I vividly remember a conversation with my eldest daughter one morning before school.

Later that morning, her school was going to be holding their cross country running trials – and she wanted me to come and watch her run.

The problem was, I had a uni lecture that I needed to go to, and it was really unlikely that I’d be able to finish the lecture and drive the 45 minutes home in time to see the race.

So I explained that I wasn’t going to be able to make it to school to watch the race – feeling really awful, because it’s probably the first school event that I’d missed – but I really needed to be at this particular lecture.

“Never mind” she said “I probably won’t do very well anyway”.

Now just for context, my kids have never won anything to do with running races, but my eldest is actually pretty good over a long distance.

She’s not particularly fast, but the longer the run – the better she gets.

And now that she was in Grade 5, the distance had increased from 2km to 3km.

There were heaps of different ways I could have responded to what she said, but I was like “why would you say that? I bet most of the kids in your year level will give up and start walking before they finish the distance, all you need to do is do your best to keep running all the way to the finish line, and you’re in with a pretty decent chance of winning this thing”.

“Really?” she said and I was like

“Yep, just do your best to keep running all the way and you’ll do really well”.

Now this may have just been an early morning pep talk on the day of the cross country but there is actually a heap of biblical context associated with the running of races, and in particular, of finishing a race well.

First Corinthians chapter 9 verses 24 to 27 says that “in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize. So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one. So I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control – lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”

The images in this passage are actually pretty funny – can you imagine someone who is supposed to be an athlete running aimlessly?

Can you imagine a boxer fighting in a ring choosing to throw punches at the air and not their opponent?

Next, the apostle Paul raises a very interesting concept – and that is the possibility that he could be disqualified in response to a lack of personal discipline.

That’s a sobering thought to anyone who does any preaching to or teaching of others.

We, also, need to keep running our own race with discipline.

Verse 1 of Hebrews chapter 12 says to “lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us”.

I want to point out a few things from this verse – firstly, before we start running we need to ‘lay aside every weight and sin.’

This is not a handicap race like the Melbourne Cup where the odds of everyone winning are supposedly equal.

Carrying unnecessary weight and sin is going to slow us down, so put them down and get them out of your way before you even contemplate starting your race.

Secondly, this passage talks about us running with endurance.

This race is no sprint – we need to be prepared to endure for the long haul.

And thirdly, we are to run the race that is set before us.

We’re not to show up to some random race and join in – we’re only to run the race that is set before us by God.

He’s the one who has access to the plan for our lives, so this makes sense – but how often do we spot a race that looks pretty good to us – we might even know a few of the runners in it – so we try and join in.

But the only race we need to run is the one that God sets before us.

And just in case there is any confusion as to what the goal of our race is going to be, Philippians chapter 4 verse 13 says “One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”.

So the concept of us running a race, and of us finishing our race is mentioned more than just a few times in the bible.

Lets take a minute or two and think about all of the different parts of a running race.

First, you need to qualify for the race.

You can’t even walk out onto the track if you’re not qualified – you’re just a spectator who is in the wrong place.

Something else that happens before you even arrive at the track is your training – the practice you do beforehand to make sure that you’re capable of running the race well.

Then, just before the race begins, you need to stretch out your muscles – partly to make sure that they’re warm and ready to run, but also to reduce the risk of injury – which would put you out of the race completely and jeopardize your ability to finish.

Next, all the runners need to submit to the control and the timing of the starter.

The next important thing is to make sure that you don’t false start – because if you do that too many times, you’re going to be disqualified.

Then, you’re released by the starter and the race is underway.

But you can’t run anywhere you want on the track – you need to stay in your own lane.

When you watch the world’s fastest runners, they don’t look around at their competition – they fix their eyes straight ahead on the finish line, because looking sideways slows you down.

Then when it comes to your running, you need to pace yourself.

There’s no point wasting all your energy on the first part of the race and fading as you reach the finish line because everyone else will race past you and you won’t win the prize.

But as well as pacing yourself, you need to persevere until the end of the race – only stopping AFTER you cross that finish line – because if you don’t finish the race you definitely can’t win the prize.

Second Timothy chapter 2 verse 5 reminds us that an athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.

And even better news is promised in Isaiah chapter 40 verse 31 – those who trust in the Lord shall run and not grow weary.

And if you were wondering how my daughter went in her cross country, I arrived at the school at the end of the day, went to her younger sister’s classroom to pick her up, and she came racing across the courtyard waving a certificate and a blue ribbon.

That’s right, she’d come first in her age group.

She’d won the prize.

She had run for the whole distance.

And she was beside herself with excitement.

I couldn’t believe that I’d missed it!

When it came to the cross country she had finished her race, and she’d won the prize.

But what do you do when you don’t yet know what race has been set before you by God?

How do you find out what that is?

If that’s something you want to know more about, then make sure you subscribe and get notifications for when new Thrive episodes are released – because they’re all about bringing you clarity and helping you step into your own, personal calling.

Until next time, blue skies!

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