Runners and the Race
It was 490 years before Christ when the Greeks began to overthrow the oppression they suffered from Persia. In a major decisive battle, the Greeks defeated the Persians and one of the victorious soldiers, Pheidippides, ran more than 20 miles from the battle site to Athens. Arriving in the city, he proclaimed, “We have won!” and then fell dead. You may have heard of this battle, for it was fought at Marathon, and this event gave rise to the modern marathons.
Running was part of the lives of those in the first century as it is today. Last year, there were over 1,100 marathons run in the U.S. involving more than 500,000 runners. Consider the spiritual lessons the Holy Spirit draws from this ancient and modern practice of running and the parallels between participation in races and our involvement in the Christian race.
Runners must give their all in order to be successful. In 1 Corinthians chapter 9, Paul talks about how so many begin the race but only the most dedicated ones win it. He then said, “Run so that you may obtain it.” There is the prize awaiting the Christian, but to obtain it he must give all that he has and finish the race.
Runners must run lawfully. In every race, there are rules, and they must be followed. The course is specified and only those who follow the rules have any chance of winning. Paul said, “If anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules” (2 Tim. 2:5). God has given us a race to run, but he has established the rules and we must comply with them.
Runners must not carry unnecessary “baggage.” Those ancient runners trained by wearing weights attached to the legs and ankles. On the day of the race, they removed the weights and their legs seemed extra strong when the race began. The writer of Hebrews applies that to Christians in our race. “Let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us” (Heb. 12:1). One cannot hold on to Jesus when his hands already grasp worldly things.
Runners need to model themselves after others who have shown their abilities. This is why God describes our race before many witnesses and then adds, “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). We have a perfect model who has already finished the race. He has shown us how to do it. Our responsibility is to keep our focus on Him. It is as simple as looking at how He did it, then making sure we follow His example every day.
So, let’s run the race knowing that the perfect example has shown us how. Let’s finish the race, and as we die, proclaim, “We have won!”