Have you ever run a marathon? I never have, and I have no desire to. Running 26.2 miles at one time has never been on my bucket list, so I was pretty surprised when my husband, Ian, told me he wanted to try to run one earlier this year. We decided we would do all we could to help him reach his goal. He printed out a schedule and made a plan to run for the next three to four months. The schedule went up on our office door for quick reference (and a constant reminder.)
Over the last several months I’ve watched him as he trains for his first marathon. He plans ahead. He misses out on things we are doing sometimes. For several months he has carved out time to run 3 or 4 days each week to train. He’s had bumps along the way, but learned from them and fixed them. He set his eyes on a date, and has worked toward that since. I had no idea how much of a time commitment this was going to be. Although the actual marathon is only 26.2 miles, he has already run almost three hundred miles just to prepare for it!
Ian has showed me three qualities he’s used as he prepares to run his marathon. His commitment, perseverance, and endurance are admirable. Webster’s Dictionary defines commitment as an agreement or pledge to do something in the future. Ian committed to doing this marathon and he has followed through. His runs were relatively short at first. “How many miles are you running today?” I’d ask. “Just four.” JUST FOUR? I couldn’t even run one! Over time he has built his endurance. His longest run to date has been eighteen miles. Endurance is the ability to withstand hardship or adversity. Another definition describes it as the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity. Webster’s dictionary actually gives an example: a marathon runner’s endurance. Wow! Ian has shown me real perseverance. He doesn’t think about the fact that he has tried this before and failed. He doesn’t think about last week when he had planned a twenty mile run and had to stop at fourteen when he realized he had developed a painful blister. He keeps his eyes on the prize. Quitting is not part of his plan.
Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14
When I read Philippians 3:14, a race always comes to mind. I picture a triumphant runner having crossed the finish line wearing the prized medal he so rightly earned. The hard work has paid off for him. It may have been challenging, but he followed through and completed his goal. The proof is around his neck.
Paul gives us great advice in Philippians. He tells us not to look back. Keep your eyes ahead toward the prize, he writes. In this case, the prize is our relationship with Jesus. The prize is eternity in heaven with our savior. The prize is no more suffering or pain or fear.
Maybe you are running a marathon! We as Christians all are! Your marathon is your life. Your printed schedule sheet is your Bible, and you practice commitment, perseverance, and endurance, too! In our Christian walk, we commit to live a life that is holy and pleasing to God. We endure in the sense that we continue to build and grow as we face trials in our lives. Mostly, we persevere. As Paul suggests, we keep our eyes on the prize. We look not for immediate earthly rewards, but for rewards in heaven where they are eternal and cannot be destroyed.
Let’s set our eyes on that prize, dear friends!