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Running the Race

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You may not know that I am a bit of a NASCAR fan. There’s just something about the competition, the speed, the risk, strategy and luck that stirs the “guy” in me. And don’t forget the horsepower! Who wouldn’t want to compete at speeds in excess of 150 mph? It surely is man’s secret ambition—at least for some!

Aside from the adrenalin rush, racing is a great picture of our life in Christ. It is no accident that the Holy Spirit chose to illustrate the Christian life by comparing it to a race (1 Cor. 9:24 and Heb. 12:1). In those days a foot, horse or chariot race was as close to NASCAR as they could get. But there are lessons we can apply to our 21st century context.

One aspect unique to auto racing is the pit stop. In less than 20 seconds, a pit crew can add fuel, change tires and get the car back in the race. Without a constant supply of fuel and replacement tires, it would be impossible for a driver to compete for the entire contest. There is an ongoing need for energy and traction—or it isn’t much of a match. If we are going to run the race as Jesus has called us, we require the same ingredients.

The first chapter of Colossians has motivated and instructed me since I accepted Christ as my Savior nearly 50 years ago. At the end of that section, the apostle Paul talks about the race and our energy source: “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone complete in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me” (Col. 1:28–29, italics added). It is the filling and power of the Holy Spirit that provides our fuel for our life and ministry! Apart from His energy, we can’t stand, and we certainly can’t serve. Like Jesus said, “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

The filling of the Holy Spirit is so important that Paul exhorts us to “be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). Those who are familiar with the Greek language tell us that this phrase can be translated “be continuously filled.” In other words, frequent pit stops to receive fuel from the Holy Spirit are essential if we are going to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Heb. 12:1).

Horsepower without traction will never win a race—and can result in disaster. The Word of God provides the sure-footed grip that is so vital for us as we run our race. King David understood the significance of God’s Word in our lives when he wrote about the righteous person: “The law of his God is in his heart; his feet do not slip” (Psalm 37:31). He also linked the Lord’s blessing and purity of life to God’s Word: “Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord” (119:1).

Again, in Colossians, Paul exhorted Christians to “[l]et the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (3:16) and to let it impact all that we say and do. Since we live in an age with a scarcity of absolutes, it is reassuring to know that we can go to God’s Word and find direction and stability for our lives.

God’s Word provides the nutrients necessary for maturity in Christ. Peter said, “like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation” (1 Peter 2:2, italics added). In the same chapter he connects obedience to Scripture to stability, for “they stumble because they disobey the message” (v. 8). The Word of God provides the traction we need, energized by the Holy Spirit, to run the race. I am competing in a race. It isn’t NASCAR, but it is much more important. I’m running a marathon in which eternity is involved. I am committed to helping every person I connect with grow toward completeness in Christ (Col. 1:28–29). In the days ahead, you’ll be hearing more from me about the race. There is more involved than these two elements, but, starting here, we can enhance our walk as we grow deeper in our Lord. Will you join me in living a life fueled by the Holy Spirit and guided by the Word of God?

  • Lost people matter to God. He wants them found. Luke 19:10
  • Prayer is the primary work of God’s people. Philippians 4:6–7
  • Everything we have belongs to God. We are His stewards. 1 Chronicles 29:14
  • Knowing and obeying God’s Word is fundamental to all true success. Joshua 1:8
  • Completing the Great Commission will require the mobilization of every fully devoted disciple. Matthew 28:19
  • Without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, we can accomplish nothing. 1 Corinthians 2:4–5
  • Achieving God’s purposes means taking faith-filled risks. This always involves change. Hebrews 11:6

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