Running. Running is one of those things that a lot of people have strong feelings about: either you hate running or you love running.
Before I got married, I was the kind of person that absolutely hated running. Every time I would try to run, it wouldn’t last very long. My motto when it came to running was this: I will run either towards something that is food or away from something that thinks I’m food.
But then I got married to someone who was athletic. So Jess said pretty soon after we got married, “We should run a half marathon!” And I said, “I love you. Yes!”
Our first run was a timed interval run. We would jog for 1 minute and then walk 3 minutes for a half hour— that’s it! That’s all we had to do! We got done. I went upstairs, turned on the shower to 0 Kelvin and slumped into the shower as if I were going to go home to meet Jesus. I was severely out of shape. But I was out of shape because I had never been in shape. I had never really run with any amount of seriousness before. And you would be right if you thought that I still hated running that first time.
Fast forward to the next summer though, and Jess and I are awake by 5 in the morning to go on a 12-mile run before church on Sunday. We ran 8 miles straight without walking. I love to run. So what happened? How did I go from hating to run to loving to run? More importantly, how do we go from looking at chasing Jesus as a chore to not wanting to do anything else?
Why do you run?
First, if I was going to run at all, I needed to know why I was running. Running has a lot of health benefits: it strengthens muscles, it improves cardiovascular fitness, it helps to maintain a healthy weight, it helps with overall mood and happiness, keeps you sharper in your old age, reduces the risk of cancer, and increases your lifespan. So even though I hated the actual activity, the pros of running outweighed the cons.
If you’re going to run after Jesus, it helps to know why you’re running after him. If you’ve never asked yourself why you’re running after him, I’d encourage you to ask yourself why today. Here’s why most people run after Jesus: if you will not run after Jesus, when you die the Righteous Judge will give you what your actions deserve. You will be punished forever in hell. That’s why most people run after Jesus, because the consequences of not running after Jesus are too great. So, we ask Jesus to come into our heart and then we start living good lives out of some vague sense of gratitude to God for saving us.
We might run, but we still don’t like it
But we still hate running. In fact, we see heaven as a place where we get to stop running. And some of you are at a point where you hate how you feel like you’ll never run the way God wants you to. You feel like God is never happy with you. You feel like you’ve traded in your slavery to sin for slavery to God. There’s still no freedom.
If that’s you, I encourage you to start running after Jesus for different reasons. The reason you started, like avoiding hell, isn’t the reason you have to keep. The reason many of us used to do our homework was to please our parents or to get into a good college or because we’re legally obligated to go to school as kids. But along the way, some of us discovered a subject that we loved. Maybe we didn’t love it at first, but eventually we began to love it. Maybe it’s chemistry, or poetry, history, or math, art, literature, geometry. We didn’t do that homework because we had to, but because we wanted to.
A love of running
For me, running was extremely difficult at first. I may have started doing it to avoid unhealthiness. But eventually, being with my wife on every run made it worth it. We may find running after Jesus difficult at first. We may start doing it because we just want to avoid hell. But eventually, being with Jesus makes all the difficulty worth it. Eventually we need to look at coming to church, reading our Bibles, praying, and serving the community not as a way that we can earn gold stars or get candy or earn God’s love but as a way of just being with Jesus.
We should chase Jesus just because we love him, not because we owe God. We should chase Jesus because we love him, not because we need to earn God’s love. You can’t. God can never love you more than he does right now. God will never love you less.
So whether or not you’re chasing him for the best of reasons right now. Let’s keep chasing him. Let’s keep chasing him in the hope that God will change our hearts so that we love running after Jesus. Let’s chase him because of his love for us; let’s chase him because we love to be with him.
“…let us run with endurance the race set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…” Hebrews 12:1b–2a