A number of times in his writings, Paul referred to running a race. This would have made sense to the Greek mindset that was accustomed to athletic games which included running. Paul emphasizes how important it is to keep the goal or finish line in mind. Several years ago, I ran in the Helvetia Half Marathon in Hillsboro, Oregon—thirteen point one miles. My goal was to run the race at a pace a little faster than an eight-minute mile pace, or to finish the race in under an hour and forty-five minutes. Fortunately, the race had pacers who ran with helium-filled balloons attached to them so that you could see them. Since there were so many racers, I could not get up with the eight-minute mile pacer, so I began with the eight-and-a-half-minute mile pacer. I realized that, since I was starting after the eight-minute mile pacer, if I could catch her by the end of the race, then I would have accomplished my goal and would have run under one hour and forty-five minutes. At the seven-and-a-half-mile point, I reached the highest elevation of the race and could see far ahead. That was when I saw my goal, the balloons of the eight-minute mile pacer. For the rest of the race, I kept her in my sight, running to catch up to her. At twelve and a half miles, less than a mile from the finish line, I caught and passed her. As I did, she encouraged me to keep going and finish under an hour and forty-five. I did, finishing a bit under one hour and forty-four minutes.
On the other hand, several years after I ran that half marathon, I ran in a five-kilometer race—just three point one miles. My goal was to run it under twenty minutes. When I started, I had a glitch with my watch, so I didn’t have an accurate time of when I began. When I finished, I knew I was close to twenty minutes. When the results came, I finished at twenty minutes and two seconds. Two seconds over twenty minutes, I had missed my goal. If I had a clear idea of my goal as I got close to the finish line, I believe I could have cut two or three seconds off my time. As we run the race of life, we must keep Jesus firmly in our sight, because he is our goal; otherwise, we can become distracted and miss our goal. The purpose of our life is to become like him.