I enjoy running and I was recently asked my thoughts on running on a treadmill vs. running outside. There are benefits to both. When I run on a treadmill, I am constantly moving but making no visible progress yet I can run at a faster, more consistent pace, while running outside is much more freeing and enjoyable to me. I was contemplating that thought this morning during my run and thought of the comparisons to our Christian life.
So often we hear about the Christian race and we determine on our own to run the race to the best of our ability. We quickly memorize a checklist of things we need to do to run a successful race and begin implementing it in our unfulfilled life. When considering those things, we realize that the list is long: read and memorize your Bible, go to church every time the doors are open, hand out Gospel tracts, go knock on doors, help in the bus ministry, teach Sunday school, give your tithe generally, ensure that you don't sin. We find ourselves running on a treadmill, constantly running, but never going anywhere.
If we take the idea further we can envision Christ standing by our side handing us the new running clothes of His righteousness, but we lay it carefully to the side. Often we are afraid of soiling it as we run, so we trade the new clothing for our own stain covered righteousness On the screen of our treadmill we see the list of do's and don'ts and the pace we are forced to run. We try adjusting speed but end up running ourselves ragged because we just don't measure up. The running of this race is overwhelming, disheartening and exhausting.
Through a large picture window we are confused as we see other Christians running their races, because it seems like they are enjoying the race. We wonder, "What am I doing wrong?" Anxiously we check our list on our treadmill, then run to Christ confessing all the sins that we can think of that have been committed, and vow to run better on our treadmill. He sadly smiles beckoning, "My child, I love you just as you are. Come run with me."
Blinded by our need to do better, we increase the pace on our treadmill. We beginning to check off the list on our treadmill. We ensure we have followed the checklist regarding our dress, then our music, then what we read, then what we watch, then our friends. As the list becomes longer we become more and more proud. As we run, we begin to look down on those who have not completed as much on their list. We are filled with pride in our success in following the list when we see those running outside with complete freedom. But still, the race is overwhelming, still something is not right, we look at ourselves in the mirror and still the hopelessness-we can't seem to get it right.
Suddenly we trip and fall to the ground. Immediately, our Savior is there gently picking us up and once again pleading, "Come unto me, put on my righteousness and run with me."
Confused we dust ourselves off as we wearily climbing back on the treadmill. "If I just read my Bible more, memorize more, pray more, give more-then I will be worthy."
He replies, "Come child, I love you, let me teach you to run."
Stubbornly we grab the handles of the treadmill, "I know how to run. I need to be worthy, I have to do more, if I just determine to do more I can do it."
As a loving Father, He watches our feeble attempts to run the race. He holds in his nail-pierced hands the freely-offered garments of His righteousness.
Finally, exhausted we step off the treadmill. Our Savior hands us His righteousness asking, "Are you ready now?"
Our reply, "No, but I can't do what I am doing any more."
With a smile He replies, "My grace is sufficient, my strength is made perfect in your weakness. Now put on my righteousness."
As we trade the old for the new, we revel in the feel of it, we wonder why did we wait so long to put it on? We spot our reflect in the mirror, we are hardly recognizable.
He takes our hand, "Come run with me." Tentatively we step out temporarily blinded by the beauty of it all. Again he beckons, "Come run with me."
Fearfully we take a step back, "But Lord, what if I soil your garments with sin?"
"My child, my righteousness cannot be soiled."
"But Lord, what if I don't take the right path."
His tender reply, "My child, I will direct your path."
"But Lord, what if...."
"My child, come, I will never leave you, nothing will be able to separate us, take my hand and let's go."
Cautiously we begin the run, the doubts still overwhelming us. The first step is hard, the second is a little easier, the third even easier, suddenly we begin to enjoy running for the first time, as the doubts begin to fade. For the first time, reading His Word becomes a pleasure, praying becomes like talking to your best friend, attending church becomes a time of utter enjoyment, telling others about what He has done is no longer an obligation. Puzzled we ask, "What happened?"
His reply, "Love! All I have ever asked of you is that you love me and love others."
"But what about before, I did all the right things I never seemed to get it right, but now I love doing those things."
"My child, when you love me, everything else just falls into place, let's keep running. You have much more to learn."
As we keep running at a steady pace, the run is now utter joy, it's free, it's invigorating, it's indescribable! Suddenly, the path ahead takes an unexpected turn, it looks dark, we stop in fear. "Lord, I can't do it, I can't see the path."
"Child, my Word will light your way, plus-look behind you."
Confused we turn towards the path behind us; we are surprised by the sight. The path had been tough, the path had been covered by rocks, thorns, and weeds, it had been a difficult path all along. "Lord, how did I make it through?"
"My grace. My grace will see you through the path ahead."
Again we take His hand and we run the race. The path may be difficult, the run may be hard, but running with the Savior instead of for the Savior has made all the difference.