I hate running. I like to exercise, but running just for the sake of running is about the last thing I’d pick to do. Around five years ago, I got tired of saying that. A flash of motivation kicked in, so I decided to run the White Rock Half Marathon. You know, so that I could at least say that I could run, but just choose not to 99% of the time. I managed to finish the half marathon in just over two hours, and was pretty proud of myself! But since then, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve run more than two miles. In fact, I don’t even need a hand to do it: zero times. Like I said, I hate running. But as we’ll see, running is really important.
Last Tuesday at the Porch, we talked about Jonah. The first part of Jonah’s story is a classic example of running away from God. He didn’t lace up his sneakers for 13.1 miles, but he did jump on a boat and head in the opposite direction from where God told him to go. God got his attention in a pretty unique way, sending a storm and then a whale to redirect him.
Whether you hate running like me, or the treadmill or track is totally your thing, the truth is that we are all runners, and we’re either running towards God or away from Him. The Bible uses the imagery of running as one way it describes our spiritual lives. The important questions are, where (and how) are you running, and who is running with you?
The Bible tells us to run with our eyes fixed on Jesus, forgetting what’s behind, and with a prize-worthy effort. Our focus should be clear, our direction should be forward, and our pace should be faithful. And when we fall, we should pick ourselves back up and keep going.
But what if that’s not you right now? What if you’ve been running off-course in your 20s and 30s, and the consequences of the choices you’ve made are staring you in the face? What if you’ve stumbled and haven’t gotten back up? Maybe you can’t stop looking at porn or masturbating. Maybe you’re stuck in a cycle of unhealthy relationships. Maybe your “last time” of getting drunk wasn’t actually the last time. Maybe you’re saddled with debt. Whatever it is, you’ve gotten off track, and you’re not sure how to get back. Or maybe you don’t care about any of that, and your focus right now is on running wherever you want to go, pursuing pleasure wherever you can find it. Two things you should know:
There will be a reckoning. The Bible says that God cannot be mocked – you will reap what you sow. As Todd put it on Tuesday – if you like what you’re getting, keep doing what you’re doing. But if you keep doing what you’re doing, you’re not going to like what you get. Your choice to run in the wrong direction will have consequences, sooner or later. If you have trusted Christ, thankfully the ultimate punishment for your sin was already paid by Jesus' death on the cross, so you don't have that to fear, but God may allow you to experience consequences in this life as a form of loving discipline – not to pay you back, but to bring you back to Him. If you have not trusted Christ, God promises forgiveness to your repentance, but He does not promise tomorrow to your procrastination – you need to consider and respond to the gospel!
God loves runaways. Nothing can separate you from God’s love, and no matter how far off-track you’ve run, God is still near to you. If you realize that you’ve run away from God and want to change course, you need to confess and repent. And the amazing thing is that when you do that, God will run to you! God loves you, no matter where you’ve been running, and He’s in the business of turning runaways into those who have been reconciled.
As you’re running, the people you spend time with will influence where you’re going and how fast you get there. You may want to run towards God, but if your close friends or the person you’re dating isn’t doing the same thing, eventually they’ll slow you down or drag you off course. You may think that “missionary dating” is a good idea, but I promise that it isn’t. The Bible has some pretty clear direction on who you should choose as your running partners.
Proverbs 12:26 – “The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.”
Proverbs 13:20 – “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.”
2 Timothy 2:22 – “Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”
I get three main ideas from those verses:
It’s important to choose your close relationships carefully.
Choosing the wrong people will lead you away from God and lead to harm.
Choosing the right people will lead you towards wisdom and righteousness.
If you want to change and run towards God, but the people around you aren’t helping you run in that direction, change your playground and your playmates. It doesn’t mean that you can’t still have a friendship with them, but you need to change the influence that they have on your life, and find people who will point you towards Christ. If you have no idea where to start, we’d love to help you with that. That’s why we talk about community groups all the time, because we know that who you run with matters!
Where are you running, and who’s running with you?