When runners in ancient Greece would compete, there was a reward of laurel leaves waiting for the winners. They were running for the reward—going for the gold, so to speak.
As Christians, we are running a race as well. And we should run in such a way as to win. As we run, Hebrews tells us, "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. . . ." (Hebrews 12:1–2)
Looking to Jesus keeps us going in the Christian life. There are things that will discourage us, things that will get us down. It was Corrie ten Boom who said, "Look without and be distressed. Look within and be depressed. Look at Jesus and be at rest." If we can keep our eyes on the Lord, we can run this race well.
However, in the race of life our competition is not with each other. We are not to try and outdo other Christians. Our competition, if you will, is the world, the flesh, and the devil (see James 4:4; 1 Peter 2:11; 5:8). We want to run to win. We want to play by the rules. And we want to keep our eyes on Jesus, who gives us the right motive for running.
The apostle Paul talked about finishing what God had given him to do (see Acts 20:24). And that is the key: finishing the race.
It won't do any good if we are in first place for nine-tenths of the race and fall at the end. We need to think about how we will finish the race that we have begun.