More than ever, I am convinced that it takes strong grace-wrought determination, discipline and dedication to stay the course as a follower of Christ. I've spent far too much time dealing with the sinful fallout of well-intentioned lovers of God who stopped running with intention to believe otherwise. I'm convinced that any labeling of this work as a legalistic promotion is a message that's as destructive as its ancestor that promoted this work as a source of righteousness.
Christ alone is our righteousness. He lived the perfect life that we could never live, and because of Him we can boldly approach God who can tolerate no sin. But it's through Christ that we are given holy determination to rest in His finished work; and holy discipline to look away from ourselves and look to Him; and holy dedication to run in the power of the Cross where we find grace to die so that He can live through us.
If we're a Christian, we have a spiritual race to run that nobody on this earth can run for us. It's a rugged race of endurance that will sometimes have us growing faint and faltering with faithless fear. But when we do, this verse of comfort can be permanently engraved upon our heart:
My desire to stay the course and finish strong has motivated me to establish the following three race rules to rule my run. Without intentionally following them, I know myself enough to know I will take detours that lead me where I have no desire to go:
Rule #1: No Fleshly Paths
The world tells me to follow my heart, but it's horrible advice because my heart makes a terrible shepherd. It pumps with too much prideful passion to keep itself emptied in humble need before the One who poured out His own heart to save my own. My heart betrays me too much to trust it, often whispering the lie that I deserve happiness and that I shouldn't be denied what would bring that happiness.
I don't ignore my heart, rather I listen to it very carefully and thoughtfully. Not to follow it, but to counsel it with Truth. If I follow it instead of counsel it, it will lead me down fleshly paths that justify sinful desire with such sophistication that I'll find myself jumping barriers that can jade even my strongest righteous conviction. If I follow it instead of counsel it, it will lead me down paths of pleasure whose certain end is pain and sorrow.
Rule #2: No False Paths
The Word tells me that "the integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity." (Prov 11:3) If I am to stay on course, I have to be courageous enough to deny running down any path that isn't paved with honesty and sincerity. I can't consent to go places that don't humbly deal with life realistically, that don't humbly honor truth rightly, and don't humbly communicate responsibly. And I can't consent to go down any path of pretense that ignites my prideful protection.
This is my race to run and it's my responsibility to stay on a course of integrity. I am not a helpless victim who is powerless to control where she is led. If I veer off course, it's my fault alone. Nothing will get me in trouble faster than thinking I'm not strong enough in Christ to stay the course without a highly-favored running partner by my side, no matter how much I like them or love them. My spouse, family members and close friends are gifts of grace, many of whom make loyal running mates. But if they lead me off course, regardless of the reason or the relationship, I have to remain confident I'm empowered to run without them.
Rule #3: No Frivolous Paths
In The Denial of Death Ernest Becker writes:
The inevitability of death that confronts every mortal soul creates a rumble of panic that I want to feel with every fiber of my being. That means I have to refuse running down superficial paths paved with the frivolous distractions of this world. I want to feel the earth shaking beneath my feet, every tremor propelling me forward on a course of gospel advance. Souls are perishing, and I don't want to waste my life indulging in pleasures that have me running off course in pursuit of myself instead of Christ. That means I have to be willing to say no not just to sinful things, but also to good things that aren't good for me in faciliating gospel endurance.
So with my earbuds firmly inserted, I listen to the prompting and conviction of the Holy Spirit. And by grace alone, I respond in humble obedience to His guidance as I run for the glory of God. I'm a runner with no bragging rights. I'm emotionally wild and physically wimpy enough to be continually nursing injury. But I'm wholly dependent on a Great Physician who is powerfully fit and faithful, and He has promised to take me joyfully to the finish.
May God grant us ongoing desire to be determined, disciplined and dedicated runners!