Monday was the 126th running of the Boston Marathon with Kenyan Evans Chebet breaking away from the crowded pack to win his first major marathon.
The women’s division was won by Peres Jepchirchir from Kenya who pulled away from Ethiopian Ababel Yesaneh during the final mile.
This 50th anniversary of women being allowed to compete reminded me of the infamous Rosie Ruiz who was crowned the winner of the 1980 Boston Marathon. Her time was the 3rd fastest for any woman in Marathon history and 25 minutes better than her best time.
However, 8 days later, she was stripped of her title because it was discovered she had taken the subway during part of the race and had jumped into the pack about a mile from the finish line.
Soon afterward “pulling a Rosie” became a euphemism for cheating, infamy, and seeking a shortcut to success.
We understand, and rightly so, that you must follow the rules in sports. Cheating is wrong. And breaking the rules cannot be tolerated. However, it seems in spiritual matters, some seem to think that “anything goes.” That everyone can make up their own rules. Or change the rules in the middle of the race.
The apostle Paul often used the running metaphor to speak of the Christian race.
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. (1 Cor. 9:24).
“You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?” (1 Cor. 5:7).
“…Holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain” (Phil. 2:6).
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7).
This spiritual race, however, is not to be run according to our own rules. In using this analogy, Paul reminds us that “an athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules” (2 Tim. 2:5). The same is true religiously. We must compete by the “rules” revealed in God’s Word. (2 Tim. 3:16-17, Rom. 6:15-16).
If you want to compete spiritually and cross the finish line into heaven, here are six “rules” you need to follow.
#1 Register for the race. Just like you must be registered to run the Boston Marathon, God requires you to sign up by hearing, believing, and obeying the gospel (Ax. 2:37-41).
#2 Remove all obstacles. Runners wear clothing that does not impede their progress, and light shoes designed for running. Similarly, the Bible exhorts, “lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us” (Heb. 12:2) as we run the Christian race. Materialism, lusts of the flesh, and worldly pleasure all are weights that hinder us from running.
#3 Renew yourself daily. Just like runners must exercise, train, and eat healthily, so must “the inward man be renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4;16), through Bible study, prayer, devotion, mediation, and worship.
#4 Resist discouragement. Distance running is demanding. Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. It’s easy to become weary and drop out. Spiritually, the Hebrew writer exhorts us to “run with endurance” lest we become “weary and discouraged” in our souls. (Heb. 12:3).
#5 Remember the Reward. Runners remember why they began running. There is not only personal satisfaction in running, but there is a reward to be won. Like Paul, we need to run to “obtain the prize,” the “crown of life” reserved for those who faithfully finish. (1 Cor. 9:24-27).
#6 Rely on Jesus. Runners rely on the coach and fellow runners for encouragement. Sometimes a teammate will help pace their best runner by running ahead of the pack. For Christians, Jesus is our pacesetter. The Bible admonishes, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:3). He’s our example of persevering through trials, tribulations, and temptations.
Throughout this race, there are “rules” to follow prefaced with warnings and exhortations like “beware,” “take heed,” “follow,” and “obey.”
You can’t win the Boston Marathon by circumventing the course or breaking the rules. And you can’t receive the “crown of life” by taking a shortcut to heaven.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman