I don’t know if you’re like me. It can take a while for something to stick. Some people pick up on everything and seem to have no trouble understanding what seems to bounce off my thick skull.
” Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize. “
-1 Corinthians 9:24
This verse is one of those things that never really stuck for me. I’ve heard it and read it over and over, but it never really meant much to me. The worst part might be that I was a runner. I started running cross country in middle school. I wasn’t very good. In fact my sophomore year in high school I finished last in a race. Something seemed to happen in my junior year though. We hot a new coach and I finally started to grow. I went from being the worst on the team to one of the top 5 on the team. In 11th grade I also ran track and was the second fastest in the mile and topped off at a 5:01 pace. I never ran track again and have often wondered what would have been if I ran one more year. My last year in high school was my best by far for cross country. I inconsistently ran sub 20 minute 5ks but never had a desire to make the jump to college, until that is my senior year of college when I would give it another shot.
The two factors that kept me from making the leap from a good runner to a great runner were desire and my lack of discipline. In my mind I wasn’t a runner, I was a wrestler. I was proud to be on the varsity wrestling team. Running was how I stayed in shape so I could make weight when the season started. I didn’t have the mentality of a runner, in some ways I was using that sport to better my self for what I felt was my sport.
My off season practice was awful, it was basically nonexistent. Every summer I had good intentions of running, but it was always so hot, and the bugs, who wanted to be out in that. About a week before practice would start for the season I would realize that I was not in the shape I should be and needed to start practicing, but it was always too late.
My mentality was not of a true runner, certainly not of someone running to win the race. I started running again recently. It was harder than I remembered. At my age now it feels like every step is a battle on some days. I was nearing the end of a run when this verse finally clicked with me. Once again I had unintentionally set up my run to end on an uphill. I knew soon my phone would inform me that my run was over but I didn’t know when it was going to happen. My breathing was labored and my legs were tired. I knew I wasn’t able to go much farther, but I also knew I wasn’t done. Just one more step I told my self, and then another. I took my eyes off the top of the hill and looked at what was right in front of me. Just one more step. It felt like forever, and yet before I knew it I had reached the top of the hill, and moments later the end of my run. Paul was right, running is the perfect metaphor for ministry and pressing on for the gospel.
Running is grueling and the hardest part is not the physical, but the mental. Your body always wants to stop before it really needs to. Your mind must take over and push through or you never advance. Ministry is also grueling and this year has been the more difficult than any before it. For the first time I understand why so many people drop out of the race of ministry. There is criticism, seeing people you’re poured your self into leave the faith, and huge expectations. Yet we are called to continue, to push through the pain and take one more step. The practice of daily prayer and Bible reading are what allow us to continue to run the race and see the victory of the Kingdom of Heaven, strengthening our spiritual muscles.
I hope that if you are reading this that you are not in a season where ministry and living the gospel have not become a race that looks unwinnable. If you are, know that there is hope. Know that the LORD longs to see you keep going and that He has equipped you for this race, He has not and will not abandon you. Press on to win the race!
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