Running a race is difficult. A person must train for months before it starts and condition the body to be prepared for any possible difficulties. They must eat the right food and be strict in the way they live their life in order to be strong when the race comes. There is no slacking, or they will not be prepared for the race. Then, once the race begins, they have to give it their all in order to make it to the finish line. Once that race is over, they must continue that routine until the next one. However, if they had not prepared and stayed inside the strict guidelines set out for them, or cheated to get to the top, then the outcome would have been failure and they would not have achieved what they would have been capable of.
Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victors crown unless he competes according to the rules. ~ 2 Timothy 2:5 ~
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
~ 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 ~
A friend of mine once told me, who himself is a runner, that we are all running a race in life. We train ourselves to run a certain way to reach a certain goal. We all have goals that we seek to reach; if they are important enough, we will do anything and everything we can to reach them. We keep our bodies strong so that we can go farther, and we try to give it all we have. Yet the race of life is much more important than any marathon. The race that all people run is that towards eternal life. And just like any race, there are rules. God is the ones who gives us these rules: a moral guide, a godly guide, and one that will bring us to the crown of life. However, if we do not keep our lives in accordance to these rules but instead stray from the path set before us, we will be disqualified. As in any race, if you break the rules, you get penalized. Sometimes that penalization leads to disqualification. We cannot run in someone else’s lane, or faith. We cannot follow a pseudo rule book and say, “Well it looked similar enough to the actual once, and it fits my style better. I’ll follow this rulebook instead.” That will not stand in a judges court, and in God’s court, there is no other rulebook than His Book, His Word. We cannot give up and quit halfway through either. If we fail to reach the end, we will never hear our coach say, “Well done.”
This is not always an easy walk in regards to faith. As Paul says in the above, we have to go into strict training and make our bodies our slaves. This means to put them into submission, and not let their fleshly will overcome spiritual truth and guidance. Such a struggle is not easy. I, for one, am terrible at races. I can barely run a mile without coughing up a lung, and I usually end my runs halfway through where I wanted to go. I do not have the discipline to stay in the routine to run an actual race. In the same way, I often find it hard to run God’s race every day. I get caught up in school, or work, or with friends. I get distracted from my goal as a servant of Christ, and I stray from my path. I do not always take the time to study God’s Word like I should, and thus my spiritual stamina wavers. This is not something to aspire to and most certainly not something I am proud of. And this is not without consequence either. When I do not put God first in what I do, my best is not produced and no one else is “blessed” besides possibly me. That is no reward, and most certainly not a heavenly one. However, I find that life goes smoother, my days less stressful, and my relationships in harmony when I put my fleshly desires below God’s. When I pray, ask for guidance, and remind myself that there are goals beyond this world and myself, my life is at peace and my race is strong. It is not easy, but it is worth it. I am reminded that this is a journey and a conditioning process, and I am running towards an eternal goal. It is a race that does not end until the day I die, and I must work hard to finish to hear the words, “Well done.”
Becoming a follower of Christ is much harder than any college or professional race. But although it might be true to say it is not for the faint of heart, as a person must put their all into it, no one is running alone in that race. We have others around us to cheer us on, encourage us in our faith, and help us when we struggle. But more importantly, we have Christ right there with us to carry us when we fall and guide us back when we lose our way. He knows the struggles we face, and He knows that we need His help. That is why He promises to always be with us. His rules are hard; they are perfection. And regardless of the difficulties, including putting aside our own desires, that is what we must do and follow. But as Christ has said, He has bought us and paid our sin, and though we struggle, He will not forsake us. The cost to enter the race of God’s salvation was bought when Christ died and rose for us. We are running the race now, not aimlessly, but towards the reward He has promised us. If we stay with the Guide set before us, we will receive the victors crown at the end of our road. This is a crown that will last forever: the crown of eternal life.