It takes great perseverance to run a half-marathon. It takes even more perseverance to accidentally run one, like 12-year-old LeeAdianez Rodriguez-Espada did. LeeAdianez, running late for a family 5K run, accidentally joined a group of people running the half marathon race (just over 21K!). Lee quickly fell in pace with other runners and focused on putting one foot in front of the other. Realizing at mile four that the finish line was nowhere in sight, she turned to another runner and asked how much further. That’s when she realized she’d joined a much more difficult race! Instead of dropping out, Lee kept running, finishing the race 1,885th out of 2,111 finishers. What perseverance!

James encouraged perseverance when he wrote to believers who’d been scattered because of persecution (James 1:1). In times of hardship, many believers likely were tempted to drop out of the “race”—their calling to pursue Christ (see 1 Corinthians 9:24-27)—but James encouraged them to press on (James 1:1-3).

If they patiently endured testing, a double reward was promised. First, God would bless them (James 1:12) and bring spiritual growth out of their struggles (James 1:2-4). Second, God would give them “the crown of life” (James 1:12). In an athletic contest, a crown was a garland wreath given to the winner. God’s “crown” to believers who faithfully endure trials is eternal life—abundant life on earth and the promise of glory in God’s presence in the life to come (John 10:10).

Some days the “race” of following Christ might seem longer and more difficult than we can bear, like it’s not the race we signed up for. But through the Spirit’s power, may we fix our eyes on the finish line and keep running.

NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Romans 8:19-39