Unbelief’s sturdiest ally is ambivalence. I’m a steady culprit of the following interaction with my Savior: I repeatedly assume the role of an anxious child who holds his father’s hand yet is frightened that dad will let go somehow and allow me to drop. The fear that I might fall overcomes the fact that His strong grip has never willingly let go nor has His guidance ever resulted in disaster. The only instance that disaster comes is the moments in which I become frantic and let go of His hand prematurely, running away at the thought of Him one day purposely taking His hand away.
Frantically striking out on one’s own never ends well, because panic-stricken runners always gas out early. I’ve noticed that once I begin to trust His grip, He soon trusts me to begin listening to His guidance. Instead of walking, we begin running together, and I find that if I listen closely, He provides wisdom amidst the race. Paul compared a life of faith in Christ to running a race, declaring in 1st Corinthians 9:24, “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.” Taking Paul’s comparison even further, a life lived under the guidance of the Holy Spirit has familiar parallels with the sport of cross-country.
If long distance running was a sport simply about running, every competitor would have mastered it without the necessity of coaches or teammates. Each of us was born to run, yet only a select portion can run like distance runners do. It takes more than just being fast and fit; each runner needs the supporting cast of coaches and teammates. A cross-country coach is responsible for the training of the athletes. The coach will throw down tough workouts so that the runners unwire their innate response to slam the brakes after the first signs of fatigue. Even more essential, the coach will tinker with the training regimen in order to get the most results out of the runners. During a race, it’s essential to listen to the coach, who will post himself along the running trails at certain points in order to communicate with his runners. A runner cannot block out a coach, because he will be the one shouting out mile times, the pace you need to either maintain or pick up, and motivate you as needed.
Sounds a lot like the Godhead, doesn’t it? Believers are instructed to always be aware for the small still voice of the Lord at all times. Like a coach formulating crushing workouts, God uses the Holy Spirit to prod us in places where we fall short spiritually. Better still, He’ll call us to levels of spiritual maturity that seem unreachable. However, God will build our character with “workouts,” which are situations and interactions that the believer is convinced he can’t handle. Also, the first signs of fatigue that come when a new runner begins training are the same impulses believers get when they are struggling with sin. Their carnal nature revolts against any sort of revolution by salvation, and will be uncooperative unless it is stamped at with a firm foot. Thus, like any discipline runner, we are called to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
Cross-country is not often recognized as a team sport, but in races, each individual runner’s time contributes to the team’s overall standing when pitted against the other team’s runners. In the same way, the body of Christ is made up individual believers who dispense their personal, God-authored talents to further His kingdom. Additionally, teammates are critical for in-team competition. Running with teammates of various levels of work ethic and ability allows the individual to be mentored, encouraged, and most importantly, challenged to be a more complete runner. Fellowshipping with other Christians enriches us in the same way, and we can gain insight from both mentors and peers that will provide valuable enhancement in our walk.
In the believer’s case, the race is rigged. Salvation ensures the destination, but this fact is no excuse to exit the race. No runner with an endurance comparable to a V8 engine is going to twiddle his thumbs in the stands. Instead, he’ll want to test and improve his talent because he adores the ability he’s been given in the first place. Believers fall into the same category when they run the race for the glory of God with faith amidst the darkness. Paul acknowledges in Philippians 3:13-14, “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” The vital action and attitude we must take as believers is one centered on delight with the Lord. An ambivalent runner isn’t going to crank out the miles, and neither will a lukewarm Christian walk with ironclad faith.
Powerful running is built on two precepts: endurance and recalibration. The runner who motors out of the start doesn’t always win, and the slow-starter isn’t locked into a last place finish. Endurance is the key to either maintaining a pace or revving it up. There will be times in our walk when we do blow a race or run a lackluster mile that costs us. Even worse, there will be injuries we get from running: emotional wounds, fiery darts by Satan, and dead dreams. However, the Holy Spirit doesn’t suddenly leave the runner during these moments nor does He have to build the foundation over again. Injured runners change their training regimen to rehab their injury and remain in good condition.
That’s what is called recalibration. The Spirit fine-tunes us whenever we think the race or season is lost. It’s in those seemingly irreconcilable moments when we must strain our ears to voice calling to us in the wind, because without the voice of our coach, we are running a race without conviction. There may be some runners out there who think they’re out of the race physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, but these runners are the ones who have the tools to hammer out indomitable endurance because they’ve seen what it really takes. To all those absent from the starting line: it’s time to get back where you belong, because the crown is waiting at the end.
Kevin Cochrane is a nineteen year old writer with the distinct purpose of radically restoring everyone with ears to hear to the original testimony of Jesus Christ. The great pursuit of his life is to live by the words he writes. For updates on his latest blog posts, you can follow him on Twitter @RunFree_KC or click the follow button at the bottom of the page to receive notifications by email.