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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
A couple of years ago I trained for a half-marathon. I actually loved it, and I think this spring I will pull my schedule out and do it again. I’m not really a runner because I have crazy problems with my ankles, but I’m a fairly fast walker/jogger. I used a schedule that starts you out slowly and gradually increases your distances until 13.1 miles isn’t a difficult thing, but a normal weekend workout. The process is a challenge though, and there are times when you’d like to just stop and lie on the side of the road (and sometimes your friends training with you do just that….right Danielle??) The idea of perseverance, as written by Paul in the above verse, is familiar to anyone who has trained for a long race, but it isn’t those long hours of preparation I remember about that spring. What I remember is crossing the finish line in Indianapolis on a sunny May morning, and the joy of finishing the race well -with good friends by my side.
I’m so glad that Paul often uses the analogy of a race to describe the life of a Christ follower, because I can see so many parallels. As we fix our eyes on Jesus, who ran this race before us, we are encouraged to persevere. We keep moving forward and gradually God asks us to go further than we’ve previously gone until that distance seems easy. Then he pushes us again. Some days we feel like we want to just lie by the side of the road and stop, but we consider he “who endured such opposition” so that we will not “grow weary and lose heart.”
And we keep going.
One of my all-time favorite authors is Elisabeth Elliott. For those of you unfamiliar with her story, she was a missionary in Equador with her husband Jim for just a couple of years when he was speared to death by an unfriendly tribe of Indians. This left her alone with a 10 month old daughter, and she stayed in Equador. She ended up reaching out to the tribe that had killed her husband and sharing Christ with them. She has written so many wonderful books on living for Jesus, and her writing cheers me on in ways only rivaled by God’s own words in scripture.
“A new set of marching orders. That is what always follows loss of any kind—a mother’s loss of her child, a wife’s of her husband, a lover’s of his beloved, a man’s loss of his job, his health, his self-esteem, his home—if only we have ears to hear those orders, eyes to see the gain God intends to bring out of our loss. Even when trouble stops our ears and clouds our vision, He goes on working in secret and perhaps years later reveals what we had not faith to lay hold of. ‘I do not want to miss one lesson,’ I wrote a few weeks after Jim died.
Yet I find that events do not change souls. It is our response to them which finally affects us.”
New marching orders.
Although in grief of loss we might want to sit by the road and halt the race for a time, God calls us forward. There are new songs to sing, new mercies to celebrate and new people to bring into God’s love. Lying by the road is not an option. God calls us ever forward in Him, even when our hearts are sad.
I’m so thankful for your encouragement and love during the past few months of change and loss. I’m positive your prayers have been answered by God, as he sustained us and lightened our burdens for that part of the journey. I just visited a dear friend yesterday who lost his dad this week. He said, “I just keep hoping that everything else will stay in place- that the water heater won’t go out this week, that the car will work… because I don’t have the strength to deal with anything but this.”
And so we pray- as you did for us- that God would carry the burdens during those hard parts of the race for him.
Because we are in this together. We may not cross the finish line at the same time, but on the other side, once we have “fought the good fight, finished the race and kept the faith”, we will celebrate in God’s presence and all of this struggle here will be forgotten in an unspeakable joy.
Let’s fix our eyes on Jesus this week and run, dear friends!!!!
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:7-8