Stop Running, No Matter What
But the enemy of our souls would seek to make us quit the race. He wants to cause us to be so tired of fighting spiritual battles, so sad about what has happened to us or even what we’ve done in the past that we give up. He wants to get us off the track and/or so hurt by life that we don’t keep running to the end. But we can’t let him stop us.
Philippians 3:13-14 says, “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Whatever happens, we have to keep moving forward.
But the Race Is Hard, and I’m so Tired.
In these last days, the devil is doing his best to wear out the saints (Daniel 7:25). But we can’t get so tired that we stop striving to run well. Hebrews 6:11-12 says, “And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”
How do we finish well?
In Hebrews 12:1, Paul tells us to run the race. In Hebrews 12:2, Paul gives the secret to finishing well. “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” We must look to Jesus and keep our eyes focused on Him as our Prize. He has promised to be with us the entire distance and to see us to the finish line if we just don’t give up along the way. Matthew 12:13 says, “But he who endures to the end shall be saved.”
Paul Won the Prize, and We Can Too
As for Paul, right before he was martyred for his faith in Jesus, Paul said that he had done just what he was telling other people to do. He had run the race and would finish well. 2 Timothy 4:7-8 says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the Crown of Righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” We all can finish the race and win the Prize (eternal life with Jesus).
The Christian life takes effort and perseverance. Starting strong is not enough. We have to keep our eyes on the Prize, keep striving for victory, and finish well.
Check out this song by The Afters called Well Done. It’s about that moment we cross the finish line.
Enjoy object lessons? Check out Spiritual Warfare: A Defeated Foe. In it, God uses a housefly to teach me about the way I should view the enemy. Or, try 3 Last Days Object Lessons from Shopping. Please subscribe in the upper right corner (or at the bottom on a phone). Also, check out my YouTube Channel. There, I read my blogs out loud and have a playlist of hymns from my church. Far from boring, they are fast, sassy, and anointed. I hope you will be blessed listening!