“and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1b NIV
“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 NIV
When I was in elementary school I was chosen to be on the track team for running and high jump. The 50 yard dash and the 400 metre relay races were what I would be participating in, at a citywide school competition. Practicing with my teammates at our own school or the nearby high school track was a very different thing than being in a university stadium filled with thousands of people I didn’t know. As an extremely shy and introverted girl of 12 , I was super nervous and afraid of messing up (my usual state of being).
Each school was assigned a spot on the grass, in the middle of the stadium, where you would sit in your age group with your fellow competitiors. The sights and sounds of all those other kids of different ages and from different schools was cool and exciting but also nerve wracking. Finally, the time came for the 50 yard dash in my age group. We each walked to the end of the oval with the appearance of calm and positioned ourselves on the track. My heart was already pumping as I stepped into my assigned lane. “Ready!, Set!,” the official yelled and then the gun blast signaled the start.
Pushing off with my hands and feet I propelled my strong, young body forward; my arms and legs pumped with all they had and I flew down the track. I must say, there is no feeling like working your muscles hard and having the wind blow against your face. It can be so exhilarating! Out of the corner of my eyes I could see two other girls were in close proximity to me and with the screams and shouts of the spectators ringing in my ears I pushed harder and moved ahead of them.
Now in a race, if you hear a whistle blow it means a false start and you stop and go back.
Let it be known there were other races and competitions taking place at the same time as ours.
Suddenly, I heard a whistle shriek. I paused, thinking it was a false start but everyone else hadn’t. Realizing my mistake I renewed my effort but too much time and momentum had been lost. Needless to say, I didn’t win, but I didn’t lose either. Devastation, embarrassment and regret filled my young heart as I slowly and breathlessly walked back to our group.
You see the problem was focus and a lack of confidence. I was too distracted by the sounds around me and my fear, instead of being totally focused on my goal.
Life is like that isn’t it? It can be full of distractions and noise and confusion. We feel nervous, inferior, insecure and overwhelmed by all that’s going on around us. We so badly want to excel and prove our worth that we end up taking our eyes off the goal and falter. In the wake of our failure we become discouraged, lose faith and want to give up, believing we have no purpose.
Hebrews 12:1 says we have a “race marked out for us”, by God. He has a plan for our lives.
“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10 NIV
Our job is to keep our eyes on the goal and persevere. The definition of persevere, according to Miriam Webster dictionary is, “to persist in a state, enterprise or undertaking in spite of counterinfluences, oposition or discouragment.”
“Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14 NASB
After my dismal run in the 50 yard dash, I was still expected to run in the 400 metre relay. I didn’t feel like it. I wanted to skulk off home, talk to no one and never go back to school again! But I had to go back and sit on the grass with my teammates. They asked what happened, commiserated and encouraged me. Our coach was kind and told me to shake it off, refocus and do my best for our team in the relay. And so I did. I was determined to not let them down. It was a great race, with smooth handoffs, gutsy running and unity of fellowship. We came in third place but we knew we had given it our all and worked together. More importantly for me; I had persevered and experienced the joy of acheiving a hard earned prize.
Stay strong my friends and persevere! God has a plan for your life. You may not see it right now but we can’t see the whole tapestry, only God can. You may have lost focus and faltered but God is not done with you yet!