FOLLOW - At the start of each race, the runners line up a few hundred feet behind a golf cart and the driver leads them thru the course. A mile into the race, the runners are pretty spread out, but the lead gal is always following the cart. No matter how fast this runner goes, she doesn't pass the golf cart.
Friend, as we walk through life, we too have someone to follow. Matthew 16:24 says, "Then Jesus told his disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.'" We must go where Jesus goes! As we run through life, we must also remember Jesus sets the pace. We may be tempted to run ahead, make our own plans and go at our own speed, but for our own good we have to let God lead.
FORWARD - In a cross country race, runners get tired. At the junior high level, some of them even walk for awhile. Still if they slow down, the athletes keep going forward. They move towards their goal.
Friend, life gets hard. We grow weary. Following Jesus brings challenges and can leave us exhausted. Satan is always on the prowl and his attacks wear us out, but we need to keep moving forward. In Philippians 3:12-14 we read, "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 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."
FOCUS - Cross country may be an individual sport without plays, but it still requires focus. As athletes run hills over rough terrain, they need focus and discipline. The competition isn't just the girls with a different name on their jersey, but sometimes the biggest opponent is the voice in a runner's head. These races are long and take time; a runner's mind can wonder.
Whether you run or not, can you say something similar about life? I can. Days can be long, situations can overwhelm. Sometimes I feel like I'm climbing a hill that just keeps getting higher. As I do, my mind often runs faster than my feet. Satan loves to distract us with doubts and leave us anxious or confused with lies. As we run the race of life we must follow the advice we read in Hebrews 12:1-3...
"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."
FINISH - One of the neat things about cross country is every athlete not only gets to participate, but they finish too. Personally, it's encouraging to stand near the finish line and cheer the runners on. The medalists come through with quite a crowd watching them, but the last ten are just as enjoyable to watch. These athletes have given it there all and work hard to do what maybe they didn't think they could. Their time won't win them a medal, but crossing the line brings a reward money can't buy.
Friend, our race is a bit different because we're not trying to do it in a certain time, but we are called to finish. God doesn't expect us to read the Bible a certain number of times or go on X number of mission trips. We are to love Him, serve Him and obey Him every day He gives. We are to walk in faith day after day after day. Even when we are tired and want to give up. So like Paul may we too someday say, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." (2 Timothy 4:7)
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the opportunity to run the race of life. As I do, may I follow you and always move forward. Give me focus and help me finish. Help me press on and keep my eyes on the prize for which you have called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. In His Name, Amen