The race. For some, it comes naturally. For others, it’s an activity of anxious butterflies and labored efforts. On this day, I watched my five-year old slump down just a little lower, and frown just a little sadder, every time an award was announced and he was not the recipient. This high level academic achiever was full of speed and talent, but wasn’t really a child that had the ‘fight’ to win. As he sat in the grass with his team, he realized that he had not done anything exceptional enough to be recognized, and he was very discouraged.
So how can we confront these very real feelings of disappointment? Well, his teacher, the illustrious Mrs. VanderArk had already prepared the way for just such an occasion. Not surprising, this woman of God always seems to have this innate sense of what her students need to be prepared and to grow. She had talked to the students about how all of them are talented in different ways, and that it’s a wonderful thing to be able to support our friends gifts and abilities, as well as our own.
So I would like to dig into that a little deeper. Because all gifts/talents come from God, how can we apply that knowledge to how we run our race:
- One, we should give all our talents and gifts to the Lord and do our best, but what happens when our best doesn’t mean we win First Place in the 100m dash? Well, smile, shake the hand of the winner and congratulate them on a great race, and then remember…God gave you talents too and it’s ok that you aren’t the fastest runner, you may be the best listener and friend anyone could ever hope for.
- Two, know who you are in Christ and celebrate excellence in others. We are one body. God put us all together, because together, we accomplish much more than we ever could alone. As Pastor Sam Rijfkogel, of Grand Rapids First Church, once said, “I have never received a blessing that didn’t have a person attached to it.” It’s a sensational thought. We literally are His Hands and His feet. We have no reason to feel jealous of others successes. God made each of us in a way that suits His purposes, and His ways are always right and always good. Rejoice with those who rejoice. They will be the ones ready to lift you up when your moments of achievement come.
If we know that running the race is important, then what might be some reasons for why we might not “give it our all”? What does God promise us in His Word that might coach us on to a more successful race?
- Fear of failure
“He who leans on, trusts in, and is confident of his own mind and heart is a self-confident fool, but he who walks in skillful and godly Wisdom shall be delivered.” Proverbs 28:26
“If any of you is deficient in wisdom, let him ask of the giving God (Who gives) to everyone liberally and ungrudgingly, without reproaching or faultfinding, and it will be given him.” James 1:5
“And let us not lose heart and grow weary and faint in acting nobly and doing right, for in due time and at the appointed season we shall reap, if we do not loosen and relax our courage and faint.” Galatians 6:9
- Lack of Faith
“Fear not (there is nothing to fear), for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My (victorious) right hand of rightness and justice.” Isaiah 41:10
So what races are we running anyway? The biggest and most important race we will ever run is that one that determines our eternal home. Guess what? If we accept the free gift of salvation, then we are already victorious. God took care of that one. That’s like beginning the race with a trainer, physical therapist, a Coach, and a gold medal! Nice, right?!?!
What other races are we running? Well Christ instructed us to preach the gospel to all nations, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and minds, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. “Therefore I am ready to persevere and stand my ground with patience and endure everything for the sake of the elect (God’s chosen), so that they too may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus, with the reward of eternal glory.” 2 Timothy 2:10 The eternal home of others ought to be our goal, it ought to be everything that we train for and pursue in this race we are running.
How can we stay inspired?
Remember this, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run your race that you may lay hold of the prize and make it yours.” 1 Corinthians 9:24