Life has often been compared to a race. Paul in 2 Timothy 4:7 makes this comparison, saying “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” One participating in a race may feel the minutes drag on, as their legs pound and their chests heave. That person may not be able to see the finish line—or even the next turn in the course. Yet, before he or she knows it, the feat is accomplished. No matter how much the runner may or may not have struggled, in the scope of the rest of that person’s life, even of that very day, the race was over very quickly. The finish line was crossed, post-race refreshments were there to satisfy hunger and thirst, and the sweat was washed away. Life soon turned again to normalcy, and what may have seemed long in the moment became an almost inconsequential memory as the person returned to “real life.”
Similarly, where we stand, work, and play here on this earth is only temporary. We are limited by the boundaries of time and our own unavoidable mortality. All things pass away; “all go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again” (Ecclesiastes 3:20). Time slips by and the finish line of our life is ever approaching. We may not see it, we may not know how close it truly is, or we may not be consciously thinking about it. We don’t know in certainty the length of the course God has laid out for us. What we do know is that, despite what success we may or may not have in life, despite advancements in science, or despite how healthy we may be, the finish line that God has in His plan for our life will never cease to approach nearer.
As spiritual runners then we need constantly to remember our end goal and press toward it. What we do on this earth, or what we seek after might be good and honorable, but if those things are end goals of themselves, they are empty and our sights are too low. The things of this earth last only as long as our flesh still lives and breathes here. Without having the goal of the finish line, the course we run has no point, and there is no real purpose or motivation.
We follow the course laid out for us, for that is the way of our salvation and hope. We each have our own course that we follow that God has planned specifically for us, but every member of the body of Christ has the same end goal. The whole duty of man is to fear God and keep His commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13), and we know that all things work unto good for the church (Romans 8:28). This life is not for our personal happiness or comfort. It isn’t about all the shops, sights, or refreshments along the course, or the distractions that might tempt us to leave the course altogether. It is our temporary existence in this life wherein we may work for the growth of the church in the process of sharing the Word and (personally) in having what covenant children the Lord chooses to bless us with. This life is how God leaves the wicked without excuse (Romans 1:20; Ecclesiastes 12:14). Our life is a time in which we can glorify our Lord and grow in our relationships both with our Father and with our brothers and sisters with whom we claim to associate ourselves and desire to spend eternity in fellowship. This course is the important path which leads up to a glorious end.
Satan tries to distract us in this race. He entices us. We cannot in fullness see our finish line, so he shows us tangible things along the course. He takes things that may help us on the course or that may give us strength in our running and uses them to hinder us. He makes us busy. He tells us to dwell on the course and the things that it may provide. He caters to our weaknesses and distracts us from the mark we press toward. He tries to divert our attention and turn us away from the way that we should be going.
Yet we have a God who picks us up when we slip, and gives us help that we may press on. He nourishes us with His Word and with His promises so that we do not faint. When we wander, He draws us close to Him again. He is merciful to us, that in the end we may repeat, “The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh Him” (Lamentations 3:25).