Life often has been described as a race. Some have even gone so far as to call it a rat race — in other words, a hopeless or pointless pursuit that’s compared to that of a lab rat running through a maze to get the “cheese.”

But life doesn’t have to feel hopeless or pointless. In fact, while life does present challenges, it also can offer meaning and purpose. And in life, just like in a race, there are rules intended to be followed, not just to be suggestions or helpful hints. In a race, if you don’t run by the rules, you’re disqualified. The same is true in life.

Rule No. 1: Don’t look back. The temptation in a race is to look back, to see where the other runners are or maybe check out how far you’ve come. While looking back is tempting, that’s also the moment where you just might get off course and possibly run into an obstacle or another runner in front of you.

The Bible tells us this, “…But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13b-14). In the race, it’s important not to focus on where you’ve been or anything that may have happened to you in the past. You must keep your focus on where you’re going. Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life, writes, “Every saint has a past, and every sinner a future.” So don’t look back.

Rule No. 2: Don’t quit. I’ve never met a runner who hasn’t wanted to quit the race at some point. Maybe they got too tired, or it was too hot. Possibly their leg started to cramp up. In life, we all want to quit at some point.

The Bible tells us, “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me…” (Acts 20:24).

Wanting to quit the race is not the same as quitting the race. We all want to quit sometimes. But runners who want to win the race don’t quit.

Rule No. 3: Don’t get distracted. This is a tough one, especially in life. Life is full of distractions. That’s why you must know where you’re headed and stay focused on your destination. The Bible says, “…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus…” (Hebrews 12:1b-2a).

Things that are outside the race that Jesus has marked out for us only will distract and tangle us up. Know where you’re headed; fix your eyes on where you’re going.

Rule No. 4: Believe you will win. This is the most important rule. You must believe that you will win. Scripture says, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:24). What’s the point in running if you’ve already concluded you’re going to lose?

By the way, if you don’t follow Rule 4, you can forget the first three rules. I guarantee that if you don’t believe you will win, you will look back, you will quit and you will get distracted. My encouragement to you: Follow the rules and win the race.

Brad LeRoy is lead pastor of Harvest Church in Mt. Comfort. This weekly column is written by local clergy members.