Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs,
but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!
1 Corinthians 9:24 NLT
Though I have been walking for exercise for a number of years, there was a short time when I tried running. I suppose I wasn’t thin enough because I seemed to keep shin splints almost all of the time. Even though I wore support mechanisms to relieve some of the pain, I could never heal. No sooner had the pain left than it would return. 5K’s were my races of choice. By the time the finish line came into view, I had exerted all the energy I could muster. I couldn’t have imagined having to run another mile in addition to the miles I had already run. Though I never won a race, the prizes for first, second, and third places were simple ribbons—and occasionally a small trophy.
Runners today receive medals, recognition, and perhaps money, but it wasn’t so in Paul’s day. A garland wreath was about the extent of their prize. Paul uses the race metaphor to illustrate the Christian life and talks about going the extra mile in this race. Transformed Christians and transformational churches go the extra mile for God. They do more than what is required.
Going the extra mile in the Christian race can be accomplished through several means and by adopting a few attitudes.
Strive for Success
Paul says to run in such a way that we win. We can live the basics of the Christian life—obeying the bare minimum of what we think God requires, or we can run in such a way to achieve success. God wants us to enjoy his best, but he also wants us to do our best—no leftovers
Do the Training
No one who decides they want to run or begin any exercise program does so without warm-up exercises. Failing to warm up leads to injuries—or at the very least much soreness. For us to be successful at something in life, we must do training. Just as most jobs require training, working for Christ requires the same. Training involves regularly studying God’s Word, prayer, fellowshipping with other believers, working in a local church, living out our faith each day, and taking advantage of every opportunity God gives to serve him.
Without priorities, we will not know the success we could experience. In life, it is important to set priorities; otherwise, we aimlessly wander or don’t accomplish what we could. God, family, church, and then everything else is a good place to start.
Be Willing to Change Directions as God Leads
Be open to change as God directs. It may be God’s will for you to serve in a certain capacity for a time, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have other areas of service for you. Most people are adverse to change, but if we are to run the extra mile, we need to be willing to change as God directs.
Run Only for God
Jesus constantly reprimanded the religious leaders of his day for doing their religious work for show. They wanted praise and recognition from people. We should do God’s work for God, not for a pin the church might give, or for a plaque, or because we want to impress others in the church. Our aim in serving God should be to please only him.
Be an Encourager
Has anyone ever given you so much encouragement that you wanted them to stop. We all need encouragement. The Bible tells us to encourage one another, and all the more as we sense the nearness of Christ’s return. A word of encouragement is like a breath of fresh air. Christians are in this service together, and we need to encourage one another, not be jealous or try to compete with each another.