…but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
Sunday was a test of endurance for me. I lined up, in the crisp morning air, with several thousand other anxious runners. You could feel the energy as each person mentally prepared themselves for what was ahead. I never heard the gun go off, but suddenly the mass of humanity began to slowly surge forward. As we crossed the starting line, I started my watch and began to jog.
I had set a goal of finishing the race in 2:15. Because of various health issues, I had been unable to adequately train for this race. It was something I had anticipated all summer, so I was determined to give it my best. I ran with the 2:10 pace runner for the first mile, then gradually pulled ahead. At each mile marker I checked my watch to see how I was doing. For the first five miles my pace increased, so that I was running 9:30 miles. Not bad I thought. Then the pain in my feet started. During miles six through eight my pace slowed to about 10:30 miles. After mile eight, I stopped paying attention. The pain in my feet was pretty bad and I started experiencing pain in my hips. I pushed on, reciting scripture and singing choruses in my head. I didn’t have the energy to do it out loud.
After mile eight, I started walking some to relieve the pain. At mile ten, I began pleading (yes pleading) with God to give me the strength to finish the race. I walked through every water stop and up every hill. I used the downhills and the flats to make up some time. When I passed mile twelve, I determined to jog it in the rest of the way, pain or no pain. When the finish line came clearly into view, I gave everything I had left and sprinted across the finish. I crossed the line at 2:19:54.
The Christian life is like running a marathon; a really long marathon. Most of us begin this spiritual race with much energy and enthusiasm. But soon, the reality of the race sets in. We try to find our pace, but at times it is difficult. We encounter hills that test our stamina. We experience pain, which tests our endurance. And we are tempted to stop short of the goal, which tests our perseverance.
There are times in this spiritual race when we will soar. We will feel the power of God flowing through us as He uses us in some dynamic way. There are significant stretches when we will run the race. These are what we might see as the normal or routine aspects of our spiritual journey. There is nothing extremely exciting and nothing extremely demanding. We have found our pace and are making steady progress. We may get tired, but we press on. Then there are times when we feel like we cannot go any farther. Our progress slows to a crawl and we struggle just to keep moving. It is at those times when we experience the power of God most vividly. When we think we cannot go on, He gives us the energy to persevere.
God uses every aspect of our spiritual race to refine us. His goal is to make us whole and holy people who reflect His glory in the world. James reminds us that this refining process is a struggle, but a struggle worth fighting through. Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4
Success in this race of life is not measured by how fast you run, but by running well and finishing strong. There will be times when we get tired and question if it is really worth the effort. But if we will push through those times, we will become stronger and we will be rewarded. During this spiritual marathon there will be times when we soar, times when we run , and times when we walk. The most important thing for us is to finish the race well. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9
I did not run my best race on Sunday, but I ran the best race I could on that day. Not every day of our spiritual race will be a highlight, but every day deserves the best that we can give on that day. So let us soar and run and walk, for the glory of God, until that day when we cross the final finish line.