If Paul were living today he would probably have written about the ultra-marathons and long distance trail-running races popular today.
Paul spoke about running a victorious race in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. He encouraged each of us to set our focus on attaining the heavenly crown of victory. This involves not only our deeds but the attributes of our character. Running a race in order to achieve the heavenly crown demands that we have a spirit of perseverance and self-sacrifice that goes far beyond what is needed when competing for worldly prizes.
The spiritual race is one we all can win. Through God’s grace we can persevere and achieve victory. Let’s examine part of Isaac’s race as an example.
Isaac was the son of promise, yet this did not mean that his life would be easy. In Genesis 26 we read that, after his father’s death, Isaac encountered many external challenges in his “race.” In his heart he still had peace and confidence in God’s promises. This is evidenced by the way in which he reacted to the conflict and rejection that he experienced. Isaac was a farmer working his fields near the area known today as Gaza. His irrigation would have been from wells that were dug by him and his workers. Once the well was dug, water would be carried in buckets from the well.
The Lord blessed Isaac so much that due to his great wealth the Philistines became jealous and blocked his wells. Finally, fearful of Isaac’s power, Abimelech, king of the Philistines asked him to leave (Genesis 26:12-32) the area. So Isaac moved on, several times persevering by digging a new well only for there to be a yet another dispute that, in turn, caused him to go to another place. Without water it would be impossible for Isaac to sustain his household and flocks.
This cycle of moving to a new location, digging and finding water only to have it blocked by others, repeated itself a third time according to my understanding of the Hebrew text. The fourth time Isaac dug a well the situation changed. What we see is that eventually, after being rejected by Abimelech and the Philistines several times in places where he found resources, the last time the situation was different. It seems they finally recognized that he wasn’t going to give up.
It’s not simple to find resources in the desert, and it demands much labor. Isaac’s perseverance and faith in God’s promise ultimately brought him victory. Then Abimelech came to Isaac saying, “I see the Lord is with you” and made a covenant with him.
We as believers are called to keep on keeping on, in order to come into the place of God’s promises for our lives. In Him we have the ability to persevere and achieve His purpose for our daily life.