by Cliff Pace, Senior Pastor

I am a runner, and though I'm not a good one or a fast one, I do enjoy it. Some people may actually call what I do a "slow jog," but whatever you want to call what I do, it does involve some physical movement. 

It was actually a few years ago that I started running as a hobby. After a routine physical exam, the doctors informed me that my physical diagnostics weren’t trending the right direction. So I bought a pair of shoes and started running. Since that time I have competed in (or rather participated in) several half marathons, one sprint triathlon, and 2016 will be my third consecutive St. Jude Marathon.

There are certain things you can expect if you ever decide to participate in a half or full marathon. One of the most exhilarating  parts of a race are the spectators--people who line the road to cheer you on. Maybe they’re family members, friends, or even strangers. Some of them probably enjoy running themselves, but regardless of who they are, they are there, watching, cheering, waiting. They are present at the start and finish line, standing on the side of the road, and they make running and finishing a truly exciting experience.

Another aspect of a running a marathon is equipment. If you are going to run long distances, you need the right equipment: shoes that fit and support your running style and clothes that wick away moisture. I have discovered that moisture and hydration are not the same thing! A runner wants hydration, but moisture and friction are not your friends. Having the right equipment is essential to running a good race, not to mention finishing!

Something else you need if you are going to run is endurance. Physical stamina is necessary, but so is having the right attitude. The first time I ran the St Jude marathon I didn’t know what to expect, and if I had, I probably never would have attempted it in the first place! But as they say, "Ignorance is bliss."  Needless to say, I made several mistakes that day; I got caught up in the euphoria of the race, I didn’t pace myself, and I didn’t prepare myself physically or emotionally for what I was about to go through. I have learned since then that marathon endurance is as much about thinking right as it is running right.

And then everyone needs an example to follow or to imitate. I have many motivations for running the St Jude marathon. For one, I believe in what St. Jude does. It is truly an amazing organization founded by Danny Thomas many years ago, and it has been rewarding to know some of the children who receive cancer treatment from St. Jude. They are my friends and children of friends. To fundraise by running so that they will never have to pay one bill for treatment is the least I can do. Secondly, I love a challenge. My motto is, "I’ll try anything once."  I know I will never win the St. Jude marathon because God didn’t design me to run fast. I accept that, but finishing for me is a win, and finishing with a better time every year will always be my challenge. To do that, I follow the examples who have run before me.

I don’t think it was an accident that the author of the book of Hebrews compared the life of faith to that of a race. He writes,

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."  - Hebrews 12:1–2

Do you see the comparison? The spectators, the equipment, the endurance we need, and the example we have in Christ--all the things we need to finish this race of faith. Jesus, however, is not just our example; He also is the one who gives us the endurance to finish this race. 

You may never run a marathon, but this race--this life--is yours. Only you can run it, and only you can finish it. So as you run, take it all in, but look to Jesus who is the author and the perfecter of our faith.