A Race That Really Counts
|Written by Chad -|
Running. It can be causal or it can be extreme. I have friends who participate in 3ks, 5ks, 10ks, half-marathons, full marathons, Tough Mudders and I'm pretty sure one of my friends is planning to do a Zombie Run where there are people dressed up as zombies and they try to eat you by tearing off flags that you have around your waste. All of my running friends have tried to get me to go on these runs. For me though, running is very casual, like "only a mile on Wednesday mornings because it's good for me" type of casual. That's about it.
You may be wondering why I'm even writing about running since I don't even like doing it. Well, a realization came to me after I went out running on Wednesday. I accidentally left my headphones at home—it was the first time I went on a run without music playing. I was instantly worried that I wouldn't be able to make the extremely long mile I had ahead of me, but my lovely wife, Amber, was right there to encourage me and said, "You've got this!"
I took off, leaving Amber behind in my dust (not really, she was out walking, which is way smarter than running). The first quarter mile went by quickly and the next two quarters went by fairly smoothly. I started to hit "the wall" in the last quarter of my mile. Surprisingly, my thoughts started to become more and more encouraging. "Last straightaway!" "Two more curves and you're almost done!" "One last small hill and you've got it!" "You can see the finish line, turn it up and make it good!" I hit the finish line exhausted and gulping air like it was the first time I had ever breathed. It felt great to finish strong.
After I showered and had breakfast, I sat down in my quiet time with God. During my reading time and prayer time, I felt this nagging feeling that said I'm not quite up to par with what God is wanting me to do. Generally I'm extremely hard on myself and at first I thought it was just me bullying myself. As my quiet time continued, I realized that it wasn't me, but it was God nudging me. He asked me if He could get more from me. He wanted to see me push myself like I did earlier that morning when I was running. He wanted me to show up to the race with a passion, instead of just going through the motions.
God was so right and it freaked me out.
In 1 Corinthians 4:18-21, Paul writes to the people of Corinth, "Some of you have become arrogant, thinking I will not visit you again. But I will come—and soon—if the Lord lets me, and then I'll find out whether these arrogant people just give pretentious speeches or whether they really have God's power. For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk, it is living by God's power. Which do you choose? Should I come with a rod to punish you, or should I come with love and a gentle spirit?"
I tend to believe that I have all my ducks in a row as a Christian because I go to church, I read my Bible, I listen to Christian music, I pray, I lead a small group, etc. I may be doing all the right things in my mind and even saying the right things in public, but how often do I truly push myself in my personal walk with God? How often do I go beyond my comfort zone to further God's Kingdom?
I've always struggled with finding ways that I can push beyond the "normalcy" of Christianity in today's world; getting out and running the race that really matters. As of right now, I'm empty with ideas, but I've been asking God's Spirit to guide me in the right direction. I desire to continue to see miracles like last week when my friend's mother woke up from a coma (check out the story here). I want the ability to quickly distinguish between Truth and lies like Dr. Del Tackett teaches (check out this smart guy here). I crave the ability to see God's Spirit move within my own life on a consistent basis like a World Racer (check out the inspiring blogs of current World Racers here). My prayer is that I don't take the easy way out on this one, but that I continually ask God to give me a taste of His life-giving water so that I can finish strong in the race that really counts in this life.
Hebrews 12: 1-13 has helped me understand why God is nudging me and why He is challenging my passion in the race of life.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin. And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said,
'My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and don’t give up when he corrects you.
For the Lord disciplines those he loves,
and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.'
As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever?
For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong."