If, as I noted last week, a seemingly good race can end disappointingly, it is important you evaluate your race to date. Compared to your original mandate, how far have you come? Are you on track with your goals? Are you cutting corners and neglecting the rules of the race? Have you given up the race altogether and only going through the motions? It is important you track your progress.
Writing to the Galatians, Paul queried, “You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?” (Galatians 5:7). In stronger terms, he asked “O foolish Galatians… Having begun [your race] in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:1,3). Paul, conscious of what was at stake at the end of life, did not want the believers to run their race in vain.
This was how Paul ran his race. He always evaluated. He did not get carried away with success, but rather kept on the pursuit of his high calling. He also did not allow setbacks to slow him down. He counted them all dung. He did one other thing as he pursued his mission: he checked with those who were ahead of him in the race and got both counsel and affirmation. Hear him: “I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain” (Galatians 2:2). Paul did not want to get to the finish line and find out his race had been a waste; he allowed others to speak into his life.
Jesus warned against the possibility of running in vain. He predicted that many, after gallant efforts in running their ministerial race, would not qualify for the prize. He said, “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:22,23). They ran, but ran in vain.
Activity is not always the same as productivity. Running a fast race but not in accordance with the rules will attract no reward. Starting in the Spirit and ending in the flesh is a race run in vain. Think about it.
“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith [still in the race]; test yourselves. Do you not realise that Christ Jesus is in you – unless, of course, you fail the test” (2 Corinthians 13:5). Take this as timely counsel from a master runner.
I do not want to run in vain, neither should you.