Running the Race to Win, Place, or Show?

The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all. 

runningThat line above is straight from Scripture – Ecclesiastes 9:11. The context is a whole chapter that can be summarized in the final point of this passage – that “time and chance happen.” We are all operating under the same principles “under the sun” (another theme in that chapter): we live, we toil, we die.

Fairly cynical, yes – but the author grows, as we will see, by the end of the book to a wise and thoughtful conclusion.

The Bible and “The Race”
Let’s examine the concept of “the race.” The metaphor of running a race is used often in the Bible. Here are the key passages:

  • However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me — the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. – Acts 20:24
  • Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. – 1 Corinthians 9:24
  • I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain. – Galatians 2:2
  • You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? – Galatians 5:7
  • I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. – 2 Timothy 4:7
  • 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… – Hebrews 12:1

So should we be winning prizes? Is it good enough to simply finish the race? Do we have to even finish this? Finish in the top tier? Tops in our age bracket? How about a nice Certificate of Participation?

4 Keys to Life’s Race
There are four key aspects to the Biblical concept of running the race. I’ll call them the 4 P’s of the Christian’s Life Race:  Perspective, Performance, Purpose, and Perseverance.

1. Perspective  (What Race are We Running?) – We are living (running) a life (race) that is marked out or set before us (Hebrews 12:1). Others have run this – some even as heroes (see cloud of witnesses in Hebrews 11). It is a good race, worthy of running not in vain. And it will be difficult, even a fight. We are to take our life/race seriously and step (run) strongly into it.

2. Performance  (How Hard Do We Run?) – We are to run in such a way as to get the prize. This is not a race/life in which we dawdle and lollygag along. Run to win. We’re to equip and prepare ourselves for a top performance and finish. Throw off everything that hinders and can entangle us from running/living our best. We can be taken off track (Galatians 5:7) if we’re not focused on our race/life/task we’re set on.

3. Purpose  (Why are We Running?) – There is a sole purpose in life, nothing is worth more:  to run and finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given – the task of testifying of God’s grace. That’s quite profound if you really stop and consider that. Look at the Apostle Paul. A highly accomplished guy changed up and shifted his focus and purpose to life’s Truth. Look what he accomplished. This race/life is purposeful and should not be wasted.

4. Perseverance (How Do We Keep Going?) – We are to run this long-distance and purposeful race with excellence, vigor and perseverance. Others have even died doing it (again see Hebrews 11). It is hard, but it is good – and that is why we are to keep going on until the end/finish with all that we possess and have been given for the task. We are in this race for the long haul – run it with faith, courage and endurance even as you encounter obstacles, pain, even death.

Final Word in Ecclesiasties 
To bring this back full circle, there is a concluding injunction at the end of the book of Ecclesiasties:

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep His commandments; for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. – Ecclesiastes 13:13-14

So there we have it. Live and toil in obedience and adherence to God’s precepts and ways. Time and chance happen to all of us. Then we die. But there is a simple duty of man: know and trust God in this life. To run the life/race well and with clear direction we need to know, fear/honor God and His whole Word. Then live/run purposely with courage and perseverance with the goal to finish strong in His lane regardless of the difficulty. Then the crown of victory will await you. There’s no better way to live.

Are you running the race with everything you’ve got?
…and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God – Hebrews 12:1-2

Categories: Abundant Living, Calling, Devotion, Faith, Jesus, Old Testament, People, Suffering, Theology

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