Greg's Blog

Running the Race of Life

by Greg Laurie on Dec 29, 2023

As we prepare for 2024, we need to remember that we are running a spiritual race.

In Acts 20, we find the apostle Paul’s words to the leaders of the church in Ephesus, “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus…” (verse 24 NKJV). These were things that really mattered to the great apostle.

Paul used the analogy of a runner in a race many times in his writings. Each one of these instances reminds us of a different aspect of running the race of life.

Biblical Lessons on Running Our Race

We Must Run to Win

1 Corinthians 9:24 says, “Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!” (NLT).

You also must run in such a way that you will win! There is no point in running for second or third place. Go for the gold! Don’t settle for mediocrity as a follower of Jesus.

Understand, however, that his point is not that only one Christian can succeed spiritually. Your “opponents” are not fellow Christians. I am not running the race of life to beat you or anyone else. Our competitors are the world, the flesh, and the devil. 

Be Careful to Not Get Off Track

Galatians 5:7 says, “You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth?” (NLT).

Sometimes, due to poor choices in friends and companions, we get “off track.” They tend to drag us away from our commitment, instead of encouraging us in it. At the very least, they slow us down. At worst, they sidetrack us.

Don’t Look Back

Philippians 3:12–16 reads, “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. But we must hold on to the progress we have already made” (NLT).

So, How Are You Doing?

How did you do in 2023? Have you gotten off track, or are you running for the gold?

Have any relationships or things slowed you down in your pursuit of God?

The moment you believed in Jesus Christ, this race began for you. Some of you are just beginning, while others have been running for quite a while.

My son Christopher has already finished his race, and his old dad is still running. As I get older, I think about finishing this race more than ever.

And not everyone is finishing well. I know of some who have not finished their race with joy (see Acts 20:24 NKJV). People who seemed strong in the faith but have “crashed and burned” in the race of life. They got off track or, in some cases, even self-destructed.

We see this in the Bible as well.

Biblical Figures With a Weak Finish

King Saul comes to mind. He would have been a good politician: tall, handsome, charismatic, and, I might add, anointed by God to be the king. Prophesying with the prophets, he had incredible potential.

Everything was going Saul’s way, and if he had just obeyed God, it would have been great. But he disobeyed God repeatedly and allowed pride—and eventually paranoia and jealousy—to consume him. This led to a series of sins, causing God to reject him.

The once-great King Saul met a tragic end at the battlefield, having, in his own words, “played the fool and erred exceedingly” (1 Samuel 26:21 NKJV).

In the end, he really had no one to blame but himself. He started his race well, but his finish was a disaster.

Or we think of the mighty Samson, supernaturally blessed with super-human strength and able to vanquish his enemies with relative ease.

But, like all people, Samson had his vulnerabilities. He was a “He-Man” with a “She-Weakness.” A series of compromises took place in his life, starting with marrying a non-believer and ending up with a prostitute that took him down “Hooker, line, and sinker.” It culminated in a one-way trip to Delilah’s Barber Shop.

He, too, did not finish his race well.

Biblical Figures With a Strong Finish

I could go on with the stories of men who did not finish the race of life well. But Paul wanted to be in the company of those who “finished their race with joy,” joining the ranks of those who finished in God’s “winners circle.”

Men like Caleb, whose incredible story is found in Joshua 14. Or Daniel, who wouldn’t compromise, even in his 80s.

Let’s commit ourselves to finishing what we have begun, remembering this: the race of life is not a quick sprint but a long-distance run.

So run well this new year!

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