“Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2
Over the summer I was part of a small running group that met up in the mornings to go for runs before the start of the Beaver Cross camp day. We ran on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and most days as well as myself there were two girls, Allyssa and Yael. Occasionally others would go with us too. And at the start of the summer we all stayed at the same pace for the majority of the run. I hadn’t been running properly for a while so was taking it easy to ease myself in, and would only really push on the final stretch of the run, at which point I would pull away from Allyssa and Yael.
And after a couple of weeks they challenged me, saying that while they appreciated me getting up early and holding them accountable to run they didn’t see what the benefit was to me as it wasn’t challenging to me. They felt I was being held back by running at their pace. Personally I wasn’t so sure. I was comfortable with that pace. I was happy with the workout I was getting. But I decided to try and push harder, and pull away from them sooner. We had a loop where we ran to a point and then turned and came back the same way, and whereas before I stuck with them until the second half of the return leg now I started pulling ahead soon after we started out.
And at first it was incredibly tough. There was an uphill section at the end that became absolute torture at the faster pace, especially as I was getting to it having already pushed myself hard. But the workout was more satisfying, and as the weeks went on I could feel my fitness improving.
At one of the camper talent shows a girl cabin put on a skit where they impersonated the staff. And one of the things they picked up on was how I always left people in my dust when I went running. Which obviously was a comment I received in a very humble nature…
But it got me thinking about our walk with God. So often we go with the crowd. We don’t want to get ahead of our social group. We don’t want to be the “crazy one”, the one who is too keen, the one who goes over the top in dedication to God, the ultra-holy freak. We don’t want to be an outsider. So we hold back. We don’t surrender all to Jesus. We don’t chase after Him with total abandon, but hang back to make sure others are at our pace too. In our heart we know we should be studying the Bible more, but our friends are going to that new movie so we go to that instead. When talking about what to do at the weekend we don’t want to be the ultra holy one that suggests the Saturday night worship gig. We hold ourselves back based on the standards of those around us, standards which are lower than God’s standards.
In Romans 12 Paul tells us not to be conformed to the ways of the world. And so often it is used as a warning not to be like the non-Christians around us. But what if we also need to be careful not to be like the Christians around us? Maybe we need to be prepared to leave them in our dust as we sprint with endurance towards Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Don’t be held back by going at the pace of those around you. If they aren’t giving their all for God it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t either. Look at the Biblical example of Noah. If he had stayed at the pace of those around him, the Bible would have been pretty short, and none of us would be around to read it. Don’t be afraid to leave people in your dust if they aren’t running fast and free to Jesus.
Maybe you need more friends like Allyssa and Yael in your life to spur you from taking it easy on to getting more serious about seeking God. Or maybe you need to be more like them, encouraging those around you who are jogging in their journey with God to start sprinting.
Don’t be conformed to the ways of those around you. Don’t settle for their standards. Seek to grow closer to God each day. Try and encourage those around you to do likewise, but if they don’t, still seek to grow closer yourself anyway. If it means leaving people in your dust, so be it. Being close to God is much better than being close to your peers.