One thing I knew with certainty when the Presidential Fitness Awards rolled around each year in high school was that I would neither complete nor pass the 600-yard dash. It was a mandatory race of torture and failure for me, and I was always the last one off the track, staggering and sometimes vomiting.
In the dark ages of my high school career, I did everything possible to get an “A” in physical education. I took extra showers to earn extra credit. My ugly gym suit was kept cleaner and whiter than most students. I feared and respected the teacher, and although she seemed to like me, my lack of physical ability in most sports and activities made racking up brownie points nearly impossible. There was no way of brownnosing my way through the class by writing interesting reports or research papers. It came down to pure, raw physical strength, skill, and stamina. The only Presidential Fitness categories I excelled at were the broad jump and hanging on a bar for long periods. If the Lord should cause the earth to open and swallow bad people as He did with Korah in the Bible (Numbers 16:30-33), I guess I’m set. Likewise, if hanging suspended from a bar is ever useful, no worries here.
There is one race, though, that I am determined to run with every ounce of strength and endurance and finish strong! It is the race of faith I entered over fifty years ago when I gave my life to Jesus Christ. Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the Champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Hebrews 12:1-2 clearly defines the race set before us. More importantly, it tells us how to accomplish that race by keeping our eyes on the Champion of the race, Jesus Christ.
It’s a race of faith, and when we enter it by accepting Christ into our lives and allowing His Lordship to guide and steer us, there are many markers along the racetrack. We had no markers during the 600-yard dash. No one offered us a drink of water. No people were cheering us on. If I tripped or fell, too bad. Other girls were flying past me. After all, it was just a dash, right?
The race we enter with Jesus is so much more than a dash. I knew a long-distance runner in Alaska who trained and thought nothing of running over rough terrain for hours and hours. Quite a different setting than a puny little 600-yard dash on a high school track! Preparing for such a long-distance race required incredible discipline and determination. I never even prepared one minute for our high school races and dashes.
Each of us has a uniquely different race to run, as we keep our eyes on Jesus and keep running till we cross the finish line. Our gifts, talents, abilities, and callings define the type of race we embark on with the Lord. Remember that we are "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14). I believe that means much more than just the wonders of the human body. The spiritual gifts Christ gives us are marvelously awesome and valuable in building up and edifying the Body of Christ.
As we keep running our race with Christ, He brings situations and opportunities into our journey and begins to develop the person we are. Maybe He knows, for instance, that you are a powerful mouthpiece for the Gospel. Your faith will be stretched when the Holy Spirit prompts you to speak a word of encouragement, a prayer, or perhaps preach to a group of people. As you keep running, fueled by faith in the Lord, more opportunities arise to develop that gift. Your faith level increases with every successful test you pass in your race, and the Lord uses you more and more.
Everyone needs encouragement. If only a few students would have shouted, "You can do it, Chris! Just a few more yards!" I might have finished successfully. Jesus provides His own cheering section in the unseen world to spur us on. Believers who are with the Lord, saints from old, watch our faith races as if in the stands of an arena. The words preceding the verse we read above from Hebrews say, Therefore since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith...
Every day we run our race obediently, choosing God's ways and plans, not ours, we please the Champion of the race, Jesus Christ. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me--the task of testifying to the good news of God's grace (Acts 20:24 NIV).
© 2022, Chris Werre