Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.—Hebrews 12:1–2
For three Saturdays of every year, I am an avid horse racing fan. I am talking about the on-your-knees-pounding-the-floor-yelling-for-your-horse kind of fan. I don’t watch a single horse race the rest of the year, but I absolutely love the Triple Crown! If the Derby winner also wins the Preakness, the run at the Belmont Stakes is as exciting an event as there is in sports. I still get a bit misty-eyed when I watch replays of Secretariat winning the Belmont by 31 lengths to claim the Triple Crown in 1973. Big Red, as Secretariat was called, is still the greatest racehorse that ever lived.
Having given you a brief outline of my annual foray into the sport of horseracing, I have a very adept observation to share with you. Are you ready? Here it is: no Clydesdale has ever won the Triple Crown! In fact, I’ll take it a step further by predicting that a Clydesdale will never win the Triple Crown. Yep, you heard it first right here, a Clydesdale won’t even be in the starting gates when the gun goes off. Trust me, you won’t get this kind of insider tip from watching ESPN!
I have a confession to make: I am a Clydesdale. No, I don’t live in a barn and I don’t eat hay, but I am a Clydesdale. Runners World published a research article that categorized runners into two basic groups: Thoroughbreds and Clydesdales. Research has shown that a runner’s ability for speed is based far more on bone structure than was previously realized. The study indicated that the larger boned runners weren’t structured for speed. Hence the large-boned runners were classified as Clydesdales, and the smaller-boned runners as Thoroughbreds. Try though they may, Clydesdale runners will never be as fast as Thoroughbred runners.
I know from my years of running that this study is spot-on. I am a Clydesdale. I can run the same distance as the elite runners, and I use as much energy as they do, but I do not run as fast as they do. My t-shirt is as drenched as theirs is at the end of the race, but I am a plodder. For forty-two years I have consistently plodded my way mile after mile, and I love it as much as the Thoroughbreds do… maybe more if you consider how long I have been steady at it. Don’t look for me at the front of the pack, or at the back. I will run my race, at my pace, and will cross the line when I get there.
It is interesting that in several instances, the Bible likens the Christian life to a race. The longer I run, the more I realize the parallels between the two. As believers, we are not supposed to be spectating from the sidelines. We are to be on the course, running the race, and looking only to Jesus as the, “Author and Finisher of our race.” Allow me to share some observations about running and the Christian life.
1. Be Honest about Your Limitations
When I run a half-marathon and stand waiting for the gun to go off, I can’t help but smile when I see some Clydesdale runners crowd themselves near the front of the pack. They start with the elite runners, but they don’t last. It isn’t long before I begin to pass them one by one. Some of them get so exhausted from trying to be something they aren’t, that they eventually drop out of the race. It happens in every race, and the Christian race is no exception. Know who you are, and who you aren’t, and be content with who God made you to be.
2. Run Your Own Race
Paul emphasized that he had finished “his” course. He wasn’t running another brother’s race, and he wasn’t concerned with another brother’s pace. His goal was to finish the course that he had set out on years before. You are uniquely suited for the race that God has placed you in. To covet another man’s race is foolish, and is an insult to the providence of God. He knows best. Run your race to the best of your ability.
3. Mind Your Own Race
Stay focused on what God has called you to do. The only people who have the time and energy to criticize how someone else is running, are the spectators. Those of a critical spirit aren’t going anywhere themselves, but they are self-appointed experts on how everyone else should be running. If someone is out of shape, his health advice is suspect. Likewise, when someone has lost the joy of his salvation, his opinion on spiritual things is often out of focus. Don’t become a critic of another man’s race, and don’t become distracted by those who criticize you. We are to glorify God both in our body and in our spirit.
4. Run with Patience
We are to, “Run with patience the race that is set before us.” That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t strive to be the best we can be, it just means that we should not be striving to be someone else. Run your race with patience. There are no shortcuts to the finish line. God awards faithfulness, not speed. Stay on course, and run with patience.
5. Enjoy Your Run
George Sheehan, a noted author on running, talked about the time when he decided to no longer bring his stop-watch on runs. He decided to enjoy the run instead of always competing against the timer. It is easy for life to become drudgery if we are doing something we don’t really enjoy. Have you ever met someone who didn’t seem to really enjoy being in God’s service? I have.
I have only been awarded a few trophies (age group wins), but I have enjoyed taking in the scenery and the race atmosphere at every place I have run. My runs aren’t a blur to me, and I am not trying to see how fast I can reach oxygen debt. The joy of running and completing the course brings me great satisfaction. I actually enjoy it so much that I look forward to strapping on my Brooks and heading out the door.
Maybe being a plodding work-horse rather than a churn-and-burn racer has helped me stay at it for as long as I have. I admire the elite runners, but I am a happy Clydesdale at heart. In the long run, and the long run is what really counts, I just want to be ploddingly faithful to Him and finish my course.