I watched track & field during the recent Olympics. Running is not a big spectator sport, generally, but I love it. I ran cross-country in college. These days, when I run, I am learning to pay less attention to my watch. I have slowed down a bit, and I find it more enjoyable to greet people jogging the other way. In the heat of an Alabama summer, we all need encouragement! Running has been source of insight for me throughout the years. I’d like to share two observations from the road:
Observation #1: Hard work is worthwhile–when we work hard, we work for God.
First, the apostle Paul used running as a picture of a greater contest:
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
Paul urges discipline and self-control, similar to what running develops. However, we are in a race with eternal consequences. Young Business Leaders is founded on the idea that disciple-making takes place in every area of human activity. The marketplace is a big area! We will be much more effective witnesses for Jesus if we pursue excellence like a determined athlete, and are known for integrity and discipline.
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might (Ecclesiastes 9:10).
Observation #2: We need to look for and encourage each other in the middle of the race.
Recently, on one of my runs, I passed a young man who could have been me twenty years ago. With his arms pumping, he was focused on his workout. I said, “Good job,” but he did not look up from the road. He was on a mission. I chuckled a bit since I knew where his mind was. He was expending all his focus and energy to run his fastest.
As I continued my run, I thought more about that exchange. I saw myself in that man. I spent years relentlessly pushing for the road in front of my feet. Focus on the next step. Achieve. Too much focus on narrowly defined goals could cause me to miss a lot of people along the way. Together, we might help each other keep running and not give up.
Running can teach us to the value of persistent effort. God calls us to use that effort–not to build our own sand castles but to build His Kingdom. Running reminds us of the need to help each other keep going. Let’s try to remember to look up and encourage each other on the road.