Every Wednesday morning during the summer, on the grounds of the Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center, the Falls Creek 5K is run. This summer, I have spent each Tuesday night at the Creek, so I am there to watch the race. I am amazed at the number of students, sponsors and pastors in the race.

My apartment is located beside the long, steep hill that leads past the amphitheater. I step out onto my balcony to watch and listen as runners turn the corner to stare the big, steep hill in the face. The comments made when runners approach the hill are fun to hear and their remarks are understandable. One young man cried out, “I don’t want to run anymore!” But I am also amused that there are far more words of encouragement than discouragement. When one student yelled in disbelief at the steep grade of the hill, a sponsor chided, “If it goes up, be assured it will go down on the other side!”

Once the majority of runners have hit the steep hill, I turn to where the racers begin to make their way up another hill moving toward the last leg of the race. The scene is different from the fresh runners who began the race prancing from one side of the road to the other full of energy. Now, those who had sprinted on the first leg are walking—some barely moving.

I have noticed that many who are still running as they begin the last leg are those who were the “woggers” on the first half. “Woggers” is my word for those who say they are jogging but are only a step or two beyond walking. These folks, however, are like the turtle, steady and slow, and they finish the race as they started—consistently wogging toward the finish line.

There are many spiritual lessons to be applied from the Falls Creek 5K run. I want to point to a few.

The Christian life is like a race—there are many ups and downs. Life presents some big hills to climb. These hills are best attempted when surrounded by people who love you and encourage you. Meaningful involvement in the church provides spiritual family members who will run with you, encourage you when the going gets tough and finish the race with you. I personally believe that this is the genius of Sunday School and the small group. In Sunday School, we “do” life together and we can say, “I don’t want to run anymore.” Instead of put-downs, somebody comes alongside and says, “Keep going. I will go with you.”

Many of us will walk rather than run. Some are well trained and in great shape, but most of us will walk the majority of our journey, and that’s OK. The Christian walk is a race, but it is a marathon not a sprint. God is pleased when we walk with Him day-by-day with the finish line in mind. Most of us are turtles in the race. Aren’t you glad God does not require us to run at a sprinter’s pace in the Christian life? He just wants us to keep steady, keep moving forward and keep growing. As we study the Word, pray and interact with other believers, we find ourselves each day one step closer to the finish line.

There is one other group I must mention—people who are unwilling to run the race at all. They stand on the balcony and watch others. These individuals have made a decision to follow Christ at some point in life, but have stepped to the sidelines unwilling to walk by faith. The hills are too steep, and the race too long. These folks not only don’t finish the race, they never get on the course. In doing so, they miss the joy of fellowship, encouragement and growth.

My favorite runner in the Falls Creek 5K is Pastor Rusty Fuller from Ada, Trinity. I am older than he is, but not light years older. Two weeks in a row I have watched him run the race, steady and slow—consistent. He is an inspiration in “wogging” and life. Kudos, Rusty!