Run the race set before you

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Here it is late spring, the Boston Marathon has been completed, and now we have several summer races coming up in the next few weeks in our own area: the Cove Lake 5K and the Cumberland Gap Ridge Trail Marathon being two of them. Then comes my summer favorite, the race of all races — the Tour de France.

I’ve titled this column “Running the Race” based on Hebrews 12:1-3 in which the writer compares our Christian life to running a race. Some of you know me and know I’m an avid runner and enjoy running races. I began running about 15 years ago as a way to cross-train for bicycle racing. I always wondered why I raced bikes back then. It was so difficult and demanding that all I could think was, “I’m not doing this again!” When the race was over, I was pumped and found myself looking forward to the next race.

When I think back on those days of intensive training and racing, I see why the writer of this letter to the Hebrews compares being a disciple of Christ to running (or cycling) a race.

In any type of athletics, an athlete is greatly encouraged by the cheering of supporters. When an athlete feels exhausted and has nothing left to give, the cheering by fans gives that extra bit of energy to move forward.

As Christians, we, too, can get discouraged or distracted from truly following Christ and fully relying upon God in all things at all times. But we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses. We have the saints who have gone on before us, providing the example that, while the journey can be arduous, it is also blessed. We also have the saints, who are here with us. Let us continuously encourage one another to finish the race.

We are also told to lay aside every weight and sin. Endurance athletes must be aware of any extra unnecessary weight, because it will slow them down and impede their performance. Any sin in our lives slows down the work of the Holy Spirit in us that is molding us into the likeness of Christ. We are told to run with perseverance. I remember a bike ride where I was pretty much the slow guy on the road, but 70 miles into the ride, when we hit a mountain, I kept my pace and passed all my companions who were exhausted. Sometimes, we want to do too much and see instant results. We get discouraged when that doesn’t happen. Wait on the Lord, be faithful and see what God can do in your life. It’s not always easy, but the journey through life with Christ is worth it.

Finally, we are told to run the race that is set before us. Whenever I raced, I have never had the opportunity to choose the racecourse. The course was set before me, and oftentimes I had no idea where I was going until I completed the race. In our lives with Christ, we don’t choose where God calls us to go, and we often have no idea where it is we are going until we step out in faith and follow God’s call. We don’t get to choose the course of our journey with God. I am well aware of this as an itinerate Methodist preacher, but I know that following God where God leads is always a blessing.

Walk with the King, and be a blessing.

The Rev. Dave Grant is pastor of Jacksboro and Caryville United Methodist churches. His column appears regularly in the Faith section.