I have a tragic flaw.
Okay, so I have more than one, but this is the one I’m going to tell you about today. I love sports, but sports do not love me.
I’ve tried softball, but I tend to duck and cover when the ball comes my way. I’ve tried flag football, but I cannot catch a football to save my life. In middle school, I played basketball. I loved basketball. Sometimes I even did something amazing, like make a basket. But in three years of playing, my team never won a single game. Not one.
I was thinking of this a few weeks ago as I was running past the tennis courts. (In case you’re curious, I took tennis lessons for two summers and still can’t hit the ball.) As I jogged past watching the players, I had the audacity to think: maybe running is my sport!
Keep in mind that even as I had this thought, I was wheezing and gasping near the back of the pack. Hope does not disappoint, Paul says (Romans 5:5).
And here’s the hopeful thing about running. Running is the only sport where every person at the starting line could win. I don’t just mean everyone has the potential to win. I mean everyone can actually win. Simultaneously.
I realize only one person crosses the finish line first. And when the summer Olympics roll around there will only be one gold and one silver and one bronze. But the very heart and soul of running is not about besting the other guy; it’s about besting yourself. Running is about stretching, growing, pushing, improving. It’s about hitting that next personal record. Every other sport has a winner and a loser. In other sports, even in the friendliest just-for-fun matches, one team can win only if the other team loses.
Not so with running.
One of the unexpected things I love about running with a group is the opportunity to cheer each other on. We each have different goals, but every week we all start out, and every week we all cross the finish line. It doesn’t matter who crosses first or second or last. Every week we are improving . We laugh in amazement, “I remember when I couldn’t even…”
There are no losers here.
Perhaps Paul knew what he was doing when he compared faith to running a race. After all, Jesus Christ came so that whoever believes in Him – not just the ones who believe first or strongest or best, but whoever believes! – might not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
God wants all of us to win the faith race. This does not mean it is easy. Paul even says, Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it (1 Corinthians 9:24). In other words, every one of us should train as though we are going for the gold, even though our true goal is far more valuable than that. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable (1 Corinthians 9:25).
In this race we are running, we all have obstacles to overcome. Each of our races may be different, but the Bible tells us how we are to face them. We are to run with endurance (Hebrews 12:1). We are to run looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). And just like with my running group, we are to consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together…but encouraging one another… (Hebrews 10:24-25).
In this competitive world, it is very easy to fall into the trap of thinking someone else must lose in order for us to win. If we stop to think about it, we will suddenly realize we are actually all on the same team. The route ahead may look hard, but with Jesus as our Coach and God’s Word as our training manual, we can run our race knowing that every one of us will make it across that finish line.
High fives all around, my friends. And let’s keep running.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me, but also to all who have loved his appearing (2 Timothy 4:7-8).