I heard the words to a song which went something like this: You choose the race, and then you run.
I’m not sure why that struck me, but I thought about it for a bit. Then I thought, No, that’s not right. The race chooses you, and you choose to run.
But even that doesn’t go far enough. In this life as a disciple of Christ, He chooses the race and you choose to run.
Because the path of the race is mapped out before you were born, but in God’s way of doing things—He leaves it up to us, whether we will run, or whether we will sit it out. I’m not sure there is a sound theological basis for this, but that is how is seems to me.
Actually two passages of scripture seem to back it up:
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. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. 1 Cor. 9:24-27
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).
Let us “run the race.”
The race is “marked out for us.”
This race encompasses our entire lives, but most of us don’t know we are in a race until we have met and fallen in love with Jesus Christ. I didn’t know Him until I was around forty years old, and I had spent my entire life in fits and starts, mostly fits, but never finishing any race—always settling for second best, or worse, settling for nothing “best” at all.
But when I met Him—when I really met HIM, my passion for Him became all consuming and instead of fading out after a few fast starts, it continues to consume me the older I get.
I was faced recently for a few short weeks with the question of death and I was surprised at my response. I experienced firsthand what Paul the apostle meant when he said
I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; (Phil. 1:20-23).
I don’t mean to be melodramatic, but this is how it was; this is exactly how I felt (feel). I asked Him, “Is the race that has been marked out for me to end sooner rather than later? And how do I really feel about that?” How I really felt was the most truly supernatural peace I have ever known. I didn’t ask for it; I didn’t go hunting down Scriptures to make me feel better—it was handed to me, poured over me and into me. I was honestly in some in-between place—eyes heavenward with great anticipation, but earthward with great longing to finish the race that had been marked out for me.
I love serving the Lord here. I have loved serving Him since that day in 1989 when I fell on my face before Him and surrendered everything to Him. I heard a speaker once explaining the difference between working for Jesus and working from Jesus. Working for Jesus will soon wear us out, burn us out and leave us exhausted. It is not what He asks of us.
Working from Jesus is a constant flow of living water that fills and fills and fills—the more we empty it out, the more it fills. Working from Jesus is running the race and never growing weary because it is His race and most of the time He is just carrying us along. No one could possibly run that race in their own strength, using their own fleshly mechanisms.
I’m not talking about happiness here—I am talking about joy. I’m not talking about ease—I’m talking about running the hardest, oftentimes brutal, discouraging, disappointing daily grind of life from His joy. I’m not talking about positive Pollyanna stuff—I could never muster up that kind of thing—I am too much a realist—a “glass half empty” person. I know many glass half empty people and I know glass half full people but I gave up on both when I realized that what Jesus wanted was for me to have a cup that runs over, no matter what is going on around me.
And it is a choice; a daily, moment by moment choice. I can choose to run the race with His joy and His endurance and His strength and His love. Or I can choose to sit down and wallow and lick my wounds and pout and throw fits because life isn’t fair.
Whatever race I have left, my only desire is to run it with pure, overflowing, joy!