“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
I ran a half-marathon back in April. It’s been said about long distance runs that the objective isn’t necessarily to win the race, but simply to finish it. When running a race like this, some miles may be faster; some may be slower. However fast the race is being run, the end goal remains the same: keep moving forward, don’t go backward.
After nine miles on the trail, I encountered a slight problem. I began feeling pain in my side that wasn’t preventing me from running, but required me to slow down my pace. When I look back at my splits, I find that the tenth mile was easily my slowest of the race.
However, when I scroll down to mile eleven, I see a drastic increase in my pace. My eleventh mile was nearly 50 seconds faster than my tenth. How does that happen? How does someone suddenly pick up where they left off despite being afflicted, in pain and nowhere near the finish line? It happens by straining toward what is ahead.
Straining toward the goal isn’t merely a matter of slight progress in the midst of our hectic lives, but requires a change of habit. It requires letting go of what we’ve already passed and focusing on the trials and tribulations God so passionately wants us to be prepared to face in the future. What good would it have done for me to constantly be looking over my shoulder at portions of the course I no longer need to worry about? Why should I put myself at risk of stumbling during the race for the sake of looking back at something I can no longer influence?
Continuing to hold onto what’s behind us while trying to pursue our goal ultimately prevents us from moving forward. We begin to think we’re making rapid progress without the stress of detoxing ourselves during our change of habit. We start to believe we’ve found the easy way out. In reality, we’ve found ourselves going through the routine and haven’t advanced nearly as much as we’d like to believe, if at all.
Straining isn’t fun. It’s a process. We understand there will be times where moving forward will feel easy, filled with growth and prosperity. There will also be times where we feel the strain and move through it slowly, but even in those times, there’s progress. There will be those days when we’re really slowed down, but even if we need to come to a complete halt, we don’t step backward. We’re meant to continue to look ahead to the prize which God has called us toward.
So know that if your last mile was slow, painful and felt like a trial more than a progression, remember your next mile can trend differently. It maybe even better than you anticipated. Wherever you are, keep pressing onward. The prize God has called us toward in Christ Jesus is certainly worth the straining to lay hold of it.