But Run YOUR Race, So As to WIN!
It occurs to me that “running THE Race” (as our friend and apostle Paul described it) does truly have some similarities with “running a race.” While out for a run the other day, I was reminiscing of various triathlons and 10K races and the like from years back. I think most competitive racers would agree that there are at least three stages that your mind and body go through during the “battle” of a marathon or long distance race.
And I know that those of you who have poured your heart and life out in desiring All of Jesus and His Fruitfulness in your life... will relate easily to these different stages that happen to a warrior in a long distance race:
1) The first mile of a 10K race, or first quarter-mile of the swimming part of a triathlon, and maybe the first 5-10 miles of a marathon... (and at various stages of our Spiritual Journey, when we first fall in love with Jesus and are Translated from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of the Beloved Son, or when we Discover or RE-Discover anything Powerful and Precious and Life-Changing in our Encounters with Him): There is a euphoric “adrenaline rush” where we just FLY!! In the first stages of the Race, or at climactic life-changing later times, we seem to exceed our capabilities and wildest expectations, and effortlessly Live in the Extreme! There is no sense that we’ll ever have to “come back to the pack” or ever pay a price for these WINGS we must have grown! As with Jesus when He was beginning His Race for us, Angels seem to feed us from Heaven. We know no limits. At this point we feel very little pain.
Phase One of the race is euphoric and nearly effortless. The Dawning. The New. (Spiritually, we cycle through these phases multiple times, and on multiple “fronts” in our lives!) On many occasions I have, and many others have, experienced an adrenaline in the first stage of a race that catapults us forward into the front of the race, at a pace we thought impossible! Likewise, the first of the Race, of the Relationship, of the Calling... is powered by a “rush” of Life and Grace—Food from Heaven.
2) The middle of “the race”... is a time for work ethic. We aren’t soaring effortlessly any longer. Perhaps pain, perhaps boredom, we must grind, grind, grind... and there is certainly much more temptation to thoughts of vulnerability. This part isn’t fun. How much longer IS this race? Can I hold this pace? I’ve “never gone this way before” and I’m not certain. The opponents don’t seem to be feeling the pain that I am starting to feel. This isn’t thrilling, really, any longer. It’s a decision and it’s right to be going this way, and it is what I have decided to do. But it’s not easy. Our training (“exercising ourselves unto Godliness,” “be not deceived; God is not mocked; a man reaps what he sows,” “I beat my body and make it my slave,”) is now what propels us forward and gives us the rhythm and thrust and clarity to keep us straight at the Mark, the Goal, the Prize, the High Calling.
As when the Chosen came into the Promised Land, the manna did NOT fall from the sky as it once had. That’s okay! This is where He “finds out what is in our hearts” and tests us to see what is Real! The middle of the Race is powered by the Training, Work Ethic, Desire, Principle, Determination—by what has been sown in the “heat of the day” and early in the mornings, long before the dawn and the dew has melted away. Alone, on the roads, paying the price for the future.
3) The Finish! There is nothing left now, of the Training or the well-thought-out plan for the Race. The Adrenaline is long gone in this Race. The excitement, the passion, the Food from Heaven is a faded memory. This is not the time for those things. A few minutes pass as slowly as a few years, or so it feels. “My God, my God—WHY?” At this point in the Race, “all the runners” have done the training, but now the “training” is not what the Finish comes down to. Now it is HEART. There is a willingness to die, rather than to turn back and quit. Regardless of whatever else may happen, when there is nothing left whatsoever but HEART, we “run the Race to WIN.” Our eyes are blinded by the anguish at this phase in the race, and our minds are blurred with thoughts of pain, fear, hopelessness... temptations to let it go, to rationalize, to make excuses and step off to the side and walk.
Most have never pushed themselves far enough to even know this experience, unfortunately. Passing through the pain barrier when everything inside and around is screaming, “Quit! It’s not worth it! You have nothing left!” is a very special Place. SOME will, by God’s Grace, choose to Live in Him and through Him, with all on the altar, all personal cost ignored... and experience from within—His Overcoming Passion to Finish the Race Victoriously. The Finish of the Race is empowered by abandonment and heart, when nothing else is left.
“By the Blood of the Lamb, the Word of my Testimony, and faithful even to the death.”
These three stages have been very real to me....
And, as John described the three phases of our Race,
1) “I write to you, dear children,
because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name (1Jn. 2:12).
2) “I write to you, fathers,
because you have known him who is from the beginning (1Jn. 2:13).
3) “...I write to you, young men,
because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one” (1Jn. 2:14).