While on our annual anniversary blogging break last week, I enjoyed reading two books. Both about running.
The first, “Lessons Learned on the Run,” by David Kempston, a trial lawyer who is a self-described “middle of the pack runner.” Kempston’s book was a joy to read as he related how the “sport embodies life.”
Kempston observed that running “requires effort and endurance.” It teaches one to push on through adversity and trials, through both victory and defeat
The second book, “In Search of Al Howie” by Jared Beasley was about the Scottish-born Canadian ultra-marathon runner who first ran 90 miles from Toronto to Niagara Falls in 18 hours in 1977. That began an obsession with ultra running which would span the next 22 years of Howie’s life.
When Howie was 46 years old he ran 7295 kilometers across Canada from mile zero in St. John’s, Newfoundland to Victoria, British Columbia, in 72 days and 10 hours–a record he held from 1991, until recently broken by Dave Proctor, 41, from Alberta, who ran the distance in 67 days and 10 hours.
Both books reminded me of the various Bible passages that compare the Christian life to running a race. They both spoke about the need to persevere through pitfalls, problems, and perils.
The Hebrew writer expressed the metaphor succinctly when he offered this exhortation:
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. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb. 12;1-2)
For many years, I’ve said “the Christian race is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.” I decided the comparison falls short of reality. Actually, the Christian race is an ultra-marathon. It’s like running 4533 miles across Canada from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.
Kempston called this quality “grit.” It involves resilience. Toughness. Persistence. Stick-to-itiveness. Dictionary.com defines perseverance as “steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.”
Perseverance is one of the Christian graces that the apostle Peter advised that we add to our faith (2Pet. 1:6). It’s described by one writer as “the queen of virtues.” Barclay says the word means more than just endure, but that “it has a forward look to it.” Just like the runner who’s running with purpose and passion and pressing forward to the finish line.
The apostle Paul observes that tribulation and suffering produce perseverance, which in turn forms our character (Rom. 5:3-4). Imagine the problems you would encounter running the trans-Canadian Highway for more than two months. Rain. Wind. Scorching heat. Traffic. Road construction. Potholes. Mountains. Valleys. Injuries. Mental fatigue. And physical exhaustion. That’s life. The Christian life.
Yet, through it all we press on in hope. In hope of more than an earthly prize, or a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. But the hope of eternal life. The hope of a home with God. The hope of heaven (Col. 1:5).
Running is not a spectator sport like basketball, football, or hockey. There’s often a loneliness to it. Solitude. Solitariness. Yet, there are a few who will run with you. There are family, friends, and coaches who will stand at checkpoints to cheer you on. Such is the Christian life.
The world will not turn in mass to root for you. It may be only a handful of people in your little church family you can lean on for support. A close brother or sister you can confide in. Maybe a preacher or a pastor. Your friends may scoff at why you’re running a race that our secular culture rejects. Your family may not understand.
Yet, the cloud of witnesses who’ve gone on before, cheer you on. You know them. You’ve read their stories. Those Old Testament heroes of faith. Abel. Noah. Abraham. Issac. Jacob. Joseph. Moses. Joshua. Daniel. And then the New Testament disciples who faced down the wrath of the Roman Empire to live for Jesus and persevere in spite of persecution.
Then there’s Jesus. His example. His sacrifice. And His victory over sin, Satan, and death. He persevered through the scorn of the cross to ensure our salvation. He’s standing at the finish line. With outstretched arms. Ready to welcome you home. And award you the victor’s crown.
Keep running. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Don’t give out.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman