Today I ran with my regular Tuesday morning running group. We ran the exact route that tomorrow's 5k will follow. Our race simulation reminded me that most of the second mile of this course is uphill. It's not a steep uphill, just a long, slow uphill. And at the end of that uphill, the course passes dangerously close to my house. Last year, I thought seriously for a few seconds about leaving the course and walking the two or so blocks home, to air-conditioning and a cold drink. But I knew I that once my heart rate dropped below a dozen beats per second and I extinguished the fire in my quadraceps, I wouldn't be able to deal with the shame of a DNF next to my name at a 5k. So I forged forward for the final mile.
The truth is, I don't particularly enjoy running races. Yet I have a friend who loves it so much that she carries a little datebook to record her upcoming events and if you flip through it, she's got 2 or 3 races penciled in each weekend. I wish her enthusiasm would rub off on me. Of course, she usually wins and I, well, I usually...finish. Its probably more fun when you win.
Sometimes, especially during a race, I wonder why we all go out to run the race when only one person [of each sex, in each age group] will actually win it. In 1 Cor. 9:24, Paul writes "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it."
There are many different reasons to run a race, and I'll bet winning doesn't motivate many runners. It's just not a realistic goal for many of us. We try to run faster than our last race. We try to qualify for more elite events that have qualifying times. We need more tech race shirts.
Whatever the motivator, once we toe the starting line, the goal becomes to run in such a way that we can obtain whatever our goal is for that event.
It's a good idea to approach our Christian life the same way - with goals and a plan to achieve them. I have an open-ended goal, every day, to tell as many people as I can about Jesus Christ. Another goal is to keep my testimony intact by not saying or doing anything that would reflect poorly on me, my family, my church, my pastor, my community, or my relationship with God. In other words, I try not to make stupid decisions, no matter how inconsequential they seem at that moment.
Next comes the difficult part of Paul's message: living our lives in such a way that we can obtain those goals. Getting the word out is difficult, especially for those of us who can't get our face on camera wearing eyeblack with Bible verses. We have to get more creative. And it can be, well, just plain awkward. Like when was the last time you found a way to mention that Jesus Christ is your lord and savior while pushing your kids on the swings at the playground? or while grocery shopping? or during Zumba class at the gym? And let's not even mention Bunko.
But the fact is that Jesus wants us to tell everyone about Him, all the time. In his gospel Mark recorded Jesus's direction to "[g]o into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." Mark 16:15. There are numerous other citations for this same instruction, but you get it - Jesus wants everyone to know about Him!
To the extent that I tell someone about Jesus today, no matter how inartful my words or awkward the moment, I have run my race in such a way as to win the prize! So who are YOU going to tell about Jesus today? How are you going to run so you win the prize you seek?