It was the state meet qualification race and I wanted the prize: my name on the record board in the field house. A freshman in high school, I was competing on the varsity track team against girls who were older, stronger, and faster than myself. I had a history of tripping over my own two feet, yet here I was, about to run 300 yards while leaping over hurdles.
The gun went off and I quickly fell into stride. I had no idea where I was in the race because of the staggered start, but I kept running. As I hit the final straightaway, I could feel my legs begin to burn. My breath was short and heavy and I wanted to slow down. Straightening out, I realized I couldn’t see any of the other runners— meaning I was out front!
I dug as deep as my fifteen-year-old self could dig. I ran and hurdled that last 100 yards like my life depended on it. I ran to get the prize.
I’m still running these days, but I don’t always run with that same fire. Sometimes I try to hit a time goal in a half marathon, but now, it doesn’t make sense to try to place in a big race. I don’t run for “the prize” anymore. In fact, most races, I don’t even know what the prize is.
As much as I hate to admit it, my current approach to running often parallels the way I approach my spiritual life: still running, but not always running in a way to get the prize. Many days I lose sight of what the prize even is. Paul knew I’d need a reminder:
I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.
As Christ followers, our prize is being made complete in the likeness of Christ. Yes, this takes a lifetime of following Jesus and allowing Him to work in our hearts and lives. But this truly is the only thing that matters. What could be more worthwhile?
Our relationship with God is what will last through eternity. If we have nothing else on this earth, we have Jesus. He promises to be with us and to complete the good work He began in our lives (Philippians 1:6).
Following Christ isn’t always easy. At times it’s even painful. Sometimes, He asks us to do things that don’t make sense, don’t feel good, or don’t agree with worldly wisdom. But friends, the insurmountable joy of knowing Him will always be greater than our pain and suffering, greater than our struggle and heartache.
We are in the race, but we are not in it alone!
I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus.
Christ has taken hold of us! He is already working in us to perfect us and make us like Himself.
Jesus doesn’t expect our perfection. He doesn’t demand that we never falter or slow down, or never fall flat on our faces. He has already made up for our deficiencies. He only asks that we keep our eyes fixed on Him and our bodies running hard after the goal. And He Himself promises to hold us, especially when we lose our strength.
Like Paul, we have not yet attained our prize, but we can rest in the confidence that our God is working in us. So let’s faithfully run hard after the prize. Run hard after Jesus.
Run in such a way to win the prize.
-1 Corinthians 9:24