“Life is a marathon, not a sprint.” Phillip C. McGraw.
Yes, life is like running in a marathon: it is lengthy and difficult and requires a lot of preparation and endurance. But comparison is the thief of joy. While running, you will be tempted to look around and see how you are measuring up to others. Don’t do it! Run your own race.
I started sowing seeds of comparison my first day of kindergarten. I was supposed to know how to cut with scissors, but I had never stepped foot into a school until that day. As I my fingers fumbled with the silver contraption, I looked around and every kid at my table knew how to cut a line through the bright colored paper. What did I do? Sat there and cried.
From that point on I always felt like I was falling behind and never measuring up.
When we don’t feel like we measure up, the problem is that we think we should be running someone else’s race rather than our own. When we think we should be running like someone else, we lose our focus and forget where we are heading. We also lose our joy and authenticity.
I love watching Olympic races because the focus of the runners is so intense. Never do I see a runner looking behind to see where they measure up in the race. Never do I see a runner become distracted and look to the left or right when they are being passed by another runner. Each of their faces are set like flint, looking straight ahead. They are running the best race they can run.
Hebrews 12:1-2 tells me that that the Christian life is like a race. This race is marked out for each of us, and there is only one focus as you run.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
The way to run your own race is to fix your eyes on Jesus. Not on everyone else. As soon as we look at how everyone else is racing, it makes us stumble.
Here are some thoughts that might accompany being distracted by everyone around us:
“Wow look at how easy that person accomplished that goal in their life! I’ve been working on it for years.”
“By this age, I should be married and have a child already.”
“These Facebook posts are all about the wonderful vacations and adventures people are having. I’m missing out.”
“Why did he get that promotion? I think I’m more deserving of it.”
“My friends took 4 years to graduate from college. I’m on the 10-year plan.”
“My friend so freely talks to people. I wish I was an extrovert rather than an introvert.”
Who says you need to graduate in 4 years? Who says taking exotic vacations is a requirement in life? Who says you need to have a child in your 20’s? Who says you need to be an extrovert?
No one says except you.
Now let’s get back to Jesus. How do we fix our eyes on Jesus? First, we need to understand why we are to fix our eyes on Him.
Hebrews 12:2 says that Jesus is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. A pioneer is a person who is among those who first enter or settle a region, thus opening it for occupation. Jesus walked on this earth, trained up his disciples, endured the cross to pay the price for our sins, raised from the dead and now sits at the right hand of the father in heaven. Because of Jesus, heaven is now open for occupation.
The end goal of my life is being in heaven with a holy God. To be freed from my sin once and for all. Hebrews 12:1 says that we are to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” When my eyes are not fixed on Jesus, I’m sure to compare myself to others and this always leads to the sin of envy and discontent.
After Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to his disciples, he needed to have a little chat with Peter who denied him 3 times while Jesus was being taken to the cross. In John 21:20, this is what Peter said to Jesus after Jesus said, “Follow me!”
Peter turned and saw that the disciple who Jesus loved was following them. When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”
So, there you have it. Jesus is telling us, “What is that to you?” You must follow me.
Jesus had individual plans for Peter and John (the disciple referred to as the one Jesus loved). Same with us. We all have a race marked out for us. Are we willing to run within its parameters? Are we happy with the parameters God has set for us? Understand the parameters of your race and fix your eyes on Jesus. Run your own race. You’ll find joy in doing so.