This is a modern day metaphor/ parable:
“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up.
It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed.
Every morning a lion wakes up.
It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle.
When the sun comes up, you better start running.”
In this metaphor, young people are reduced to the level of sub human beings – animals. A young man could be like lion that is in search of a victim-feast or like gazelle which could be the victim. The whole purpose of running is to survive, lion to survive by finding food; gazelle to survive by escaping from being killed. Is life really a purposeless race for survival?
Life is a race. People have freedom to run the race but have to run according to rules and regulations to win the race. Christian life is a race and it should be run according to the principles revealed in the Scripture. What kind of race is the Christian race of life? In the sports arena, there are at least four kinds of race. However, a Christian has to run all the four simultaneously. Christian has to sprint, run marathon, hurdle race and also relay race.
1. Sprint Race
First step in the race of life is to come to Lord Jesus Christ. When a person comes to the cross of Calvary, repents of his sin, he is forgiven and made righteous. “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” (Proverbs 18:10) Christians has run away from sin, traps of Satan and worldly attractions. By repenting and seeking baptism, the Pharisees and Sadducees decided to flee from the coming wrath of God. John the Baptist said: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?” (Matthew 3:7) John the Baptist expected people should sprint fast from the wrath of God which is natural result of sin. Lot’s wife failed to run for life even though she was warned and became a pillar of salt. As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!” (Gen 19:17) Lot’s wife is a warning to all of us. (Luke 17:32)
Paul warns against sexual immorality to the believers in the city of Corinth. “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.” (I Cor 6:18) The mouthpiece of popular culture- the media glorifies immoral sex and promotes all deviations from the Biblical principles.
“Therefore, my dear friends flee from idolatry.” (I Cor 10:14) Any person or thing or idea or interest that consumes our emotional, physical, mental and intellectual energy is an idol. It could be ideology like communism or pursuit called materialism, or ambition to become great or obsession with a job/profession/career and etc. Psalmist warns that if the run is in opposite direction that would bring sorrow. “The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods. (Psalms 16 :4)
In the Christian sprint, Paul advises Timothy and Titus to run away from certain things and pursue certain traits. Christians should flee away from the evil desires of youth, but pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, peace and gentleness. (I Timothy 6:11 & Titus 2:22).
2. Hurdle Race
A hurdle race is a foot race in which a runner has to face a series of hurdles and run to win. Life could be a bed of roses if Satan does not bother us. However, Satan puts road blocks in the life race. On many occasions he puts landmines in the track so that we are disabled or defeated. Cleverly, he distracts our focus and led us in astray that we fail to fulfill God’s higher, greater and nobler purposes. Many times he piles up mountains that negotiating such paths makes us weary.
The hurdles need not be from outside always. The mindset of people could be hindrances in the race. The mindset should be shaped by Word of God and faith. People who lack faith cannot continue to overcome hurdles. The attitude of people determines the outcome of the race.
Another hurdle is too much baggage. A runner has to run light. Christians as runners cannot be possessed by possessions. Being busy in too many things can make a person to lose the sense of priorities.
Joseph’s life had many hurdles before he was exalted to be second to Pharaoh of Egypt. Envy motivates people to conspire against others. Joseph own brothers conspired against Joseph so did the colleagues of Daniel. Another hurdle was slavery, followed by false allegation, and jail. The life of saints recorded in the Scripture and in Church history had hurdles of several sizes and shapes. But, these hurdles did not stop them from running or winning. Satan placed stumbling blocks in their path; they made them as stepping stones. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1)
3. Marathon race
The marathon is a long-distance running event with an official distance of 42.195 kilometres (26 miles and 385 yards). The runners who have focus, concentration, stamina, patience, endurance and perseverance would win such race. Paul writes that he presses towards the goal. “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:14)
There is a common story that is taught in all schools. A rabbit and a turtle (tortoise) thought of a race between them. Both began the race together. The rabbit thought the turtle would take a long time to reach the finish line and went for a nap. When the rabbit woke up, the turtle had crossed the finish line. A Christian could be like the rabbit, too confident and proud and sleep during the race. Being awake, alert and agile is essential in the race of life.
4. Relay Race
A relay race is a sports event in which athletes run a pre-set distance carrying a baton before passing it onto the next runner. Often, a relay team is a team of four sprinters. Passing on the baton is the key of this race. A runner cannot hold it for long; s/he has to pass it on the next runner. David served his generation (Acts 13:36) and passed on the baton to the next. As parents we are expected to pass on the Faith, Word of God and values to our children. The mission of God has to be passed on to the next generation. Until the Lord comes, the baton has to be faithfully passed on. Leaders should pass on the baton of leadership to the next generation leaders graciously.Many organizations lack leaders as the existing leaders failed to pass on the baton to the next generation.
Precepts of running the race of life
The Christian life race is not aimless or rudderless or purposeless. Paul makes self – evaluation as well as accountable to others to make sure that he is running with right motivation, purpose and according to rules. “Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man 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.” (I Cor 9;26,27) “But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders, for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain.” (Gal 2:2)
Training and preparation
An athlete has to go through rigorous training under an able coach. The race is not casual running or jogging. “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.” ( I Cor 9:25) Training is in the Word of God as it is food. (Matthew 4:4) The joy and rejoicing of heart gives strength. (Jeremiah 15:16)
A runner has the finish line as the focus. If the focus is not right, the race could be in unwanted direction. Paul focus was very right: “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:14)
‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (II Timothy 4:7) A Christian life without faith is impossible. Paul writes that the race is based on faith. The faith that convinces him would win the prize ultimately. Without faith, the race is purposeless, vague, and vanity. The writer of Hebrews challenges the believers to run with endurance. (Hebrews 12:1) The endurance is based on faith inspired by the heroes of faith in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews.
It is not enough to start the race; we have to finish the race. If we would partake of the Prize set before us, we must remember the words of Jesus: “He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” (Mat 24:13; 10:22; Mark 13:13)
Today, many Christians prefer to be in the audience seats instead of being in the sporting arena. There are more passive Christians than active Christians. They fail to understand that God has a track for them and they have to run the race on that track. We have to prepare, pursue and preserve until the end. Here is the promise: “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31) Also we should remember to pass on the batons so that the mission of God continues generation after generation.
– J.N. Manokaran