Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. (I Corinthians 9: 24-27)
I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing. (2 Timothy 4: 1-8)
Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained. (Philippians 3: 12-16)
Several times throughout his letters, Paul creates an analogy in which life in Christ is represented by training and preparing for, then running, and finally winning a race. He creates an image in which endurance, discipline, effort, attitude, rigor, and boundaries set up a "winning combination" that would allow the runner to win the race. What is required of one who is fit to race in a way that is worthy of the One who calls us?
Paul, or Saul as he is called in Acts, demonstrated, throughout his ministry a "Race Running Mentality." In Acts, Luke describes Paul's early days as a Believer, in which he was tested and tried by skeptical Believers and in which he was continuously on the run from those who wished him dead (Acts 9 and II Corinthians 11: 30-33). Not only that, but he also invested his time and education in reforming the theology of new believers and debating Greek-born Jews (Acts 9). Paul demonstrated through his drive and tenacity in spreading the gospel that he was well-trained and well-prepared for the work given him by God.
So what about me? I am also called to run this race, am I not? Then I should be optimizing myself to run to win, yes? (Who would run a race if not with the ambition to finish well?) What is in my life that I can throw off? What hinders me? The more time I spend evaluating the Mission of Jesus, the more I understand that my goals, objectives, and priorities, if anything other than spreading the gospel to the lost are not only secondary, but so small as to seem insignificant in comparison to the prize, which is the perfection to which I have been called heavenward. And in striving toward that prize, the fruit I bear, the light I shine should in no way hinder the running-- in fact, the opposite: these things should optimize my run. Our understanding of aerodynamics and physiology allows a runner to optimize her performance with the right diet, the right equipment. As believers, if we are to adopt the Race Runner's Mentality, should we not be looking to optimize our run? What can we throw off? What can we reevaluate? What should we be doing to train-- Scripture-reading, memorization, prayer, accountability? All of the above. Self-examination, meditation on the Word, witnessing? Yes.
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12: 1-3)