How Much In The Tank?

  • Randy Karlberg

When you read a title such as this, especially during our current economic challenges, you are most likely thinking of something related to petroleum products.  That is not at all what I was referring to.  I have had the pleasure of watching more cross-country running races through the years than I can count.  At most races I stand amazed at those gifted runners who complete the course in such an efficient manner that it seems they just glide across the trails.  But there is another type of runner who stands out to me at most races.  This is the runner who is well back of the pack, laboring along in an obvious energy conserving mode.  They are making it obvious to all in attendance that they are not enjoying themselves,  but something startling happens when they see the finish line.  They immediately kick it into high gear.  It is as if they now see the final target and are either so excited to get there and be done, or they know they are going to have enough energy to finish fast and so they sprint to the finish with all they have.  It does not take a seasoned Athletic Trainer to realize that they did not run to their fastest potential and that is why they are able to accelerate so significantly.  They needed to pick up their pace much earlier in the race in order to finish with their best possible time for that day.  

As I ponder this approach to running, I am reminded of how common it is for people to run their life in the same manner.  You see, many people live their lives with no thought as to the brevity of life.  Many times there has to be a significant incident that occurs in their life before they will have the intestinal fortitude to finish the race with everything they have got.  Many people just cruise along in life with no concern for the finish line.  But, if someone has the unfortunate reality of let’s say a doctor telling them they only have months to live, they will push hard for every extra minute of life to be lived to its fullest extent.  And who would blame them?  We all would want to get the most out of the time we have left.  

Well, they say that “Life is a marathon, not a sprint.”  The key to living life to its fullest is pacing or margins.  If we live life hard and just go for it, we may end up collapsing before the finish line.  Yet we have already discussed the all too familiar wait until we see the finish line to really start living.  So, the key is living life in the middle of these two.  Margins help a person to not tire out before the time comes, yet the key to not becoming distracted with a life of regret for wasted time is to have an eternal perspective.  As believers in Jesus Christ, we know that we will have all of eternity to enjoy with our Savior. However, we are told that we must run hard for the goal because our time on this earth to accomplish eternal business is fleeting. I think this is what Paul was thinking about when he used this very example of running in I Corinthians 9:24-27.  “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize?  So run that you may obtain it.  Every athlete exercises self-control in all things.  They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  So I do not run aimlessly: I do not box as one beating the air.  But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified..”  

Paul shows us that pace and margins are critical to manage in living life. He compels us to run the race as to win the prize!  That is referring to living a righteous life. But he is also talking about living a life that sees the eternal picture and realizes we have Kingdom work to do!  It is living our lives by being dependent on God.  When we surrender our lives to Him, we can rest and run in the assurance that God is in control and He has planned righteous works for us to do while He allows us to live on this earth (Ephesians 2:10).  In my mind the key is taking thoughtful time with the Lord asking that He show us how He would have us live our lives.  He promises that His “yoke is easy and His burden is light” (Matthew 11).  His ways are what is best for us. We need to be obedient to walk in His ways. 

So are you more consumed with your priorities or God’s?  Are you asking God to bless the plans that you have for your life?  Are you just taking it easy because you know you are saved and just biding your time?  None of these are living our lives the way God would have us.  We need to run for the eternal prize!  We only have one life to live.  Don’t wait until the finish line is staring you right in the face to live a life that is pleasing to the Lord.  Let’s Run!!