Breaking Free From the Rat Race

When we lived in southern California, we lived just off the 5 freeway in a neighborhood in Laguna Hills. I still miss being able to keep the balcony sliding door wide open pretty much year round.

Know what I don’t miss? The traffic.

On the 5 or the 405, a strange thing happens. You’ll be driving along with the pack at about 80 mph (I still don’t know what the speed limit actually is), and suddenly you slow to about 5 mph in a near dead stop. Then a minute later, you’re hitting the gas and cruising along at 80 again. And you never know why.

As often as possible, I would take roads other than freeways to get where I wanted to go, even if it meant taking longer to get there. And that might be one of the most countercultural things a person can do today.

The rat race describes the constant rush of the culture around us. Everybody’s trying to get somewhere, even when we’re not sure where we’re eventually headed, and you can follow one of several routes to compete.

• BE more than everyone else (the popularity lane).
• DO more than everyone else (the productivity lane).
• HAVE more than everyone else (the prosperity lane).

There’s nothing actually wrong with working hard to achieve success. In fact, it’s virtuous to do so, unless achievement is where you find your identity and significance.

But when comparison and competition drive your life, you’re destined to remain stuck in life until you break free and follow the unique path God has tailor-made for you.

In other words …

You’ll never win the rat race, but you can always win your own race—the race God has in mind for you and you alone.

The writer of Hebrews gave us this piece of wisdom:

“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” —Hebrews 12:1–2

If you want to escape the rat race and break off to win the race God has for you, here’s the key:

Don’t look around. Look ahead. Ahead of you, you’ll see Jesus, the author and finisher waiting for you across the finish line.

This same lesson also applies to those of us in church leadership. We sometimes mimic the rat race within evangelicalism. We feel we must be more (hip, cool, flashy, etc.) have more (members, budget, etc.), and do more (events, programs, activities, etc.) than other churches or leaders.

Whether in life or in leadership, we must choose to exit the rat race and run our own race—the race God has set for each of us. The race we’re supposed to be in is simply us, running toward Jesus.

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This article originally appeared on and is reposted here by permission.

Brandon A. Cox
Brandon A. Cox

Brandon A. Cox is the lead pastor of Grace Hills Church in Rogers, Arkansas.