Run Like You’ve Never Run Before
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?
Run in such a way as to get the prize! 1 Corinthians 9:24 NIV
When I first memorized this verse as a teenager, I thought it meant that I needed to try to be first in everything I did. Of course as I have matured, I have realized what this verse really means— to work hard at all that I do as working for the Lord and not for men (Colossians 3:23).
But recently, I was struck with the beauty of this concept in view of community. I was reading with a group of women and as we looked at different verses in scripture, I thought of a glorious illustration that hit this point home for me (I have told you before that my life is a series of sermon illustrations!!).
We looked at these verses from 2 Corinthians 3:
We are confident of all this because of our great trust in God through Christ. It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God. -verses 4 and 5 NLT
And then some of my favorite verses in scripture found in Hebrews 12:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. -verses 1 and 2 NIV
As we read all of these verses, I imagined that I was an Olympic athlete (my imagination is huge!). I had qualified for the final race, not because of my great running abilities, but because God put my name on the list. As I ran to the finish line of the race marked out for me, running as if I would win the gold medal, the stands erupted with cheers and shouts from the great cloud of witnesses who had come for the sole purpose of cheering me on. I ran like I had never run before!
Because I might be just a little strange, I could feel my excitement welling up within me as I grasped a concept that had eluded me for quite some time. Several things stuck out to me. First, we are not supposed to be competing against anyone else. The race marked out for us means that we each have our own race to run. What I have been called to do will look different from everyone else. No one else has been called to be the Mom of the Daye kids living in my home. No one else has been asked to be the help meet to the Senior Pastor at Orchard Community Church. No one else has been uniquely gifted with my personality, my abilities, my passions, or my idiosyncrasies. And this is true of everyone. So when scripture tells us to run in such a way as to get the prize, it’s because we are all running our own race and we’re supposed to run it with diligence and perseverance. Running OUR race well should inspire and encourage others to run theirs well. It’s not meant to be a competition, because we are all running different races.
One thing that always makes me a little sad when I watch the Olympics is all of the athletes that make it to the games, but don’t qualify for the final round. I would imagine that would be incredibly disappointing— to make it all that way and then not be able to compete. But in the race of life, we are all qualified in Christ! When we believe in Him and trust in Him for salvation, we can run whatever race He has called us to with confidence. We are qualified! We don’t have to keep earning our place in each new race. Our place has already been established through the work of Christ on our behalf.
So we have been qualified for the race marked out for us and we are to run it to get the prize, but this is not meant to be a solitary effort. We are to be encouraged and celebrated by others who are watching us run our race and we are to do the same for others with equal vivacity and generosity. This picture is so beautiful to me! For many years, I have held tight to the mantra “Celebrate more, compare less”. It is a beautiful way to live, one that brings great joy when I remember to live it out. We’re not supposed to compare ourselves to others because we all have different races to run!! But if we were all celebrating one another (building up and not tearing down! Ephesians 4:29), the race marked out for each one of us could be run with joyful hearts, free of comparison and competition.
This is exciting for me, not just for the implications for my own life, but for my children as well. There have been times in their lives when they have been compared to others instead of recognized for their own race that they are running. These times were deeply hurtful, but were an indication to us as their parents that we needed to surround our kids with the right kind of crowd— the crowd who understands that we are all running our own races which means we don’t have to be threatened by anyone else’s success or achievements, but instead we get to cheer everyone on. Seeing my kids thrive in environments that value everyone’s race marked out for them has been beautiful. As thankful as I am for this, I am also grateful for the difficulties that they have had to walk through. Because the truth is, most people don’t live this way. They are still stuck in believing that winning the prize means that you have to be first (which means that you have to tear others down in order to achieve your goals). My kids will continue to face crowds that will not cheer them on and will not value them, but they know the difference now. And I pray that they would be the ones cheering others on and throwing kindness like confetti.
And I pray that they would run like they have never run before.