1-3 Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!
Start running… and NEVER quit.
Very often, this is the message that stands out when we read this text – thanks, no doubt, to the cultural myth that seems to equate busyness with success, and success with happiness. The promise is this: the harder you work, the more you will earn, and the happier you will be.
When we stop and think about it, most of us know it isn’t necessarily true – but it doesn’t stop us from trying. And when coupled with scriptural justification, this myth becomes even more dangerous for those of us who desire to please God: Well, Jesus did it — he faced all the difficulties, problem people, and ridicule in life – even to the point of death – and he finished the race. So why can’t you? He even built a thriving ministry, acquired hundreds of followers, and changed the world. So, you can too. In fact, you must because that’s what it means to be faithful.
Keep running. Don’t slow down, don’t change course, don’t give up, don’t quit. Ever.
It is barely September – and if my life were a treadmill, I’d already be somewhere between a brisk jog and an all-out sprint. Any runner would tell you – you can’t keep up a sprinter’s pace forever. Even the best sprinters in the world can only keep it up for a few hundred meters.
So put bluntly, I’m just not sure “keep running… faster and faster… until you pass out” is the religious advice any of us should be taking away from this text or sending to anyone else.
The text does invites us, however, to study Jesus and how he navigated the race of life. So, here are some observations:
- Jesus knew when it was time to run, walk, and pause. Sure, there were times when Jesus spent whole days healing and feeding people. But he did not run at full speed all the time. There were times when he said no, or took the long route to his next destination, rather than the short cut. There were occasions when he got away by himself or brought a few friends. There were times when Jesus asked for help instead of insisting that he carry it all by himself. Jesus knew how to keep pace.
- In his daily work, Jesus was laser-focused on the things that give life. Our days, even if we are generally engaged in fulfilling work or ministry, can often become about a lot of things that don’t make for a meaningful existence: household or administrative work, completing long-lists of “to-do’s,” people pleasing, and more. These might be necessary at times – but when it takes center stage, it can also suck life from us and make us feel devoid of purpose. Jesus made time for friendships. He ate good meals. He prioritized mercy, compassion, and justice in his work, lest he lose his soul to it. And he wasn’t afraid to shed the things in his day that didn’t make sense… or bring people, including himself, closer to God.
- Jesus focused on deepening his own spiritual life. How many times have we read that throughout his life Jesus went away to pray? Sometimes it was for a morning, or a whole night, or 40 days in the desert. When life and ministry got hard for Jesus – as it does for all of us – he was only able to endure those hard moments because Jesus chose to run the race in God’s strength, not his own.
As I have been thinking about how Jesus ran the race and how I might model my own life after him, I have felt convicted recently that I need to spend a bit more time on #2. I need to create more space for the things that stir up life and passion and purpose within me.
I wonder where you would begin. Because there one thing I know for sure – running faster won’t work forever no matter what anyone tells you. Not if you actually want to finish the race like Jesus.
by Kate Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
Which of the areas above – #1, #2, or #3, do you need to work on?
Prayer: Guide my feet, while I run this race, Keep my pace while I run this race, Give me life while I run this race, Help me pray while I run this race, For I don't want to run this race in vain. Amen. (After an African-American Spiritual, "Guide My Feet," The Faith We Sing #2208)