Life, Faith & Running
". . . let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
This is part one of what I hope will be a series of posts that encourage those of you who already run, and inspire those of you who are thinking about picking it up. But even if running is nowhere in your past, present or future, I pray something about the message or the reflection questions will relate to your life. I would love it if we could use this space as a place to have a conversation about the questions posted at the bottom. So, please lend me your thoughts in the comment section below. It will spur me on, I just know it.
What does it mean to run for your life? Typically, this phrase implies running away from something that is threatening to take your life--a bear, a giant, a fire, an army. My challenge to you for this study is to allow your mind to shift the perspective on running for your life, from one of fear of what is behind you, to one that focusses on running to attain the life that awaits you ahead. A mind set on running toward the life-giving, soul-healing benefits down the road and around the corner.
In Philippians 3:12-14 Paul speaks of this looking ahead approach, “Not that I have already obtained this [perfected perspective] or am already perfect, but I press on to make it [a perfected perspective] my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (ESV).
In this I see a difference between running from something to save your life, and running toward something to attain life. Matthew Henry’s Commentary says, “He [Paul] forgot the things which were behind, so as not to be content with past labours or present measures of grace. He reached forth, stretched himself forward towards his point; expressions showing great concern to become more and more like unto Christ.”
Did you catch that? He didn’t look behind to his past or around at others in order to set his focus and goals, instead, he looked toward Christ and made his concern to live a life that was marked by a calling to live like Christ. And he didn’t just sit around hoping it would happen: He reached forth, he strained toward, he pressed on.
The analogy of running and a race are not lost on me. In fact, they intensify the meaning of this passage for me and allow me to take to heart the intent of Paul’s words. This is because to me, there was a time when my running was motivated by weight loss, time goals, image and pleasing others. I was always looking behind at what I had accomplished, under my feet at what the scale measured, to the fear of failure that would be visible to others if I ever regressed. I let these things motivate me and push me towards my goals in competition. And to be honest, it worked. But it sucked the life out of me. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe there is anything inherently bad with goals or striving to meet them. But there is a difference between allowing them to give you life and them becoming more like a bear chasing you down the street.
And I believe that difference is found in allowing running to become an actual (rather than metaphoric) spiritual journey lived out intentionally and habitually. And how does one make that shift? By turning the focus from self to Christ. By turning the focus from the earthly goals toward eternal goals. By turning toward what is ahead and letting go of what is behind. By choosing to run for your life, rather than to define your life. For me, this doesn’t mean I have cast away all my goals and no longer run with a watch or try to achieve my highest potential in terms of strength and speed. But those are not where I find my joy, sense of accomplishment or motivation to keep going.
Instead, I spend a lot more time focussing on allowing my running to bring me closer to Jesus through praying and listening to worship music when running. I consider it kingdom work when I get together with friends to hit the road together. And sometimes, when these are friends who share my faith, we spend the last couple miles in prayer. When I am talking myself into a run that I don’t really want to go on, I don’t use phrases like, “you better go or your next race will be a disaster.” Instead, I frame it, “you need this time away to recharge, think about Jesus, and refocus.” The goal isn’t the run, the goal is the quietness, time of reflection and making space to let Christ work in my heart and head while I pound it out on the pavement. My shift in perspective allows me to press on towards those goals that build my intimacy with Jesus and depth of relationship with others. Which allows me to keep looking forward and upward, focussing on a training strategy that brings me life.
Reflection Questions to Spur You On
Songs to Add to Your Playlist
Her family and friends know her as, Jaci. She is the wife of a pastor, a mom of four, writing and communications education instructor, a visionary and an avid runner. As a firm believer in the power and effectiveness of the body of Christ united together to live out the Great Commission, she holds fast to this verse, "Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19). Of equal importance to her are these words, "...let us run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1).
Posts in the Run for Your Life, series: