“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
(II Timothy 4:7, ESV)
We live near the high school, so spring means that we see budding track stars running past our house in training every day. One day the Lord said in a still small voice was, “Whose race are you running?” I was taken aback; I was not a runner. “What do you mean, Lord?” I quieted my heart to listen and stand corrected, and the LORD began to review my “track record.” Apparently, I was a runner.
First, He took me back to years of running “the rat race”, characterized by overbooked schedules, information overload, an inability to say “No,” a desire to please everybody, make my life count, have nice things, and satisfy my flesh. With all these plates spinning, I ran aimlessly, fought battles in my own strength, directed my own course, and leaned on my own understanding. I was blind to it then, but it was clear now – the race was all about me. The self-life is an empty, futile race without any lasting reward. It left me depleted and defeated, going in circles but getting nowhere with any eternal value.
Next, Jesus showed me how I entered “the religious race.” For years after accepting Christ as Savior, I ran without understanding, striving to win my Father’s approval, checking religious boxes, and doing good for the wrong reasons. I bowed to pastors, served tirelessly, and sacrificed on the altar of legalism, dutifully studying to show myself approved and good enough for God. Did that bring me closer to Him or win the prize of His approval? No, it too was an empty race, and the prize was an artificial wreath of self-righteousness. Jesus didn’t condemn me. He seemed to understand as He lovingly continued.
Next, He asked, “Who or what have you been running from? The question stirred up thoughts of things long buried. For many years I had run from my past, run from guilt and shame, run from what I thought was God’s piercing stare and disapproval, and run from the lies of the devil accusing me and fueling my insecurities. In the process, I had also run from His call on my life. Rather than running to Jesus, clinging to the cross and receiving His grace, I was off track, running a race that I was never meant to run and headed in the wrong direction. It was clear that I really was a runner, and my track record was abysmal.
Jesus then told me that there is only one race He’s called me to, one race worth running. It starts at the cross where He’s already won it. Only by dying to myself, surrendering my life to Him and receiving His love, grace and forgiveness will I qualify to run. Only by being filled with His Spirit and rooted and grounded in His love will I run for the right reasons. Only by taking up my cross, fixing my eyes on Jesus, and obeying His voice will I run well.
At the end of his life, the Apostle Paul declared, “I have fought the fight, I have finished the race, and I have kept the faith. Now, there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing.” II Tim. 4:7-8 There is only one prize worth winning in this life – the crown of righteousness.
“Father, thank You for opening my eyes to see the wrong races I’ve run for the wrong reasons. Forgive me. Create in me a clean heart. Establish me in the only race You’ve called me to run, that I may run to win and bring You glory.”