Thursday, September 15, 2011
Running the Race: Lessons Learned from a "Rugged Maniac"
My daughter in law is a bit of a fitness nut. She loves to eat right and work out and seems to think that running long races involving obstacle courses is an idea of fun. I feel really good about myself for walking around the block!
She recently ran in a race called the "Rugged Maniac" with a number of other Army Wives from Fort Knox and as I looked through her pictures, I thought about how like this race our lives are. Sometimes its all downhill. Sometimes it is not. As we move through life we encounter many obstacles and trials. Some are conquered without much effort. Most are not. How well we are ready to run the race and meet the obstacles is critical. One thing is always sure - it is rarely EASY. Several scriptures came to mind so I am giving you a "Rugged Maniac" montage with lessons from scripture to relate.
1. You Have to Be Prepared.
Just as you cannot run a physical race without training and preparation, in order to run the race of life well we must be prepared to meet obstacles before they happen. We can only do that by spending time in God's Word and in relationship with Him in order to face what is coming.
14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.”15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. 1 Peter 3:14-16
Peter was writing to Christians who were suffering and encountering trials. He encouraged them to be prepared to share their hope with a world that is not adequately prepared for the race.
2. The Race is Easier if You Run Together.
24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-26
We need to support each other in the race. Hebrews tell us to encourage one another and cause others to do good works. The world around us looks like a bleak place some days, but if we run as a team, we will make it to the end and finish well.
3. We Must Run With Joy
23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. 24 But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. Acts 20:23-24
Paul often used the analogy of the race. Here in Acts he speaks of prison and tribulations, but nothing bothers him. He only wants to run with joy. We do not get to choose the obstacles we face. We simply have to keep running. No one faced more trials and obstacles than Paul (2 Corinthians 11:23-29), but his goal was to run with joy in order to glorify Jesus Christ. How often are we less than joyful over the little obstacles that come our way?
4. We Must Run With Endurance
1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2
Aren't there days when life just wears you down? We must keep going. There are things that distract us and tempt us to quit running. There are days we think we just can't take it anymore. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that we have to stay focused on our goal - Jesus. When we are focused on Him and not on the obstacle ahead, we will find the stamina to keep going.
5. We Must Run With the End in Mind
24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 1 Corinthians 9:23-24
What do we get for all our trouble? There is a prize. A crown that won't wilt or rust or bend. Athletes in Paul's day were given a laurel wreath to wear as a crown when they won a race or event. Because it was organic material, it eventually would wilt and rot. God is going to give us a crown that will never rot or decompose. And one day when we come into His glorious presence, we will get to take it off and place it right back at His feet! The very feet that were nailed to a cross for us. That seems like a prize worth competing for.
The other great thing about this prize is: everyone can win it! There is no gold, silver and bronze. Everyone who finishes gets one, regardless of your rank in line.
6. We Must Remember the Purpose of the Obstacles
6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 8 whom having not seen[a] you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:7-9
When the race is long and we feel as through we are running through fire, we can know that we are being refined. Not refined so that we can "be a better person" or just to "build our character", but to make us presentable to our King. In order to give praise and honor and glory to Him.
7. We Must Finish Well
6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. 2 Timothy 4:6-8
Paul was in prison and knew that he was nearing the end of his life. He could look back and know that, in spite of all the hardship he experienced, he had finished well.
How are you running your race today?