Running the Race with Endurance
by Fia Curley
Marathon runners are a rare breed.
In the U.S. alone, there are close to 600 marathons every year. However only half of 1 percent of the U.S. population has actually participated in a full marathon.
That’s the equivalent of heading to the registration line at Onething and counting out groups of 200 people to find that only one person among them has run a marathon.
The average registration fee for a marathon is about $67, but the price a marathon runner pays while training in order to successfully complete the 26.2-mile run can sometimes seem daunting to the remaining 99.5 percent of the population.
To be one of the few people to start and finish a physically and mentally demanding race–let alone a marathon–takes more than just money and desire. Runners change their habits—the way they eat, the way they structure their schedule, the way they train—just to participate in and actually complete a marathon.
It may not be surprising, then, that so few people actually participate in marathons, given the cost and the distance.
There is a race in the life of a Christian, and there is a proper way to run it. To run the race well, with endurance, we need to train.
Under the leading of the Holy Spirit, the writer of Hebrews admonishes us to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1–2).
In life, having consistent discipline is a challenge, but one of the greatest benefits of our race is that we’re not running alone. We’re able to look to Jesus, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross. The One who endured a brutal, humiliating, seemingly fruitless race according to onlookers, also ran with endurance.
For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. (Hebrews 12:3)
Like marathon runners or cross-country runners, we can look to the One who leads us through the valley (Psalm 23:4) and remember how He successfully traversed the unsteady terrain of life and know that He has equipped us to do the same. We can see how He resisted sin and temptation, and even in the moments when we feel as if we’re racing uphill, we can cling to the truth that His grace is sufficient for us in our weakness.
We can see the times He refused to let His heart be troubled even in the most challenging situations and know that He still speaks truth over our emotions today.
Tips for Running Well
1. Fuel Up on the Word
Marathon runners don’t head to a buffet before their race, looking for their favorite dishes of mac ‘n’ cheese, fried chicken, or pot roast. Instead they eat foods that will give them the energy needed to complete the race and help them run. A banana, a protein bar, a piece of toast—these are the foods runners grab before their race to power them through what can take hours to complete. Runners also stay hydrated.
With the Word as our fuel, it’s easier to train for our hard run. We can run victoriously knowing that the Word is true.
God’s Word is our bread and water. It sustains us in seasons of plenty and seasons of lack. It leads us in the right way as it renews our minds and clears our vision. It draws us closer to the One who knows the right path we need to pursue and the unsteady places that could cause us to stumble and fall. The Living Word nourishes us, giving us strength to keep moving forward despite the temptation to be weary to the point of quitting.
We use the Word not just to sustain us, but to encourage us to persevere with joy in our hearts by faith. It is our fuel and not having it would be the equivalent of trying to run a marathon after having been starved of food for a long period of time.
2. Seize Opportunities to Train
On average marathon runners log about 40 miles per week in preparation for a marathon. Forty miles exceeds the overall total of a marathon, but increasing endurance happens gradually for runners. We can hardly imagine a person who has never run, getting up and completing a marathon in their first attempt. Progress is made over time.
James, the brother of Jesus, advised us: “My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1:2–3; NRSV).
Like a muscle in the human body, we develop our discipline as we exercise it.
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. (1 Corinthians 9:24)
And thankfully, even when we feel the weight of trials and the hard trails of life, the Lord is eager to display His patience and mercy.
3. Know Your Stride
Just as runners know the length of their stride, it’s important to have realistic understanding of the distance we’re covering. Some runners are tall, and are naturally gifted to be able to move quickly over flat ground. Other runners are not as tall, but have trained their bodies to run at a pace similar to taller runners.
As we go through life in a world that is hostile to the gospel and the surrender of our lives to Jesus’ leadership, it’s important to gauge how fast you’re moving, compared with your own history with the Lord. After you’ve been wronged, how quickly are you able to forgive and bless the person who has wronged you? After you’ve missed the mark and sinned, how soon are you able to return to the foot of the cross and repent? When you’re tempted, how quickly do you access the grace of God to provide strength and a way out of that situation?
Rejoice in every thing you see the Lord doing in you, whether it’s a change in your speech, emotions, or thought life. Thank God for transforming you from the inside out as He advances the kingdom within you.
4. Stay Committed to Your Goal
I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3.14
To build a lifetime practice of running for the prize, it’s important to maintain our vision of why we’re running. The simple act of knowing your goal helps you to start and continue running toward the finish line. Knowing that God is a father and a rewarder encourages us to run even when life is far from easy. We’ve been given everything we need for life and godliness. The price paid for us was, is, and will always be sufficient to enable His plan to come to pass. We will stand before Him holy and blameless. God has committed Himself to us. It is our choice to commit ourselves to Him and to desire His good, pleasing, perfect will for our lives.
There’s very little in this life that is perfect. And as humans, we make mistakes repeatedly. But making mistakes isn’t a sign that you’re incapable of running well. It’s a sign that we live in a sinful world and there are still areas within needing the Lord’s leadership.
5. Know Your Gear
Although running doesn’t require a lot of equipment, what is used actually makes a difference. Look at the bodies the Lord purposefully gave us to steward during this life. Because He’s also uniquely made us–spirit, soul, and body–He’s made provision to energize and refresh us in every area.
The Lord has given us a natural rhythm for taking care of our bodies. As much as we enjoy the benefits of caffeine to help us withstand the demands of our busy lives, our bodies’ need for rest, sleep, exercise, and food are natural boundaries that help us move toward completing our goals. When we steward our bodies, we can omit unnecessary situations that arise due to the mismanagement of our bodies.
Our Creator has also given us talents and interests that match who we are, activities that bring us joy as we participate in them. For some it’s their artwork or music, still others find joy in reading, baking, or getting out into nature for a walk or to work in their garden. There are places and activities in which we clearly see the beauty of God and can feel our natural framework strengthened as we engage in our simple pleasures of life.
As we steward our entire selves, we can run and not look back and know that what awaits us is glorious.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7–8)
Fia Curley served on the NightWatch at IHOPKC for many years, participating in prayer, worship, and intercession from midnight to 6am. Currently attending college in New York, she enjoys blending her passion for prayer, worship, and journalism as she labors with the Lord to see His goodness revealed to families, government leaders, and immigrants from non-Christian nations.