Running Well When Life Puts Up Roadblocks

Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!
— 1 Corinthians 9:24 (NLT)

You may be wondering where I’ve been for the past three weeks. There was a death in my extended family, and the day I should have been writing this blog I was instead driving east with my two kids to get through the mountains before the big snow storm hit.

What a disruption of my routine! What an unexpected turn of events! What a roadblock to my daily life!

Or was it?

Most of my life, I’ve been what you call a “Type A” person. Driven to get straight A’s in school, determined to do things with excellence, to be the best, to knock every item off the to-do list. This approach seemed to work pretty well at first. Schools and colleges reward those who study hard. The corporate world promotes those who are diligent workers. Success in the freelance world comes to those who get results for their clients.

But there’s an area of life where being “Type A” doesn’t help at all: relationships. Being driven to always be right makes for more arguments than reconciliations. Elevating getting things done over the emotional needs of my family and friends results in disappointment and dissatisfaction, not success. Clinging to my schedule and goals instead of making room for helping others in need actually leaves me empty instead of fulfilled.

To run my race well as a Christian, I need to see things differently. I need to measure success the way God does. How does God define “running well”?

If you don’t know the nature of the race, you’re sure to lose.

What if Jesus believed, as some of his disciples seemed to, that he was supposed to gather an army, overthrow the Roman government, and establish a physical kingdom on earth? Even if he had accomplished this task, and lived as a righteous king for 100 years, he would have failed at his race. His race was to be a living example of Father God, healing and speaking truth and offering grace to the repentant sinners around him. His race was to mentor and teach an inner circle of disciples who would spread the good news after he was gone. His race was to live a sinless life, lay down his life at a young age as the sacrificial Lamb of God, and to return to the right hand of Father God so the Holy Spirit could be released to work in God’s people for centuries after he was gone.

Was the cross a roadblock, or a finish line? The answer is obvious to us, now that the story is done. But only by relying on God moment to moment, and obeying the Father’s will, did Jesus finish his race and win it.

Do you know the nature of your race? 

Our greatest commandment is to love God with all our hearts, and the second greatest command is to love others like we love ourselves. But what does that look like, exactly? Life can be full of challenges.

  • Being passed over for a promotion at work
  • Being hurt by the betrayal of a friend or loved one
  • Losing weeks or months to injury or illness
  • Seeing someone in need when you have needs yourself
  • Dealing with the consequences of a mistake you made

What does it look like to run your race well in these situations? Are these roadblocks, or opportunities?

The race isn’t to the fastest, but to the faithful.

I again saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift and the battle is not to the warriors, and neither is bread to the wise nor wealth to the discerning nor favor to men of ability; for time and chance overtake them all.
— Ecclesiastes 9:11 (NASB)

King Solomon was making the point that “time and chance” — the unexpected — can happen to anyone. It’s a wise observation, but Jesus tells us something even better: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV)

Guess what? For every example Solomon uses in that verse there is a situation where relationship with God made all the difference:

- Elijah on foot ran faster than King Ahab’s chariot by the power of the Holy Spirit
- Young shepherd David beat the giant warrior Goliath with one stone and his faith in Israel’s covenant with God
- A humble widow was given oil and flour that never ran out during a famine because of her obedience to provide for God’s prophet
- The Israelites leaving Egypt were given wealth by the Egyptians, not because of their wisdom but because of God’s power
- Gideon was full of fear and doubt, hardly qualified for leadership, and yet God chose to grant him favor and lead him to success

The race is not to the swift — it is to the faithful. When we keep our eyes fixed on God, drawing close to follow the prompting of his Holy Spirit, we discover that there are no roadblocks, after all. There are only opportunities to trust God in fresh ways.

And my trip east to help my family bury a loved one? I learned that God can get me across 1,700 miles of highway in the winter without a drop of rain, much less snow. I discovered that I needed to improve my attitude and stay focused on the love of God if I am to truly bless those I love with my “help”. I saw God empty an apartment full of furniture and “stuff” in one day, and sell a used car in an afternoon. The trip wasn't a roadblock, but a learning opportunity and a chance to bless. I didn’t do it perfectly, but I’m thankful that with God’s help, it was a blessing.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.
— Hebrews 12:1-2 (NLT)