Question: Did Paul compare living the gospel to running a race?
Answer: “In some respects, progressing through life is like running a marathon. You young people are nearer the beginning of your earthly sojourn. You chose to come to this earth and to be tested and proved. The end may seem too far away to concern you now. But life, like a marathon, requires a good start and a strong, consistent effort all of the way to the finish. (Joseph B. Worthlin, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, October 1989 General Conference)
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1 Corinthians 9:24-25
24 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize (you know that lots of people run in a race, but only one wins)? So run, that ye may obtain (live the gospel so that you may get the prize, namely exaltation).
25 And every man that striveth for the mastery (every participant in local athletic events) is temperate (goes through strict training) in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown (they go through a lot to get worldly honor); but we an incorruptible (but we are training for an eternal crown).
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Elder Richard J. Maynes, Of the Presidency of the Seventy
Every morning when we wake up, we face a new day filled with the challenges of life. These challenges come in many forms: physical challenges, financial setbacks, difficulties with relationships, emotional trials, and even struggles with one’s faith.
Many of the challenges we face in life can be solved and overcome; however, others may be difficult to understand and impossible to overcome and will be with us until we pass on to the next life. As we temporarily endure the challenges we can solve, and as we continue to endure the challenges we cannot solve, it is important to remember that the spiritual strength we develop will help us successfully endure all the challenges we face in life...
Heavenly Father has organized our journey through life to be a test of our character. We are exposed to both good and evil influences and then given the moral agency to choose for ourselves which path we will take...Heavenly Father also understood that due to our mortality we would not always make the correct or righteous choice. Because we are not perfect and because we make mistakes, we need help in returning to His presence...The Savior’s atoning sacrifice makes possible our future salvation and exaltation through the principle of repentance. If we honestly and sincerely repent, the Atonement can help us become clean, change our nature, and successfully endure our challenges.
Endurance is an important principle found within the doctrine of Jesus Christ. It is important because the quality of our eternal future is proportional to our ability to endure in righteousness.
...Our ability to endure to the end in righteousness will be in direct proportion to the strength of our testimony and the depth of our conversion. When our testimonies are strong and we are truly converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ, our choices will be inspired by the Holy Ghost, they will be Christ-centered, and they will support our desire to endure in righteousness. If our testimonies are weak and our conversion superficial, the risk is much greater that we will be enticed by the false traditions of the world to make poor choices...
To play basketball successfully, you need to get into good shape. Being in good physical condition comes at a price, and that price is dedication, perseverance, and self-discipline. Spiritual endurance also comes at a price. It is the same price: dedication, perseverance, and self-discipline.
A testimony, like your body, needs to be in shape if you want it to endure. So how do we keep our testimonies in shape? We cannot get our bodies into good basketball shape by simply watching basketball on television. Similarly, we won’t be able to get our testimonies in shape by simply watching general conference on television. We need to study and learn the fundamental principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and then we must do our very best to live them...
When we face adversity in life and our desire is to emulate the attributes of Jesus Christ, it is essential to be spiritually prepared. Being spiritually prepared means we have developed spiritual stamina or strength—we will be in good shape spiritually. We will be in such good shape spiritually that we will consistently choose the right. We will become immovable in our desire and ability to live the gospel....
Because we face challenges every day, it is important that we work on our spiritual stamina every day. When we develop spiritual stamina, the false traditions of the world, as well as our personal daily challenges, will have little negative impact on our ability to endure in righteousness...
The Apostle Paul stated, “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” The race that is set before us on this earth is an endurance race filled with obstacles. The obstacles in this race are the challenges we wake up to each morning. We are here on earth to run the race, to exercise our moral agency, and to choose between right and wrong. In order to honorably and successfully finish the race and return to our Heavenly Father, we will need to pay the price of dedication, perseverance, and self-discipline. We need to get into spiritual shape. We need to develop spiritual stamina. We need strong testimonies that will lead to true conversion, and as a result we will find within ourselves the inner peace and strength needed to endure whatever challenges we may face.
So whatever challenges you wake up to each morning, remember—with the spiritual strength you develop, coupled with the Lord’s help, at the end of the race you will be able to enjoy the confidence that the Apostle Paul expressed when he said:
“For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.
“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
“Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day.”
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Sources: Come, Follow Me–For Individuals and Families, p. 136; The New Testament Made Easier, Part 2, Volume 3, by David J. Ridges, 159; Excerpts from General Conference, October 2013, “The Strength to Endure,” by Elder Richard J. Maynes, Of the Presidency of the Seventy.