Are there any runners out there? I imagine there are quite a few. I used to proudly identify myself as one of you, but then, well let’s be honest, I got lazy. Running is hard, and it’s a difficult discipline to keep up. However, there was a season that lasted a few years in my life where I would regularly be found pounding the pavement in my running shoes.
I am a super competitive person, and I can remember well the struggle it was for me to train for the two half marathons I ran, knowing that I would not even come close to running alongside the fastest runners in the race. I’m an extreme person with an all or nothing kind of personality. I can remember refusing to run with certain people in training, knowing that they ran quite faster than me. Let’s just call that one what it is: PRIDE.
I didn’t want to be the slow one. I didn’t want to be the one holding the others back. So, if I ran with someone else, it would typically be with someone who ran slower than I did. Otherwise, I would most often choose to run alone.
As I reflect back onto my running days, I can so clearly see now how my perspective was so off. Instead of focusing on my own race, my own ability to run, and my own pace, I was constantly caught up in comparing myself to everyone around me. I wasn’t fast enough or I was faster than some, but rarely did I keep my eyes fixed straight ahead. Instead, my eyes were always looking to the left and the right, trying to keep up to impress the faster runners or trying to stay ahead of the slower ones.
Do you see the error in my thinking? It wasn’t meant to be a competition, at least not for me because I didn’t sign up to be a competitive runner. I signed up with the goal of completing the race. I think this is where so many of us get tripped up in life, more specifically, in our spiritual race. Instead of keeping our eyes fixed and focused on Jesus, we’re looking to the right and the left, determining our course and our speed based on what everyone else is doing around us.
But that’s the wrong perspective.
Take a look at Hebrews 12:1-3:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
This passage begins with a timely reminder—many faithful followers of Christ have gone before us and ran their race well. This reminder is not intended to cause us to compare our lives to them and find that we come up short. Rather, it’s intended to encourage us to keep running our own race. But we can’t run well if we’re all tangled up and weighed down. So, we are instructed to “throw off” everything that holds us back, everything that distracts us from continuing to run. What is distracting you today, keeping you from being focused on the race, causing you to stop running or take a seat on the sidelines instead of continuing on? Throw it off. Let it go. Lay it aside. And keep running.
And how do we not only keep running but also finish this race? By keeping our eyes on Jesus. Notice, it’s not by looking around us at how everyone else is running. It’s not by comparing our race to theirs. It’s by keeping our focus fixed on Jesus Christ. That is THE ONLY way we will keep running, and it is THE ONLY way we will finish our race.
My encouragement to you today, friends, is to run your own race. Not your parents’ race. Not your friend’s race. Not your neighbor’s race. Run YOUR race. And keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. Because the race will get hard. Your legs will get tired. Your heart will want to quit at times. You’ll want to stop and rest and not rejoin the race. But keep running. Keep running your race. And above all, keep your eyes fixed on the face of Jesus. His gaze will see you through to the finish line.