I used to run cross-country in high school. That was many moons ago. I remember running the race and asking myself often in the middle of the suffering why I was there and what I was trying to accomplish. Was it really worth it? I often thought about walking and sometimes slowed down the pace to make it more palatable. I was shamed into continuing on but had great sympathy for those runners that had given up and were walking. Keeping up the pace was hard and walking seemed so appealing at the time.
One of the reasons I became a pastor was so that I could help others finish the race. “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2) In the challenge to keep running the race of our faith, there is that mixture in the example of Christ of difficulty (enduring the cross) and motivation (the joy set before Him). The motivation helps us through the difficulty. Just like cross-country.
I see people at times walking in their faith. Because of a personal trial that has hampered their race like an achilles tendon injury for a runner. Sometimes it’s hard to keep going because they get winded and are not in shape. I found that I can get distracted by the pain and effort and lose my focus. Those things can happen in a Christian’s life. Sometimes it’s honestly just a lot easier to walk. It may be a given that they go to church. But to run with full effort, to put energy into it? It’s easier to walk. You are still moving when you walk, but you don’t get as far. Far in terms of the ministry that God has called you to be involved in. Far in terms of impact on the lives of those around you. Far in terms of your own progress in the faith and Christ-likeness. Sometimes that just too much work and it’s easier to walk.
I have found some Christians have retired. Not necessarily from their careers and work-life, but retired in their faith. In regards to their spiritual life, they are puttering around the house and waiting for the next golf game. And they are in the prime of their life. And often those Christians that are spiritually retired are not even in their 50’s. They’ve just decided that they have “done their time” and that it’s time for someone to take over. They are sliding for home but they have barely rounded second base.
Paul writes that he was “straining forward to what lies ahead, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:13-14) I love that. Even with all the heartaches and difficulties that he experienced, he kept running. And not just running, but pressing forward. I am so blessed to see Christians that are running at full-throttle for the kingdom. I can almost picture Paul leaning in to the tape as he crossed the finish line. He never gave up. Too many lives at stake. Too many people’s eternity in the balance. So he pressed on for the prize. Are you pressing on or walking?