2022 requires a shift from surviving to thriving in our new environment.
The world has changed. COVID has imposed its will on the entire human race. From continent to continent, market to market, and house to house, we have adjusted our lives because of an invisible agent that has permeated our environment.
Not only has COVID disrupted our world, but it also diabolically taunts us by unleashing one wave after another. At the moment we think we have subdued our adversary and can return to some sense of normalcy, we introduce the non-Greek world to a new letter of the Greek alphabet.
Yet, we remain resolute in our conviction that God sits on the throne of heaven and is in complete control of His entire creation. It is this conviction that helps us to maintain our sanity when so many people are becoming more neurotic as the pandemic plunges ahead.
We must also continue to move forward, remembering that we cannot become stagnant while the world around us is ever evolving. When the ball drops at 12:00 am on January 1, 2022, we will enter the third leg of the race.
We Are Entering the Third Leg
How we start 2022 is important because it will set the pace for how we run the next leg. 2020 and 2021 wearied our minds and bodies. As a result, many people are suffering from what has been called “COVID fatigue.” If you were fortunate enough to have some vacation time at the end of last year, you came to discover just how fatigued we are. The pause from the treadmill of life became an oasis of rest for a mind that wanted to stop thinking, a body that wanted to stop working, and a soul that wanted to stop worrying.
Now, we are entering our third year of our new world. And let’s be honest about this: We are never going back to the pre-COVID world. We must radically accept that this is our new world. So our responsibility is to assess the environment that has been thrust upon us and continue to adapt, advance, and now accelerate our strategy.
Acceleration is momentum. It only occurs when something is in motion. God is calling for us to build on our first two years of activity and escalate the urgency with which we apply ourselves to the aspirations He has placed in our hearts. We need maximum velocity to face the headwinds that are blowing in our direction, and that can only be achieved by accelerating in this next leg.
How to Run the Next Leg
In 1 Corinthians 9:24-25, we read: “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.”
As we start the 2022 leg of the race, it is important that we do two things.
1. We must run to win. Paul used the analogy of the biennial Isthmian games that took place in Corinth to give us a word picture of the Christian life. There are many people running in this world to achieve various prizes. At the top of the list are money, power, and fame. But each of these is fleeting. Believers, on the other hand, run for a prize that will last throughout eternity. This prize includes the rewards we will receive for how we run the race as Christians (1 Cor. 3:14). Therefore, Paul commands us to run in such a way that we prove we are worthy of the prize God has awaiting us.
Considering that we have been able to adapt and advance these past two years in our new world, it is now time to accelerate our pace. We must shift from survivor mode to thriver mode. We know the terrain. We’ve been here before. And it’s time for us to compete. We no longer have time to feel sorry for ourselves and hope for a world that is not coming back. We can either run like those who are only going through the motions, or we can run with purpose—to win the race that is set before us.
2. We must be disciplined. The race we are running is not a foot race; it is a life race. We are running on the track of life to authenticate the calling God has placed on our lives. We are guaranteed our eternal salvation through the finished work of Christ, but what we will receive in addition to the crown of righteousness depends on how we run the race. Paul reminds us that everyone who competes in a race exhibits discipline. To be disciplined is “to keep one’s emotions, impulses, or desires under control.” The runner exhibits the discipline required to not only qualify for the race, but to also win the race. She is disciplined in her diet, training, emotional balance, and focus. Discipline suggests a continued control over our body, soul, and spirit that brings them all in alignment with God’s goal: partnering with Him in the spreading of the gospel (1 Cor. 9:23).
The race we run is a witness to the God we serve. Unbelievers are running for their prize, and we are running for our prize, but we are all running on the same track. How we run becomes a witness to them that there is a greater, more enduring prize they can receive: the crown of righteousness (2 Tim. 4:8). If we adapt, advance, and accelerate in this season of human history, then we will stand on the winners’ podium before a world that is searching for what money, power, and fame cannot give: a right relationship with God.
Run This Year Right
2022 is going to be a great year. Only God know what He has in store for us. Because we know He is in control, we can run the race He has set before us with perseverance and faith (Heb. 12:2). The world might be fatigued from COVID, but we have the discipline necessary to win the prize. This is not the time for us to grow weary and lose heart; it is time for us to run like winners!
Rev. Isaac Hayes is the president of Healing of the Soul Ministries. He is also an Assistant Pastor at the Apostolic Church of God in Chicago, IL, and a doctoral student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. Follow Rev. Hayes on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @RevIsaacHayes.
 Rebecca J. Stanborough, “COVID Fatigue: How to Cope with Pandemic Burnout,” Healthline, October 18, 2021, https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/covid-fatigue.  W. Harold Mare, “1 Corinthians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans through Galatians, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 10 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976), 246.  Mark Taylor, “1 Corinthians,” in The New American Commentary, ed. E. Ray Clendenen, vol. 28 (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2014), 223.  William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 274.  “How Professional Runners Mentally Prepare for Race Day,” Polar, Last modified December 14, 2021, https://www.polar.com/blog/10-ways-mentally-prepare-race-day/.