“I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me…”
Paul uses a lot of sporting metaphors, and this one in particular, the image of running a race, is very common to his understanding of ministry. It takes endurance, training, strength, and experience to run it well.
When you consider your own “race of ministry”, what kind of race do you picture? Ministry can be very different for different people and in different contexts – what is your particular race?
Marathon – the long haul race, marathon ministry is usually a lifetime of struggle. There are patches that are dull, and the runner is seldom idolized for her long-term commitment to either the ministry or a church. There are times when he is tempted to give up his ministry because the work is just too hard. The pace is slow but constant, there are no breaks, and for most of one’s career, the ending is nowhere in sight. This is the race of the career pastor who takes long pastorates and intends to retire a servant of the church (the reality is that only 10% of pastors retire as pastors!)
Sprint – sprint ministry is a short burst of powerful ministry which begins and ends quickly. The work is intense and fast paced, and the minister usually runs out of energy, passion, vision, or drive quickly. Frustration at an opportunity lost (because in the sprint, every opportunity matters deeply), a partner not keeping pace, or another faster sprinter are par for this course. This is the race of the church planter who intends to plant a church and then move on and do it again.
There are also Obstacle Course ministries, Relay ministries, and Hurdle ministries. Whatever your particular race looks like, take Paul’s advice and run it to the end, come what may. Give up your thoughts of fame or comfort or ease and take the hard, boring, thirsty parts of the race as proof that you are following in the footsteps of the great Racers of history.