Tell me if this sounds familiar to many of us:
“Man, I’m getting a little chunky! I need to lose some weight. I’m going to diet, do research on the best ways to exercise and then I’m going to join a gym. I’m going to lose weight this year!”
We start our dieting and working out with a bang…and then life happens. We get busy and are always on the run. That diet of grilled chicken salad starts becoming more familiar with the Burger King drive-thru than anything else. Working out three times a week turns into working out twice a month. Eventually, the original plan unravels and we’re back right where we started.
For many of us, we start things with the best intentions and a really good plan to go with it. However, somewhere along the way life happens. We get discouraged. We get busy. We get tired. This habit of starting well and finishing with a limp is something that goes far beyond a commitment to get in shape. Our spiritual lives follow this same sort of pattern. We start with a bang! There’s passion and excitement about our decision to follow after Christ. We study Scripture daily. We seek people out who can mentor and disciple us. We’re excited to tell others about the gospel.
And then life happens….
Our spiritual excitement grows cold. We get too busy to go to church. We’re too discouraged to study the Word. We grow numb to the work of the Spirit. So what happened? Why did something that started so well, grind to halt? Any number of things can lead us to stumble in our faith and not want to get back up. However, Scripture gives us the answer of how to keep the fire of our faith burning.
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, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. ~ Hebrews 12:1-2
We’ve got to focus our minds and hearts on the fact that our faith is bigger than one single mountaintop experience or an extended season of our lives. Our faith spans the entire course of our life. Our hope in Christ is one that stretches far past what we can see or expect. We stumble in this race when we take our eyes off of Christ who is the everything to our faith. Jesus is our aim. Christ is our ultimate glory. In earthly terms, He is the finish line of the race of faith that we run. It is by Him and for Him that we run. If we lose sight of Him, we miss the point of the race entirely.
As Christ is our aim, it is up to us to run the race before us. That’s the hard part because discouragement and frustration come and beat us down. We get tired. We fall. Yet, there’s hope. We can run this race with passion and endurance. We can finish well. Paul gives us this advice:
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. ~ 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
We have to run the race of faith with purpose and passion. Everyday is an opportunity to grow in grace. Every personal encounter is a chance to testify to the gospel of God’s grace. We live in such a way that we seize the short term opportunities to grow and proclaim while remembering the overarching purpose of our life: to submit our lives to Christ and to give Him glory with the race that we run. There will come days when it is truly hard to live in the joy of the Lord, but we press on. We discipline ourselves to seek Him through the study of the Word. We go to worship with our brothers and sisters in Christ, even when we just want to be alone. We discipline ourselves to continually pursue Him.
Some of us, however, have already fallen. Some of us are running the race with a limp. Some of us aren’t even running towards the finish line. The great news is that it isn’t how you start…it is how you finish. Last week I met a man named Bill who was well into his 80s. From the age of 6, Bill knew he wanted to be a doctor. He spend all his school days aimed at that goal. Yet, when he got to medical school he realized being a doctor was not for him. He quit medical school and went into the military for a few years. After completing his military service Bill came back to the States and entered truck driving school. He quit truck driving school after only a few weeks. He felt like he had lost sight of everything that was important. He had been running the race for himself and not God. A few weeks after quitting truck driving school, Bill entered seminary. Bill then proceeded to serve as a pastor for 21 years before retiring from ministry. Yet, even in “retirement” Bill oversees a special needs ministry at his church
Bill’s race didn’t start off so great, but Bill is finishing well. For some of us, our race hasn’t started off so great. Now is the time for us to get up and finish well.