Running After God
I’m not a runner. I used to run (“used to” meaning two decades ago when I was in high school). I ran then because I had to as a soccer player. But I am not one of those people who run just because they love running.
Occasionally I want to be a runner like that. Sometimes I’ll pass a runner on the road or in the park and I think, I should be like that. It looks so freeing, in a way. Just you and the road. Wind in your hair. A constant rhythm in your step. And then I go out and run and remember how much I don’t enjoy it.
And that’s what I need. I need to enjoy it. For me, to be a runner who loves running would take new knees, and a new heart. I would need a new passion for running. (Perhaps that comes with just running more. Like Nike says, “Just Do It.” But I don’t know if I’ll ever find out!)
But I wonder if we sometimes think about following after God—really following hard after God—in the same way that I think about running. Do we look at it and think, “I should be like that. It looks freeing. It looks right. I know I should probably be like that,” followed closely by, “But I can’t do that.”?
What would it take for you and me to really and truly run after God?
While the Scriptures often talk about our walk, I have been struck recently by one verse in Psalm 119. In a chapter that’s focused on the Word of God, verse 32 says this:
I will run in the way of your commandmentsPsalm 119:32
when you enlarge my heart!
At first glance that might seem like a stipulation that the psalmist is putting on his obedience. I’ll obey you wholeheartedly, IF (and only if) you enlarge my heart first. You do this for me, and then I’ll do that for you, and if you don’t, then I won’t.
But I don’t think that’s exactly it, for two reasons.
First, as you read all 176 verses of Psalm 119 what you find is request after request after request asking God to conform the psalmist’s life to God’s Word and God’s will and God’s ways. Repeatedly, he is asking God to do for him what he knows he cannot live without, and each request revolved around the Word of God. So Psalm 119:32 is best read as a request, a cry to God for an enlarged heart, so that the psalmist can then obey what he sees in God’s commandments, in God’s word.
Second, a basic principle that we find in Scripture from cover to cover is that God gives what he commands. God provides for us what is necessary for our obedience to him.
The psalmist is right, he cannot run in the way of God’s commandments unless God enlarges his heart. But God gives what he commands.
And here’s what God has done for us and what God does for us:
For you, Christian, God has not only enlarged your heart, he has given you a new heart. The promise of the New Covenant is this:
“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”Ezekiel 36:26
“I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”Jeremiah 31:33
God has done even more than enlarge your heart; he’s given you a new heart. And he’s given you his Spirit to be with you, to guide you, to empower you for obedience. And he’s put his word within you, he’s written it on your heart. He’s given you all that you need for obedience.
But we still don’t always feel that way. That tells us, first, that our feelings are not ultimate, God’s truth is. God has done these things for us, whether we feel like it or not. Our feelings don’t trump God’s truth.
But also that tells us that we need to rekindle that desire for God and God’s ways that he has put within us. How do we do that? We do that primarily with the basics: God’s Word and Prayer.
That’s what Psalm 119 shows us. God’s Word and prayer, prayer and God’s Word. These two are meant to go hand-in-hand, and really they’re meant to go hand-in-hand along with a life in the fellowship of God’s people. These are the means that God has given us to grow a desire to run in the way of godliness. Prayers built on God’s Word, seeking God’s will and God’s ways, are the prayers that God loves to answer for his people. God’s Spirit within us uses the Word and prayer, and the lives of other believers around us, to make us into those who are ready and able to run in the ways of God’s commandments. This is what he uses to make us into those who desire to run in the ways of his commandments.
I am not a runner, physically speaking, and I may never be. Some of us are physically unable to be runners. Some of us will never desire to be runners. And some of us are runners, and if that’s you, don’t laugh at me on the road if you ever see me trying.
We all can’t be runners. But we all can run in the ways of God’s commandments. He’s given us what we need. So let’s give ourselves to that in 2022. Let’s be those who run in the way of God’s commandments.
Bert Watts has served since December 2016 as the Senior Pastor at Mountain Creek Baptist Church, where he has been on staff since 2012.