Friday, August 17, 2007

To run the race

Last Saturday my two oldest sons competed in a triathlon, swimming 600 yards, cycling 16 miles and then running 3 miles. The whole thing. Yes, by choice. Paid money to do it. Couldn't wait to do it. And yes, it's mystery to me too. No doubt they are their daddy's boys, who incidentally also participated in the cycling portion of the triathlon as part of a relay team, winning the team division.

I am (quite obviously) no athlete. As I stood out there on that hot Saturday morning, waiting to catch a glimpse of my boys getting out of the water, returning on the bike, and finally crossing the finish line from the run, I was amazed by the sheer determination of so many of the participants. Sure, there were those super humans with like zero body fat who breeze past scarcely even breathing hard, but out of nine hundred competitors, there were far more just regular men and women pushing themselves to the limit, giving it everything they've got to accomplish a goal: to finish and finish well.

It wasn't easy. Just ask my boys; it was hard work. As the racers crossed the finish line, their names were called out over a loudspeaker and occasionally you would hear the qualifier: "Cancer survivor." One man pulled his daughter in a raft as he swam, on his bike as he pedaled, and in a stroller as he ran. The word in the crowd was she had cerebral palsy and epilepsy and a feeding tube. We applauded as he passed by.

What a picture of determination. Hard work. Perseverance.

I couldn't help but think of Heb. 12:1-2:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, 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. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith...

These verses encourage me as I run the race of faith. It is hard work, no doubt about it. It will take everything we've got, and unless Jesus returns in glory, it will take our lives. How crucial for us to run with perseverance, putting one foot in front of the other, straining forward, even when everything in us tempts us to quit.

"Let us run with perseverance..."

The other night I caught a portion of the movie "Chariots of Fire" on television. I saw the actor portraying Eric Liddell deliver that famous line around which many a book and sermon has been crafted: "God made me fast. When I run I feel His pleasure. To not run would be to hold Him in contempt." Of course, later in the movie, Liddell makes the decision to do just that: not run, as the qualifying heat was on a Sunday. It is the Lord's Sabbath, he asserted, and God would not have him run on Sunday.

I find it terribly interesting that although he felt the Lord's pleasure in running, he acknowledged the higher authority of the Word of God and the conviction of the Holy Spirit. His path was clearly marked out for him, not by his feelings or his desires, but by the Word of God.

"...the race marked out for us..."

Despite what we may think at times, the race is clearly marked. Just as my boys didn't have to wander around, hoping to stumble upon the race course, neither do we. Want to know where you are to run? Which race is yours? You will know God's direction and His will for your life as you seek Him in His word. He has made His will clear right there in the pages of your Bible.

Too often I fix my eyes on the race and not on the goal: Jesus. Too often I am consumed with my calling, my ministry, my race. If the triathletes had run their race last Saturday focusing anywhere but the finish line they would have never finished the race. All their effort and work and determination would have been in vain.

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus..."

Throw off whatever hinders, especially the sin that has you entangled in a mess, and run. It's work; it requires perseverance, but our race is clearly marked. Look to Jesus and as you cross the finish line, hear His commendation: Well done, good and faithful servant! Come and share your master's happiness!

Let's finish the race. Let's keep the faith. Let's pour ourselves out, giving it everything we've got to finish and finish well, knowing that there is in store for us a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to all who have longed for his appearing.

19 comments:

  1. Lisa,
    I can't begin to tell you how much I needed to read this today. "Too often I am consumed with my calling, my ministry, my race." rather than fixing my eyes on Jesus.
    Blessings on your day!

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  2. What an encouraging post, Lisa!

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  3. I love that Hebrews verse. And I love your thoughts. Daily I need the reminder of those verses. Thanks!

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  4. Great post - well written. Thanks for the reminder to focus on the goal and not the race - Jesus is my focus!

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  5. Wow, Lisa. Congratulations to your boys for their accomplishment.

    I loved this post.

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  6. Thanks for such a wonderful reminder! It is so easy to focus how we are racing, that we don't focus on just finishing the race.

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  7. I have been really praying that I will keep my focus on Christ and the cross!

    It is great that your boys did that, how old are they?

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  8. ...lacing up my "running shoes" right now! Looking up to Jesus and getting my eyes off me feet!

    Thank you so much for this post.

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  9. Lisa,
    I needed that post today, thank you for letting God use you.

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  10. Great encouragement Lisa! How cool that your guys completed their triathlon well. I like you would rather cheer atheletes on...

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  11. Tracy,
    My boys are 13 and 11 (almost 12). I can't remember their times exactly, but both completed in less than two hours.
    Lisa

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  12. Lis:
    One of your best posts ever. Compelling and compassionate all in one. Well done!
    Love,
    jules

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  13. brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for the reminder of that movie, will be renting it this week!

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  14. I've been camped out for a while on the "race marked out for us" portion of this text. So many thoughts and applications, not the least of which is that it IS marked. As you said, none of the triathletes (is that the word?) had to wander around wondering where to run, bike, or swim.

    Another thought on this little phrase is that the race is marked FOR us. It's a gift. Sometimes it seems more gift-y than others, to be sure. It has been done in an act of God's sovreignty and grace, and therefore it is good.

    Lastly, the race course is specific, in that we don't peruse an assortment of courses and select one. I'm not allowed to go a little ways down first this and then that course to sample several and choose the one with the best scenery and the most SnoCone stands. :~D

    Thanks for doing such a wonderful job drawing this illustration, and for taking the time to share it with us. And with that, I will now unhijack your comments.

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  15. great post. and that is quite the accomplishment for your boys. congratulations to them.

    i had to comment because my son just finished helping someone with their race. yesterday i wrote a post about it. and i, too, can see the correlations between the race and God. glad i stopped by.

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  16. I love that you said "the race is clearly marked." That is so true, but I know people who wander around trying to "find" what God would have them do in life. It IS found in the pages of His word. Thanks for saying that.

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  17. I agree with Everyday Mommy...one of the best posts ever!!!!!! I sat at my desk having lunch with tears rolling down my face....

    Thanks,

    Love you

    mda

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  18. brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for the reminder of that movie, will be renting it this week!

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  19. Lis:
    One of your best posts ever. Compelling and compassionate all in one. Well done!
    Love,
    jules

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