Running to Win
by Margaret D. Mitchell
Week of March 23
"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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Pioneer and Perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." -Hebrews 12:1-2
What does winning look like to you?
Before you read the rest of this devotional, I hope you will take a moment of honest soul searching and write down your answer.
One of the members of our Workplace Support Group posted the question: How do you run the race to win?
At the end of a series of responses, I suddenly realized that the person who posted this question may have a different vision of “winning” than I or the other group members.
If you would like to go deeper, here are some questions that may help you discover what winning means to you…
· What are you striving to achieve?
· What motivates you?
· How self-reliant are you?
· What compromises have you made?
· Whom are you trying to please?
· Whom are you competing against?
· What or whom is your focus?
· Are you still running the race, or have you given up?
Notice I didn’t ask “What obstacles have you faced?” The reason is because obedience to God is always our pathway to manifest victory, no matter what obstacles arise along our journey.
Another person in our group, Kevin, answered the question of winning a race this way…
“In a practice sense, you cannot win an endurance race your first time around. It requires a great deal of consistency in your training, gradually increasing your distance and your speed. You won't be able to run the 26 miles of a marathon your first time on the track. You will stop to catch your breath while others look on. The point here is to always start running again. You'll realize very quickly that, as a runner, every extra pound of weight you carry over those 26 miles is painful and burdensome. In the context of faith, the same applies to sin. You cannot win the race of faith without dropping the stone weights of sin on the track. You may be slow at first due to the burden and need to catch your breath as you acclimate to the way of life Jesus wants you to live, but persistence and effort in your faith will take you to the finish.”
A champion inspires others and doesn’t give up! A champion is victorious amid a dense crowd of onlookers and listeners. A champion is free of hindrances that would otherwise slow him or her down. A champion lives in truth and is free of entanglements that would otherwise hold him or her back. A championed is focused on Jesus (not mankind), who went before us to demonstrate how to live a holy life and to make us victorious from start to finish.
Some people may keep their eyes on “the prize,” whatever that prize is to them. Maybe it’s a job promotion, a pay increase, a bigger home, a material object. They may set incremental goals and set out on a path to achieve or obtain those goals. Many may be self-reliant in some measure. Many may compromise God along the way.
Psalm 119:133 says, “Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.”
I have a very dear friend whom I have known since high school. A successful businesswoman, Sylvia is now in her mid-fifties. For years now, Sylvia has run New York City’s Half Marathon, a 911 benefit race. She’s busy and she’s buff and she muscles through the 13 ½ miles along with her husband and makes it part of an annual vacation. As any marathon runner would, Sylvia prepares herself through training. She equips herself with the right gear. She starts and stays the course and finishes with a medal. Sylvia never gives up!
If you know who you are in Christ—that He alone has already made you victorious when you received Him as Lord and Savior—then you can start, run and finish the race like a champion. This truth will set you free to empower you to run like a winner because you already are a winner at the beginning of the race. You either believe this truth or you don't. Every other voice, lie, false teaching, emotion, etc., has to bow to God's truth. It is a matter of simply trusting and obeying, no matter what your circumstances. God's truth and grace gives you every edge you need along the way. But you have to believe it and apply it to your life.
Much of winning a physical race is mental, not physical. Watching Olympic athletes demonstrates this. Many do perfectly well in practice runs. But when under pressure, they fall. The opposite is also true: Many of the least rise up when they are under pressure.
When we run the race, we have to sync up with God (yield our will, submit our petitions, surrender ourselves, trust and obey Him at His word, believe His faithfulness will meet us at our faith) and press into Him for our every need.
Regarding Philippians 3:14, which says, "I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus," we have to have God’s mind (not our carnally-driven emotions or limited knowledge)—His purpose, vision, focus—to make it through. As we do our part, He will meet us by His grace to help us fulfill His destiny for us. We cannot do it by leaning on our own understanding because our prior training, education and experience will be insufficient for where He desires to take us. Again, only God's grace is sufficient to help us.
Too many people try to serve God in their own strength, not by His Spirit, which wears people out because God will always call us up higher than we can go on our own. It's called the "Upward Call."
A major key in running the race is to not give up, no matter what. God has predestined our destinies. And we have a choice whether we are willing to cooperate. He co-labors with us to facilitate manifest victory. Jesus is the leader and completer of our faith. And since He endured the cross for our benefit, how can we say “no” to Him?
Pray: Father God, Thank You that You are always for me, that You are always bigger than my challenges, that Your grace is sufficient for anything I encounter. Thank You that Your truth will set me free and that You see me through Your Son, Jesus, as victorious. I choose this day to lay down every encumbrance to running the race You have set before me. Please forgive me for carrying burdens You never intended for me to carry and for not trusting You with them. Thank You that Your yoke is light and that You will never leave my side. I relinquish it all to you, believing you will instruct me how to run to completion…Your way. Amen.
Margaret D. Mitchell is the Founder of God's Love at Work, a marketplace outreach purposed to share God's greatest power source - the love of Christ. This devotional was adapted from Margaret's forthcoming book, Enduring Grace. All rights reserved.