I once had a conversation with a fellow believer on the subject of “unsavory thoughts” and how insidious they are—how difficult it is to get ahead of them. After a lot of banter, I reminded my friend that no matter how overwhelming those thoughts seem, we can still lead them captive in obedience to Christ.

“I know the Bible says that,” my friend complained, “but I don’t think I can do that. It’s just so hard!”

Well yeah, I thought, but since when does that mean it can’t be done?

How many people have chosen to walk away from their relationship with God because one of His commands, His requirements for a godly life, were too hard? Some even assume that if God was real, He would never ask them to do something so difficult—Q.E.D., God must not really be real.

A lot of mainstream Christianity—in an effort, I suspect, to draw more converts—has begun to define the Christian walk as a health-and-wealth package. If you swear fealty to Christ, it’s nothing but sweet benefits for the rest of forever. But that’s not really true, is it? We’re the same broken people after we come to Christ as we were before. With his help, thankfully, we have a means to truly repair that brokenness; but it’s a long road, and for the most part, it’s not easy. Convicted, transformed, and now ushered toward the light, we have to fight those insidious thoughts and sinful impulses every step of the way.

And I’ll admit: from my experience, it’s not easy. At. ALL. In fact, the Apostle Paul compares doing the work of the Lord to running a race.

Full confession: I am not a race-runner. I am not a sprinter. I don’t even run to my mailbox. Running and I aren’t buddies. But I do have several friends who are passionate runners, and one thing I’ve gleaned from conversations with them is that, even when you LOVE to do it, running is not easy. Are there things you can do to make it easier? Totally! Getting in shape, staying fit, eating well, and training are just a few things runners do to help peak their performance.

But even when they’re in their prime, I’ve heard many runners say that somewhere along the racecourse—whether it’s the first, second, fifth, or fifteenth mile—it starts to get hard. The lungs and legs are burning, all those muscles are taxed and tired, and you might just want to sit down, or at least walk all the way to the end of the race.

But that’s not what the race is about. Runners don’t run because it’s easy. They run because on some level, they have the passion to do it.

Our spiritual journey is the same way. People like to call it a spiritual “walk.” It’s not. It’s a spiritual “RUN.” It’s a race—not against the other runners, but against ourselves. To outpace our Old Man Nature, to reach the finish line without giving up, requires perseverance. It demands that we push through the burn.

Will this be easy? No way! Are there things we can do to make it easier? You bet! Staying active in prayer, keeping our lives in shape with Scripture, feeding our hearts and minds on good company…these are all things that make the race easier. But the race is still a race. God did not call us to run it because it was the easy thing to do, but because it’s the right race to run.

For that reason, we can’t allow ourselves to sink into that quitter’s mindset of taking the easy road. Our racecourse does not run that way. It goes over hills and into valleys and up and down mountains. It takes us through valleys of the shadow and onward to breathtaking heights we would never achieve otherwise.

It’s not an easy course to run. But I promise you, it will always, always, be worth the burn.