Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.1
I started walking away from what I knew God was calling me to a few months ago. I think I just grew tired of striving. Come to think of it, I didn’t walk away so much as stop walking. In any race, to stop is to fall behind. I asked myself subconsciously why I had ever chosen to run in the first place. I forgot the thrill of the chase, and all I could think of was how hot the asphalt was.
All I did was stop to catch my breath, and now the pack is gone, far into the distance. It feels like I am so far behind. But I feel a force beside me. It is the voice of my Trainer, ever close, urging me on in spite of my weak character. Why does He still care? Can’t He tell that I’m a loser and a quitter? Not only that, but I made empty promises to Him and others—the other runners, sponsors, fans, friends, family, as well as to myself.
He tells me that none of that matters; all He is asking me to do is to forget the past, the grueling last few kilometers, and get up and run again. I tell Him I can’t do it; I can’t finish this race. Here I am maybe 15 or 20 kilometers in, and I’m already sitting down! What makes Him think I can do it?
He tells me that He will give me the strength. He gives me a cup of cool water to drink. It tastes wonderful, and I realize that I had stopped drinking this refreshing water. I had figured I didn’t have time.
He tells me that He will set the pace to ensure I make it to the end. “But,” I argue, “I won’t win if I don’t push harder.”
He reminds me that I am running for more than a trophy. I’m not running to beat the other runners. I’m running for a cause—to carry my flag over the line. I didn’t start this race to give up.
The cup is empty now, my thirst is quenched, and it’s time to get back on the road. I’m aware of the time I’ve lost by sitting under the tree, but a part of me is still screaming to sit back down. It’s a full five degrees hotter on the road! But is that enough to keep me down? I was born to run! I tell myself. But I still can’t bring myself to start. I can’t let Him down! I try to convince myself, but still the shade holds me fast.
That’s when I hear it, carried on the gentle wind that swirls all around me! From just around the next bend, they beckon me—those champions from races past. No, not the vacationers sipping cocktails just behind the fence; these voices are much higher up in the bleachers, in seats reserved for those who have gone before, who deserve the honor and recognition accorded to those who have paid the price and run the race to the finish line already.
They are calling me—no, they are yelling my name. “Run with the wind!” they tell me.
Now’s the time! My heart races but I hesitate yet again. Will I make it? “Yes,” my Trainer promises, “Because I am here with you, and I will guide you all the way. Don’t focus on the effort; focus on the goal. And most of all, don’t get down on yourself, because in the end, what matters is to not quit.”
The first step is the hardest, as always, but somehow I manage. I believe this is what He meant by “running with endurance.” Each step somehow feels lighter than the last, now that I’ve started running again. I think I can do this. No, I think we can do this together.
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Someday you will look back on your life and realize that everything worthwhile you’ve ever accomplished initially challenged you. And that is as it should be, because big challenges often prepare ordinary people for extraordinary success.
Every struggle arises for a reason—either for experience or as a lesson. A great journey is never easy, and no dose of adversity along the way is ever a waste of time if you learn and grow from it. —Angel Chernoff
Thank You, Jesus, for being my coach, friend, and biggest supporter. I accept Your invitation to come home with You and Your Father after the race is run.