Race: Urgent need, responsibility, or effort as when time is short or a solution is imperative. Usually we think of a race as some contest of speed - the faster someone is, the more likely we are to think they might actually "win" the race. I found this less common definition of "race" this morning and wanted to share it with you because I think it connects some dots for us. You see, we all run. How well run is often determined by our "interpretation" of the need to run! If we have a bear charging at us, intent on making us his supper, we might just run like our life depended on it, right? If we are told by the doctor to get a little more exercise, such as running a mile a day, we might just have a different "interpretation" of the need! The crux of the defining moment is in what we see as the "intensity" of need.
You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally. I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself. (I Corinthians 9:24-27 MSG)
Our definition captures three key elements I'd like us to consider this morning. There is an appreciation on our part of some need, responsibility, or effort which is required of us. Until we "appreciate" the need, responsibility, or effort required, we don't make the first step. The idea is of coming into a full awareness - to be fully conscious of the first step. The runner has to see the value in the race! To run aimlessly is silly. To run with purpose makes much more sense - since there is either a prize or a destination in mind!
The urgent need:
I described being chased by a bear as a "logical" reason for running as though your life depended on it. I think life is filled with all kinds of "logical" reasons for "running" like our life depended on it. Yet, life is also filled with some "illogical" reasons for "running"! Have you ever watched a scary movie on TV or in the theater and found your heart racing, the tiny hairs on the back of your neck standing on end, and being just about ready to jump out of your seat if someone were to come up behind you and tap you on the shoulder? How "illogical" is it to be afraid of what is "made up" on the TV screen? Most would say the movie was made to elicit some sense of "terror" or "fear" within you. If it did, the movie maker accomplished what they set out to do. But...how illogical is it for us to fear what is "made up"? Most of us would say it is plain silly to be so frightened by that which cannot hurt us! Yet, we walk around everyday with "illogical" thoughts plaguing us with all kinds of "made up" fears! Things like, "You are not good enough", or maybe even "You'll never amount to anything". We have other "illogical" fears which hold us in their grasp - like relationships all end in disaster, so why try? We believe the silliest stuff - just because someone, somewhere, at some time told us it was this way! I think Paul wanted us to focus on the "urgent need" which is really a need in our lives - the thing we need to find a solution to in order to turn the "illogical" into the "logical". We get so wrapped up in "running" after the illogical, we often miss the logical. The logical is the valid - the illogical is the invalid. I wonder what we might accomplish for God if we started running after the logical, avoiding the illogical at every turn?
We all run, but if it is without intent, we miss out on much in the race. A runner which "engages" in the race takes his responsibility to run seriously. There is "intent" in the running. The greatest part of responsibility is the idea of accountability. A true runner is very accountable - for not only this race, but preparing for the next and the next one after that one. In looking at what Paul describes, I think he might have been focusing us on being "answerable" for how well we run. I don't know about you, but if I give something my half-effort, just barely skimming the surface of what I am capable of giving, I find the "end" a little unfulfilling. Yeah, I made it to the end, but did I give it my best along the way? We have a responsibility to run well - anything less shows we are really not concerned with the answer we will give at the end. I don't know about you, but when I am "answerable" for my actions, I want to be able to "answer well"!
We often equate effort to the idea of exertion. We "put out" and then we realize some "return" for what it is we "put out". For example, if we do 20 sit-ups a day for three weeks, we expect to see our waistline decrease in size and our abs to become more toned. If we took our measurements on the day we started and then again at the end of the third week, seeing absolutely no change, we might be a little discouraged! We expected something for the expenditure of our effort (exertion). Really, all God ever asks of us is for us to make every "earnest" effort we can to live according to the plan he has for us. In other words, we see "obedience" as deserving of our "serious attention". For some, this may seem like a bit much, but if we take the effort to make the first step, we find the "effort" becomes less and less as time goes on.
The other thing we see in our definition is the "timeframe" of our running. It is as though the time is short. In considering this point, let me just say, we never really know how short our time may be. If we take for granted the day we are given, we may find ourselves woefully lacking when the next doesn't come! If we begin to "process" today well, we won't find ourselves disappointed by the things we "put off" doing in our yesterdays! Just sayin!
P.S. I just realized this is my post 1,000! Seems hard to believe the challenge of a friend a few years ago has resulted in over 1,000 posts being written! It has been an honor to share my heart and I hope to continue to run well!