Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith …

—Hebrews 12:1-2

WHOO-HOO … it’s time to go for the gold!! Don’t you just LOVE the Olympics? Two wonderful weeks every four years where athletes and patriots from all over the globe convene to test their mettle, prove their endurance and just go for the gold. Proving to the world and themselves that they and their country are THE BEST! Without question, whether athlete or spectator, the Olympics are an exciting event. And an enlightening one.

Trust me, I’m no athlete, and I failed balance beam in high school to prove it. Yes, I played on a softball team once as a little girl, but I was so bad and so skinny that my brother would joke, “What position do you play, Julie—the foul line?”

But I do know one thing. To succeed you have to focus on the finish line … the ball … or that final lap that separates you and the others from victory. In another words, keep your eye on the prize rather than the journey to get there.

Last week when my husband and I went biking, we went on one of our favorite trails that offers a variety of terrain to meander, from gravel and blacktop to mud trails and narrow, rocky paths. Some of the trails are flat, some are hilly, some wend around lakes while others weave through forests or sunny, cactus-filled fields. The scenery is beautiful and invigorating, but WHOA, BABY, one thing I quickly learned was to keep my eye on the road lest I end up in a ditch. Once while I was crossing a narrow path over a ravine, I got a little skitsy and started slowing down and wobbling—something you definitely don’t want to do on a bike over a yawning 30-foot drop, trust me!! “Don’t look down at the ravine, Julie,” Keith said when he saw me start to veer off, “but keep your eye on where you want to go.”

Where I want to go. Somehow that didn’t make a lot of sense to me at the time because by gum, if there’s a cliff to the right of me, I sure don’t want to take my eye off of it by staring straight ahead! And yet, as I was soon to discover, Keith’s advice is straight out of classic Mountain Bike 101: “Always look where you want to go and never look at what you don’t want to hit! Looking ahead on the trail is critical, especially with cornering and obstacles.”

Looking ahead is critical. Ah, yes … for the athletes in the Olympics and for you and me in the race set before us. And what is that “race” exactly? To meet my deadline on the next book? To tackle that mountain of “to do’s” before vacation without losing one’s cool?? For my daughter to pass the bar exam she took this week? (Which, by the way, a huge THANK YOU to everyone who prayed for her. She won’t find out till mid-September if she passed, but I will let you know if she does.)

Well, yes … and no. Yes, we all have tasks and problems we need to tackle on a daily basis, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned (and relearn on a daily basis!), it’s that in order to achieve victory, you have to keep your eye on the prize—Jesus—and not on the problems, tasks and failings that tend to draw us away.

For instance, because I snuck Marcy and Patrick’s prequel in between two contracted books, I am way behind on my next deadline and tempted to break out in a cold sweat. But the truth is, when I stop focusing on the number of days left to complete the task or all I have to do between now and then and just lift my eyes to Jesus, something remarkable happens. Suddenly my mind is flooded with all the times He pulled my butt from the fire, all the tears He dried when I was sure all was lost, all the victories He gave when I thought I had failed.

Because the bottom line for us as Christians is that He IS the prize. Not that raise or promotion, not those accolades or contest wins, not that happy family or great marriage. Nope, it’s Him … and the peace and joy and confidence that comes from focusing on Him in the race set before us—our lives. Emulating Him every mile, every lap, every stretch of the balance beam in a life where we juggle tears and trials, “to do’s” and “cannots.” Because He not only “can” give us victory in every situation, but the confidence and peace to go along with it while we’re running the race. And then look out! Because as Olympic champion Eric Liddell once said, “when I run I feel His pleasure.”

His Pleasure. Oh, Lord, please—YES!! The one true prize in a race worth running.

May all the victories in your races belong to Him, and may your weekend be a winning one!