The Gideons International in India held its National Convention from 8 to 10 September 2016 in Pune and I had the privilege of participating in it. The convention theme was “Run with Endurance” and it was displayed everywhere in big letters and small. I had not noticed that it was on my delegate badge until a fellow passenger in the elevator asked me, “Are you taking part in a marathon?” She had been observing me for some time and was perhaps wondering how an old man like me could have come to run a race. I was startled by her question and said simply, “No, I am a delegate at the Gideons conference.” But when she gave the reason behind her curiosity, I got the point and explained that it was about the marathon of life!
“Run with Endurance” were three words picked up out of context from a longer Bible verse (Hebrews 12:1). The message was that life had to be run like a race and that difficulties, problems and hardships were certain to be encountered along the way. So endurance was one quality that we must have and develop if we were to win the race of life.
But then I wondered what was the difference between how most people looked at life and the Christian way of life? Isn’t everybody in a rat race? Isn’t everybody rushing and pushing towards goals and targets? And has anybody really understood the final aim of life?
“Run with Endurance” was a theme that I could not come to terms with during the three days of the conference. I felt that the marathon of the Christian life could not be something that I had to painfully endure, but one which allowed me to be relaxed and joyful. I would be permitted to have a delayed start and to indulge in brief stopovers or detours. I could spend time to bask in the beauty of things on the way. If I felt tired, I could get myself refreshed. I would be running my race on my own terms, not in competition with anyone. And as I approached the finishing line, I would see the saviour’s welcoming arms!
No, I do not have to run with endurance. I am not even compelled to run. I can choose my own pace. I can decide my own path. I have no one to beat. Because my prize of salvation is already assured.