OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire 344 Running MY Race
This week I hit a new milestone in running, passing 1000km of training. My goal in January was to complete a marathon, which I did in June. For that I trained close to 700km, and since then I have backed off significantly to nurse a touch of tendonitis, but 10 or 15km each week still adds up.
While I have always been active, I was not always a runner. In fact, when I started trying to get in better shape 6 or 7 years ago, I struggled to run for 2 minutes on the treadmill. At the time, my goal was simply to improve my conditioning and I never even dreamed it would be possible to do a 5km run.
I’m a really self-conscious runner. With my still-husky frame I don’t have a sleek “runner’s body.” I am not fast – getting faster - but still slow compared to many. And I am not a “graceful” runner. At the marathon they take pictures hoping to sell them to you later. Yeesh – I looked miserable and tired, and didn’t buy a single one.
But here is something that I have learned. It does no good for me to compare myself to those other, lighter, sleeker, faster runners. All that does is discourage me. There will always be someone faster, younger. I can only compare myself to myself, and take pride and comfort in my own accomplishments – a longer run, or a better time – knowing that each step takes me closer to my goal of improving my conditioning.
This is not so different from the Christian life. Over the years there have been people I have looked up to in the faith, spiritual giants, bold, strong, courageous, knowledgeable, wise. I could never hope to attain the faith they have. And then as a pastor, to see the especially talented visionary leaders who spoke so well and attracted so many people to their churches was at times disheartening, and all the more so when they started getting younger and younger.
Now, I know that I am no slouch, but it is not hard to compare, and to feel like I come up on the short side at times.
It is easy to look at someone else and wish we could be more like that person. It is easy to beat ourselves up when we fall short of that image.
It is a losing game to compare ourselves to someone else. It is ok to look up, to admire, to be inspired, to follow an example. After all, Paul reminded us to follow his example (1Corinthians 11:1*). But beyond that we must resist the urge to compare and beat ourselves up because we’ll lose sight of Jesus as the goal of our faith.
“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. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1-3*)
I love the verbs in this passage. “Throw off.” “Run with perseverance.” “Fix our eyes on Jesus.” “Consider him.” “Not grow weary.”
There will always be someone who seems to be a better Christian. Rather than focus on those people, we must keep our eyes on Jesus, faithful to our own “race of faith.”
I hope this helps. Be on fire.
OnFire is a letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. Married to Jan, Troy is a chaplain and has more than 20 years of pastoral experience. This letter published Nov 27, 2016. *New International Version. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or reply, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Blog located at www.onfireletter.blogspot.com