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
Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of knowing some dedicated runners. Off and on, I’ve done some running myself, but missing has always been the dedication part. I’d run faithfully for a year or two and then stop to pick it up sometime later. But any runner, when they enter a race, always has in mind the finish. They never start with the intention of quitting before they cross the line, and they run to the best of their ability.
That doesn’t mean the runner will not face obstacles. There are the elements–sometimes they fluctuate within a single race–cold and wet that quickly swing to hot and humid. There are inclines, declines, and potholes–on a trail run, there are slipping rocks, roots, and mud. The runner may experience cramps, spasms, shortness of breath, and injury.
Before every race are hours of training. Nine-time New York Marathon champion Grete Waitz says, "For every finish-line tape a runner breaks—complete with the cheers of the crowd and the clicking of hundreds of cameras—there are the hours of hard and often lonely work that rarely gets talked about."
The Bible doesn’t say, but there’s every indication that the Apostle Paul was a runner. He understands the mental and physical demands and brings them into the spiritual realm. To not finish the race is unthinkable to him. After his name-changing encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, from that point forward, he was like Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump, “From that day on, if I was goin’ somewhere, I was runnin’!”
Paul (and Forrest) serve as an inspiration to us. We know the running isn’t going to be easy. There will be obstacles. Sometimes, though we are not, we may feel alone. Our training–studying scripture, meditation, and prayers–aren’t singular events but part of the overall race. Our training time and the time spent telling others of Jesus’ message of deliverance–are all accumulated miles of a single event.
God, thank you for the good news of your grace. Thank you for calling us into this spiritual race. We understand there will be obstacles, we appreciate that you run alongside us, cheering us on, and we recognize there’s a finish line. Lord, help us to run the race with determination. When we doubt, renew our faith, and when we tire, give us the strength to share our testimony unabashedly. In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen.