In the bible it talks about running a race. Hebrews 12:1-2a, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith". (ESV) When a person goes into track, they know that they will have to train. They will have to run, and then run more. They will have to run until it feels like their heart will give out and then go out and do it again...and again. And those that run the hurdles know that those hurdles are out there for them to jump over. I am sure like me, the first few times they end up either bruised or on the ground wrapped up in that hurdle. But with practice and endurance, they come to the point of being able to soar over them. That is what they are training for. But imagine if they go out to run that hurdle event and someone starts throwing water balloons at them. And after the first hurdle, there is a mud hole. And then some hurdles are standard height and then some are a foot taller, or two feet taller. This race is no longer the standard hurdle run, it is now an obstacle course. Or more accurately, it is like that show 'Wipeout' that used to be on tv. The contestants had to run this ridiculous course that is filled with crazy challenges. They never knew what was going to hit them. They never knew what trial was ahead, what abuse was waiting for them. I remember watching the show a few times with Jim and rarely did anyone complete the course. Instead, most of what you saw were the contestants botching it, epic fails. Wipeout!
So, here you are, running this race we call Christianity; it's all fun and games until things start getting thrown at you. I was talking with a friend the other day. Encouraging her to stay true to the course that the Lord has her on. Affirming how far she has come and that the Lord is faithful to keep us on the path. The next day she tells me of two things that happened, things that have thrown a curve ball at her. That is when I had the thought of how our run is like that game 'Wipeout'. We follow Jesus. We begin to walk on the path He has set for us. We are pumped for this race set before us. And then the enemy starts to throw things at us. Like it says in that verse in Hebrews 12, we have to set aside those things that weigh us down, the sin that seeks to entangle us. We have to be like those athletes and train. We have to train in hearing the Lord's voice. We have to train in reading His word. We have to become proficient in determining are we hearing the Spirit or is the enemy trying to deceive us. We have to prepare like our lives depend on it. Because our lives do depend on it. Just as an athlete trains, not just to compete, but to win; we have to do the same. "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run [their very best to win], but only one receives the prize? Run [your race] in such a way that you may seize the prize and make it yours! Now every athlete who [goes into training and] competes in the games is disciplined and exercises self-control in all things. They do it to win a [b]crown that withers, but we [do it to receive] an imperishable [crown that cannot wither]. Therefore I do not run without a definite goal; I do not flail around like one beating the air [just shadow boxing]. But [like a boxer] I strictly discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached [the gospel] to others, I myself will not somehow be disqualified [as unfit for service]." 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, (AMP). This verse is very clear. We run to win; we compete to attain the prize. You don't see a prize fighter enter the ring and start to flail around, looking like a whirling dervish and hoping to win the title. No, he goes in with intent and determination. He bobs and weaves. He learns different stances. He knows which is his dominant hand and uses that to his advantage. He has spent countless hours studying the art of boxing and also studying his opponent. He does not go in unprepared and expecting to win. And even with all the preparation, all the training and hard work, he comes out with some cuts and bruises; he is not unscathed. But when that decision is handed down, the smile on his face and the arms raised in victory; all the pain, all the effort, all of it was worth it.
In this Christian life, we are not promised days of wine and roses. We are not promised that we won't be hurt, that we won't have scars. But those scars are a sign of a life lived. They are the mark of battle. But over time, those wounds heal, the scars fade. And we keep moving forward. Philippians 3:13b-15a, "But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way". (ESV) Let those who are mature think this way. Let those of us who have heard the voice of the Lord, who have seen Him at work in our lives, who have experienced His faithfulness, let us keep moving forward. We are not to be like sulky children, not getting our way because the enemy has tried to discourage us, tried to deter us. We are not to be thrown off course. If anything, we become more determined, because if we have the enemy's attention, it is because we are on the right path. If we are not a threat to him, he does not threaten us.
Just like on the show 'Wipeout', we run for a prize. They ran that obstacle course to win a grand prize of $50,000. Now, you know that the producers are going to throw everything they can at them so that they don't have to pay out that money. They want to make it as difficult as possible so that they will either give up or just give out. And they know that all those fails make for great entertainment. People don't tune in to see them fly through with ease. That is our Christian walk, brothers and sisters. The enemy knows the prize awaiting us. He knows that an eternity with our Father and our Lord awaits those of us who persevere until the end. And he does not want to see that payout. So he throws everything he can at us. Discouragement. Temptations. Accusations. Harder and harder he tries to disqualify you. But you, through the strength of Jesus and the power of the Spirit keep dodging them. You bob and weave. You jump over. You keep on going. And that makes for a great story. Because even though you have bruises, you have scars, you are exhausted and your strength is waning; you can do all things through Him who strengthens you. Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfill His purpose—I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace.]" (AMP) As you run that race with endurance, as you persevere throughout the trials and tribulations, as you keep going regardless of injuries or scars you are an example to others. You are a testament to God's faithfulness, His unending love, His care for you. You become not only a runner, you become an encourager to those who are running alongside you. You become like that relay runner, passing that baton of faith and hope and courage to each other.
"This is the only race worth running. I’ve run hard right to the finish, believed all the way. All that’s left now is the shouting—God’s applause!" 2 Timothy 4:7 (MSG) Keep running, keep fighting, keep enduring. Dodge those attacks of the enemy. Jump over the impediments he puts in your path. Knock his lies out with a solid punch of the word. Keep the faith, run the race and the only one who will wipeout will be the devil. You will only hear the applause of heaven. James 1:12 "Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him." (ESV)
Photo By: Sgt. Jonathan G. Wright