When I was a freshman in college I joined the long distance cross-country track team. Now, I can just imagine what you might be thinking. Wow, Barb, must be really athletic if she was in cross country in college. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I joined the track team because I was a nice person, not an athletic person. Let me backtrack a bit. During the fall of my freshman year I made the mistake of taking a lifesaving course. The reason I say it was a mistake is because the teacher of the lifesaving course was also the coach of the cross country team. And that team only had four members on it. They needed five to compete. (Can you see where this is going?)
I had a terrible time saying no in those days, so when the coach asked me to join the team, I thought, “How bad could it be? It’s just a couple of months, and I do kind of like to run (emphasis on the kind of).” So I joined the team.
What I discovered was that when I had to get up at 5 a.m. (thank you, coach) and drive twenty miles out of town to find some hills to run three days a week—and then run for more than twenty minutes at a stretch once I got there—I no longer liked to run. But I felt too guilty to quit the team—because if I left, they wouldn’t have a team.
The races were even worse than the practices. I didn’t have a competitive bone in my body when it came to sports, and I always came in last. I just didn’t care enough about the goal of winning to work that hard at running. Instead my focus was on “Why am I running? This is so not fun. I can’t believe I’m doing this.” And that attitude got me last place every single time.
It occurs to me now that my walk with God is much like those races I used to run. If I keep my focus on what I’m giving up for God (I can’t believe I have to suffer like this), I’ll have a bad attitude—and I won’t do well in the race.
But if I keep my focus on God Himself, the Prize at the end of the race—I’ll do much better. Those hardships along the way won’t seem like such a big deal anymore, because God is worth the sacrifice.
This is true in every step of my Christian walk—whether it’s working on the sin in my life when it would be so much easier not to, doing what God has called me to do when I don’t necessarily enjoy it, or even continuing to press on when I see others dropping out of the race—if I keep my focus on who God is and why I’m doing what I’m doing, I’ll have a better attitude. And I’ll be far more likely to run the race victoriously.
The incredible thing about God is that He runs the race with me. He not only runs alongside me, offering encouraging words and help when I need it, He also stands at the finish line, cheering me on, eager to put His arms around me and shout, “Well done, good and faithful servant!!!”
When He’s my focus, I’m not only willing to suffer for Him—I’m eager to suffer for Him. I just need to keep my eyes on Him.
In my next post, I’ll look at this whole idea in the context of emotional eating.