Run Your Race
Run this race of life without growing weary and tired. To do this we must sustain our inward man, but how do we do this? How do we not lose heart?
We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. – 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, 16 NKJV
The Apostle Paul would later say (2 Timothy 4:7), “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. How are you running your race? You may ask, “What race are you talking about, preacher?” When we think about racing, some of us may think about the races we used to have on playgrounds or in back yards. Some of us may think about track races like the 100, 200, 400, and the mile. This, of course, is not the type of race that I am talking about.
Life itself is a race, and everybody is taking part in their very own race. No, we are not racing one another – I don’t want you to get that thought in your head. A lot of the problems that people face today is because they believe they’re in a race with somebody else, and that they have been beaten or have to be the first to the finish line. That is not what I am talking about today. We all have our very own individual race that we are running. This means that all of us have a different way that we can run this race, and a completely different finish line as well.
This race, life, is a marathon (or a triathlon, if you like) – the toughest kind of race to run. In a marathon the surface is never really the same, nor is the course ever the same. You will notice that the marathon is usually run on open road, not on a perfect track, and there are also hills to run up or hills to run down. To run a marathon, a runner has to do a great deal of training to prepare for these conditions and also build up his/her stamina (endurance) so that they can complete the race. If the runner doesn’t train for the marathon, how could they ever expect to complete the race?
When I sit and watch the Peachtree Road Race every July 4th I think to myself, “oh, I can do that. I am going to do that one of these days.” I have been saying this for well over a decade now. You see, the professionals make it look really easy, but then the amateurs come behind them and I realize what I would look like without training for the Peachtree! I don’t want to be grasping for air 1 mile into the marathon!
I notice a few things about the marathon when it is completed. When the runners finish their marathon, nearly all of them raise their arms in the air in victory – from first to last place. At first I looked at this as the guy who always wants to finish first, thinking: “Why are the losers raising their hands like they just won?” Then I begin to realize that the runners were raising their hands in victory because they actually completed the race! They did not necessarily care about where they finished but that they completed their race.
I also noticed in the Peachtree Road Race that not everybody runs the whole race. I find this to be very significant. Why? Well, because the walkers receive the same reward as the runners at the end of the race. The walkers raise their hands in victory, just like the runners, because they have completed walking the marathon. Not only that, but the walkers receive the same reward (that Peachtree shirt) as the runners at the end of the race.
I understand that It takes a few things to be able to complete a marathon. It takes: training, work ethic, patience, and most importantly it takes faith in what one is doing. Faith in their preparation and faith that they can complete the marathon while running the race. I truly believe there is an important lesson that we as believers can take away from the marathoner and apply to our life.
Running this race
Every day since we exited our mother’s womb, we have been running this marathon called life. Some of us run it and some of us walk it, but we’re all in a marathon. This marathon, called life, is a grueling race of uphill, downhill, winding curves over a tough terrain. Sometimes we have to be prepared to jump over hurdles, and slosh through the waters of a steeplechase. I feel the need to ask you, how are you making it? How are you holding up? Are you tired? How is your stamina?
I don’t ask these questions trying to be cocky, but out of legit seriousness. How are you doing? We hear that question so often that we have grown so used to giving the same rhetorical answer of “I’m fine, I’m alright”. Are you really fine? Are you really alright? There is no shame in admitting when one is growing weary, when one is growing tired because all of us get weary and tired!
I like what Paul says in our text for today’s message. Paul states: “we are hard-pressed, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down”. I don’t know anybody that can say they have never been hard-pressed, perplexed, persecuted, or struck down. We are at the end of this year and I imagine that most of us can simply look back at this year and think about the times where we were either hard-pressed, perplexed, persecuted, or struck down.
I imagine that many of us felt that our faith was tested and tried at some point this past year. We went through some things and was probably felt let down. We may have even stumbled or failed along the way. There were most certainly things that came along the way that completely stressed us to the point that we were throwing our hands in the air in frustration. Spoiler alert: this will likely happen in the next year because these things that care about the date or the year.
Again, running this marathon is not going to be easy! Some folks like to paint life out like sunshine and rainbows, but the truth of the matter is that this marathon is grueling (it’s tough). However, I want us to notice what else Paul said in our text. Paul says: “We are not crushed. We are not in despair. We have not been forsaken. We have not been destroyed.” All of that stuff we went through just this past year, and years prior, and we are still here and standing! When I think about what I, myself, have gone through, I think to myself, “What a blessing! What a miracle!”
How this is possible
We have all been running this marathon, not just this past year, but for many years and we are still going! When we get tired of running the race, we somehow get the energy to keep on going; that’s just impressive to me. You see, I know how it is to be running around a track for so long and get to the point of “let me stop for a few minutes” or “I’ll just walk the rest of the way” – giving up. We are still going today because of God and our faith in Him!
As I said before, the marathoner has to have faith in their training and faith that they can complete the marathon while running the race. Faith, as described in Hebrews 11:1, is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. I like to always add on when I say this scripture: “without faith, where would we be today?” Where would we be without the Lord?
Paul tells us, “We do not lose heart even though our outward man is perishing.” Our outward man is in constant decay from the time we exit the womb due to the nature of sin. Sin corrupted this shell, our outward man, and so the body grows old; it grows weary and tired. However, Paul continued in saying that our inward man is constantly being renewed day by day. Our inward man, that is our soul, is the engine to this body and it is the inward man that keeps the outward man going even though it is in constant decay.
Paul says that the inward man is in constant renewal day by day, but how is this so? Are we the ones that renew our spirit? We like to think that we are the ones responsible for the renewal of our soul. We like to think when we go out and spend our money on nice things that this renews our spirit. We like to think when we are having a great time that this renews our spirit. Scripture, however, tells us otherwise.
Isaiah 40:31 tells us that those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength. I want to make something very clear; your soul, the inward man, is the strength of your outward man! The outward man cannot continue, cannot sustain without the inward man. We see that those who wait on the Lord will have their strength renewed. Those that wait on the Lord: those that are patient with God, or those hold to their faith in God.
This scripture continues in saying that the faithful will be able to run and not be weary, and will be able to walk and not faint. We are still standing after being hard-pressed on every side while we run this marathon because God continues to renew our inward man – God sustains us! God builds up our heart to be able to endure this marathon called life. Run your race but do so faithfully in God.
As we head into the new year let us remember, no matter the circumstance, to always fall into our faith in the Lord. God will sustain you. This marathon is certainly grueling – physically, psychologically, and definitely spiritually – but the Lord will sustain you in each facet. We need the Lord in every facet of our life – that is how we will one day successfully complete this marathon. At the end, we will be like Paul, and be able to say that we have fought the good fight, we have finished our race, and we kept our faith. We will be able to raise our arms in victory at the end of this race; ready to receive our reward from the Lord.