In the fall of 2019, Kenyan running legend Eliud Kipchoge, on a special course in Vienna, ran a 26.2 mile marathon in under 2 hours – a feat never before accomplished. Throughout the race, Kipchoge averaged a pace of 4:34 per mile. Sounds fast, right? However, Usain Bolt, the 100-meter world-record holder, can run a 2:09 mile pace, but not for an entire mile – only for about 10 seconds, long enough to cover his 100-meter sprint distance. Both times are impressive, but in running, the distance of the race determines the pace.
Life seems to be the same, but does anyone know if life is more of a 26.2 mile marathon or a bunch of sprints? If we approach life as a short race, and it’s actually a long marathon, we’re going to be very tired and frustrated. As usual, God’s Word gives us help in this area.
In Romans 15:5, the Apostle Paul tells us that God is, “…the God of endurance and encouragement.” Have we missed this aspect of God’s nature? Has God determined many situations in life to be endurance-based marathons, but we mistakenly treat them as short-burst sprints? Are we bringing a sprinter’s mindset to certain marathon relationships and that’s why we’re sputtering? Is that work situation actually a long-distance run and we’re treating it like a few laps around the track? Maybe that’s why we’re falling apart, or bonking, as the running community describes the feeling of sudden fatigue before a race is complete.
Why would God be more inclined to have us run 26.2 miles through any given trial as opposed to sprinting through it in a few seconds? Look back at Romans 15:5 and consider that God loves endurance because he loves encouragement. 100-meter sprints last about 10 seconds, leaving no time for teamwork between the runners – just run as fast as possible. In contrast, marathons, due to their long duration, require much collaboration and encouragement between runners. It’s commonplace to find marathoners running together in packs, waiting for one another, and even helping an injured runner to the finish line. God has made life an endurance race because He wants us to give and receive encouragement along the way; so much so that, as we bear one another’s burdens, we “fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
Therefore, Jesus tells us, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35) Wouldn’t it make sense for God to design life in such a way that opportunities to love one another come about often? If life were just a series of 10-second, every-man-for-himself sprints, there would be little opportunity to help a brother or sister in need. Instead, we have a marathon life, full of opportunities to “admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14)
Maybe we wish that uneasy season at work would just hurry up and finish. Or maybe we’d love that broken relationship to come to a settled place. We might even be tired of this ongoing health setback. We must remind ourselves that this marathon isn’t to break us, but to build us into fine-tuned men and women that run like Jesus Christ. Don’t only see God as the God of endurance, but also see Him as the God of encouragement.