The Bible uses many figures of speech to describe our journey to heaven. The parables of Jesus often take ordinary events to illustrate the nature of the kingdom and the part each of us plays. We are workers in the vineyard, sowers of the seed, merchants seeking a pearl of great price and many others. The writers of the New Testament add another one which the world understands. The Olympic games which involved running originated in ancient Greece. They vividly remind us that like those participants in those races each of us is a spiritual athlete running in our spiritual race.
The writer of Hebrews describes the practice used by runners of putting weights on their feet as they prepared for their race. When those weights were removed, muscles had been strengthened and the freedom made their feet seem so light and ready to run.
I remember that pair of skates I received at Christmas. They were not lace-up boots like we have today but had straps and clamps to attach them to ordinary shoes. I specifically remember how light my feet seemed when I unclamped the heavy skates from my feet. I felt like I could jump higher and run faster than I had ever done. With those weights removed, I knew I could do things better than I had ever done before.
Read these words from God. “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1). As we run our race, there are many weights, not necessarily sinful acts, which can hinder us. Jesus describes three things which can so easily keep us from reaching spiritual maturity—cares, riches and pleasure (Luke 8:14). Are these weights in your life which need to be set aside as you run the race?
The Bible adds another aspect to the race we are running. “And if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules” (2 Tim. 2:5). Think of how races involve measured distances and specific lanes clearly marked in races you have seen. We are not at liberty to set the rules or run outside our lanes. There is a Judge who will determine how lawfully we run.
At the end of those ancient races, “medals” were given. Garland wreaths were placed on the heads of the winners. “Everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown” (1 Cor. 9:24). Paul said that having finished the race he awaited the crown of righteousness (2 Tim. 4:8). Wreaths will wither, but our crown is a crown of life.
How are you doing in your race for the crown? Are there changes you need to make as you run your race?