I was done. My coach and my teammates encouraged me to get back on the track and finish the race. I didn’t want to finish the race. They kept encouraging me. I finally walked back on the track and slowly jogged until I crossed the finish line. There is a parable in this experience.
In High School, I ran track. I struggled with endurance, as I was born with athletically induced asthma. There were times when the asthma seemed to go away. However, it always seemed to worsen when I competed. On one occasion, in the middle of a 5000m race, my lungs felt like they were going to collapse. I stopped, put my hands on my knees and tried to catch my breath. I waited a few seconds and tried to pull myself back into the race. I was beyond weak. I started walking off the field. I was done. My coach and my teammates encouraged me to get back on the track and finish the race. I didn’t want to finish the race. They kept encouraging me. I finally walked back on the track and slowly jogged until I crossed the finish line. There is a parable in this experience. We need endurance and encouragement to finish running the race of faith we have entered.
As a Christian man, minister, husband, father and friend, I sometimes feel like that boy striving to run the race of faith. The author of Hebrews likens the Christian life to a race, when he charges believers with the following admonition: “Lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:1-2). In no uncertain terms, the author of Hebrews explains that “you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised” (Heb. 10:36). The writer of Hebrews also captures this under the figure of a boat drifting away. He wrote, “We must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away” (Hebrews 2:1).
I have been a Christian for going on 17 years. I have seen many individuals quit the race. I have watched as ministers of the Gospel have defiantly walked off the track for any number of reasons. Many have walked away for sexual immorality, Others have walked away for money. Still others have walked away out of sheer love for the world. I have to admit, I never expected to see the high rate of apparent apostasy that I have seen in just under two decades.
The year that I was converted, I listened to a sermon by Al Martin, in which he said that over his lifetime, he had seen so many walk away from their profession of faith in Christ and still others crawl across the finish line. He said, “I prayed, ‘Lord, I don’t want to crawl across the finish line. I want to run across the finish line. Give me the grace to run to glory!” There is something so right about praying a prayer like that.