God Gives Strength to Run the Race
by Patricia Backora
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Christians often grow weary of the long race of life, with its many twists and turns and uphill battles. It’s been a long, hard battle with satan and the forces of darkness to stay on the top where we, as Christians, belong. So many Christians are in their later years, and God sees their long lifetime of good service, some of which that person may have forgotten about, though He certainly hasn’t. If you’ve lived your life for Christ, you can rest assured there is a trophy laid up for you in heaven as your reward.
A spirited race horse dances with delight at the outset of the cross-country race, eager for the gun to go off so he can start running. At last the beast lunges forward, its long legs stretching way ahead of the jockey and far behind him. All the pent-up strength of the horse’s youth propels it forward, up the winding trail.
Minutes pass. The horse would love to stop and nibble at a bush of sweet clover but the jockey urges it on because they have not yet reached the goal, and other horses are pulling ahead. Yet the wise jockey does not force the horse to go the whole journey at full speed because the animal will soon tire and need to recoup its strength by going at a reduced pace. He allows the animal to slow enough to find its own pace and recharge its batteries for the finish. The jockey realizes that consistency is even more important than big bursts of speed. The horse on the left is nearly depleted because the animal used up all its energy speeding up a hill instead of reserving part of its energy for the long haul.
A gurgling brook lay just ahead. The merciful jockey realizes that the health of his horse must come first. He allows the horse to briefly pause for a refreshing drink while the jockey on the left yanks at his own horse’s reins and forces him onward. Once the horse is satisfied, he breaks into a fast gallop and makes up for lost time. The horse on the left is struggling because his muscles are dehydrated and his throat is parched. He only runs because he’s being beaten.
Although the first horse has paused for refreshment, it takes much stamina to navigate through the rough countryside, with its brambly bushes and stony pathways. Out the corner of his eye the jockey sees other contenders cutting corners to cheat so they’ll come in first. One jockey steers his steed up a sandy slope which enables him to bypass a twisting, winding section of the race course. “No!” the jockey shouts. “Don’t come that way! It’s too dangerous!”
The other jockey curses at him and forces his horse on up the treacherous hill. Their maneuver brings a landslide of rocks down the unstable hillside. The terrified horse’s hoofs slide back in the unstable sand. The animal rolls over to dodge the falling rocks. The man who broke the rules to run a quicker, easier race is unable to continue.
High atop the craggy hill the jockey sees the cheering crowd below and the wide gold ribbon marking the finish line. “I know it’s a long shot,” the wise jockey whispers to his tired horse. “I know you’re all worn out and scratched up, but there’s the finish line down below. C’mon, boy, I know you can do it.”
Inspired by the love and trust of his jockey, the magnificent beast gets his second wind. His rippling muscles spring into action. In one supercharged burst of energy, the animal bounds over the last half mile of the course as if there were wings on his hooves. His magnificent mane blows in the wind, his nostrils flare, drawing in the breath of freedom which fires his roaring engine to work at maximum capacity to reach the finish line and win the coveted prize of victory.
Once the horse and rider are surrounded by the cheers of the adoring crowd they forget the pain and weariness of the long course. Once the excitement dies down the jockey is told that several had to drop out of the race because they ran into disaster after they disobeyed the posted warnings against taking shortcuts through dangerous territory. One rider’s horse got bit by a snake in a muddy swamp. Several horses got lamed when their hooves got entangled in a network of thorny blackberry vines along some forbidden byway. Other horses slid backward on the sandy slope, throwing their riders into the shifting sand. They all had to drop out of the race.
The hardworking, loyal horse is garlanded with a wreath of sweet-smelling, thornless roses. Both horse and rider are honored with a gold cup. With a deep sense of humility the jockey realizes it wasn’t just the speed of his horse that brought him victory but running a clean race with an honest heart full of fervent love and dedication.
Dear reader, if you feel like you’re barely going at a snail’s pace and barely getting anywhere, do not be discouraged. God is not a cruel slave driver. He provides springs of refreshing throughout this early pilgrimage. God doesn’t get mad at you for getting tired and slowing down to recover from the bruises of your battles. You’re regathering your strength for the last stretch of the long race. Once you catch sight of the prize just ahead you’ll fly like the wings of the wind and God will bring you safely home.
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