Of all the metaphors in the Bible to describe the Christian life, perhaps one of the most popular is that of running a race.
“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” Paul writes in Hebrews 12.
But, especially in the Western world, we often make this into an individualistic, competitive thing. We ignore the context of that verse, which starts with “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses …”
In reality, the Christian life is more of a relay than an individual race.
That’s an idea Christine Caine explores in her book, Unstoppable. We talked to the speaker, pastor and A21 Campaign founder about keeping the perspective of being part of something bigger and being faithful wherever you are.
Your latest book, Unstoppable talks about a pivotal moment during the 4×100 women’s relay in the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. Can you kind of bring us to that moment and tell us what was significant about it for you?
That moment was really the catalyst for the next 12 years. America should have won. The women were just lean, mean running machines.
Except what I saw was one sloppy exchange. The American team went from being first to coming in third, behind the Bahamas and Jamaica, because they kind of got sloppy in the exchange zone.
Then in 2004 in Athens, one late handover, handing the baton over outside of the exchange zone resulted in the American team being disqualified.
Handing the baton outside the exchange zone meant the entire team was disqualified. It didn’t matter how fast each individual runner was running. And it didn’t even matter that you were winning the race.
I started to see a picture of the Church that there come times when we’re just sloppy in the exchange zone.
You know, everything’s about me being the biggest and the fastest and fulfilling my dreams. But I realize we are part of an interdependent eternal relay. We’re surrounded by such great a cloud of witnesses in heaven. Tag, we’re it. We’ve got the baton of faith right now. But my legacy is not how big a ministry Chris Caine builds or how many people she speaks to, but it’s how effective I am in handing over the baton of faith and making sure I don’t hold onto some things longer than I should—that I don’t drop some things in the middle of the exchange zone.
In Christianity, nobody wins until everybody crosses the line.
We talk so much about personal faith, personal salvation, and all those things are critical, but I think it’s so important that we understand that we’re part of an eternal relay and we’re responsible for handing over the baton of faith to our generation.
A reader might be tempted to think, “Well, that’s easier for Christine Caine to hand the baton of faith because she travels the world, she shares with millions. But I’m here in my desk job and every day is a pattern of the same and I’m not on this exciting kind of journey.” What would you say to those people? How would you address them and push back against that idea?
I think a lot of it is we have a big misunderstanding of what serving the Lord is. I think it’s because of social media and a grandiose view of what serving God is. we think if something doesn’t appear to be great and grand and huge and heroic of sorts that it must not matter to God.
But I don’t wake up in the morning and think, “Wow. I’m doing something big and grand and heroic.” I’m just trying to run in my lane, like everybody else. And the Lord has enlarged my sphere of influence, but if you had known me 20 years ago, I was as passionate then as I am now.
I think that wherever we are we can turn that place into a sacred space where we could do the good work God has called us to do. And then as we’re faithful with what’s in our hand, I think God then gives us what’s in our heart.
We don’t all need to be heroes. Jesus is the Hero. The Hero came 2000 years ago. So He’s already the Hero. He’s not looking for heroes, He’s looking for co-laborers. The challenge is, most people want to be co-stars, not co-laborers. If you actually understood what it was to be a co-laborer, you could labor wherever you are.
And I’m laboring. You want to be on the front lines like we are. That means we’re also a bigger target, I’ve got a bigger target on my forehead than anybody else because we are right there, taking on the enemy and taking ground from the enemy. So, to me, it’s not any easier.
I think like the apostle Paul. He says, “I just die daily. And man, it would be easier to go home than to keep running. But I’ve got to run, I’ve got to finish.” That’s what I tell myself every day. It’s not like this grand, beautiful lush life. I’m very blessed, there’s no doubt about it. But I co-labor. And it’s just that I’m more accountable for more and I’ve been given stewardship over more. But it still means that I have to get up every day and lay a hold of God, lay a hold of His Word, stir up that gift of faith that’s on the inside of me and I’ve got to fight the fight of faith just like everybody else.
So what does it look like to carry and pass this baton well?
I think it translates into your everyday life to valuing every interaction you have, to asking God to give you eyes to see what you’re supposed to be doing.
One of the things we have to understand is that we’re sort of confused a bit. We send everybody on mission trips. Well, we should be living missional lives, which means every day, wherever I am, whether I’m a student, whether I’m in the workforce, wherever I am at this season, that is the place, that is the field that God has called me to. And I’m to work that field, I’m to labor in that field.
So the more I develop the fruit of the Spirit in my life, I’m conformed and transformed into the image of Jesus, I reflect His light and His love in that world, I think God continues to enlarge our field. So I think wherever it all starts is wherever you are. It’s waking up and realizing, “I’m on an assignment, I’m here on divine eternal assignment. I’m not just going to school, just trying to build a relationship. This has significance, this is not a temporal thing.”
From very early on when I just got saved I realized every day was a gift. Every moment was a gift. I wanted it to have eternal significance. I didn’t just want temporal enjoyment out of every moment.