I Corinthians 9:24-27 (MSG)
You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally. I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.
Imagine you are an Olympic athlete who has trained for track for your entire life. From a young boy or girl, you discovered running. You loved it. You were good at it. The high school coach saw your potential and talked to your parents who in turn enlisted the help of other coaches and mentors to make you faster and better than you were before. You won every race it seemed growing up with little effort. But even with all the medals and trophies, the one thing you desired most was an Olympic medal. Continuing to compete in college on full scholarship, of course, you are selected to attend a time trial which you quickly qualify and will represent the US team at the next world event. Your parents are proud. You feel accomplished. It is the big day you stand in a crowded stadium looking at the same layout you have for a decade of your life. It is time to take your mark. Your heart is beating. The crowd is cheering. Sweat beads on your brow in heavy expectation. The gun sounds and the other runners are off the block. Everyone except you – you don’t move but just hold your position. What happened? You had run every other race in your life flawlessly. Is this you today? Or is this me? God has planned for this day and prepared us for this moment but when He says, “Go!” We freeze. Where is our faith that seemed so sure and our hope that once was confident? We dissolve in disappointment. We missed it.
I have never seen an Olympic contestant not come off the line of a race, but I have seen them fall short of the glory that they were pursuing. Lolo Jones is indeed one of my favorite athletes. Her story is one of triumph over adversity and total perseverance. She has won races all over the world running. But despite attending the Olympics multiple times, she has never received one for running. Yet she does not quit or give up and keeps ending up in a starting block somewhere. She is a believer. She loves God. Where is her victory? I don’t know. But she keeps running for some reason.
Are you running to win today? Are you running for eternal gold? The hardest step sometimes if the first one. I want to run. It is not my strong suit. Although I do not have the time, talent or aspiration to be an Olympic runner – I have purposed in my heart to one day run/walk a mini marathon of some sort. It is a challenge in my heart. But I have to train to do so. I cannot just come on the scene expecting to finish the race. I must build up strength and endurance for this challenge. My life does not depend on whether or not I accomplish this goal. But there are things in my life that God has told me to do that do impact my future. Will I participate? Or will I just stand on the mark?
Habakkuk 2:1-3 (MSG)
What’s God going to say to my questions? I’m braced for the worst. I’ll climb to the lookout tower and scan the horizon. I’ll wait to see what God says, how he’ll answer my complaint. And then God answered: “Write this. Write what you see. Write it out in big block letters so that it can be read on the run. This vision-message is a witness pointing to what’s coming. It aches for the coming—it can hardly wait! And it doesn’t lie. If it seems slow in coming, wait. It’s on its way. It will come right on time.
Vision is not our problem. Everyone has a dream. I believe that God puts these desires in our heart even if our flesh modifies them. When we begin to seek the Lord, He shows us things. Secret things. Hidden things. He encourages us to write them down. Prepare for them. Pray over them. Get ready. On your mark. Get set. He promises that it will come right on time but if we do not “go” when it is time – then what? Why wouldn’t we go after it? Are you kidding? I know what you are thinking – I have thought it, too. When I am waiting on God and He opens the door for someone else, we think “what are you waiting for”. Change requires a step of faith for human beings. We are not comfortable in change. God seldom opens a door completely at first. He opens it a little and we must step through to see His Plan unfolding. We do not understand God’s Way even though it always the best way.
For someone today, it is time to run. The waiting is over. The vision is clear. The way is plain. Now you just have to go for it! What will it take to get you moving? Change is uncomfortable but will you do it for God. Is the prize He offers worth having enough to “take a four foot step on a five foot limb” as one of my favorite pastor says? It is but until we believe it is – we will not leave the mark.
Psalm 19:7-9 (MSG)
The revelation of God is whole and pulls our lives together. The signposts of God are clear and point out the right road. The life-maps of God are right, showing the way to joy. The directions of God are plain and easy on the eyes. God’s reputation is twenty-four-carat gold with a lifetime guarantee. The decisions of God are accurate down to the nth degree.
Before we take off, there must be confidence in God’s Direction for our life. This is something we must obtain daily in our walk with Him along with those new mercies that He leaves for us. We need to fully believe without reservation that it is God who gives us revelation that is whole and pulls our lives together from the fragments we make it to the beautiful depiction written before our birth. God makes all things work together for those who love and trust Him. (Romans 8:28) He perfects our way. (Psalm 138:8) This is the primary catapult that gets us off the starting line to running the race. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. (John 14:6) There is no other way to have the Promises of God for our life. He is the dream giver and fulfiller.
GPS tracking is a modern day wonder but it is not always correct. There have been instances when my instinct told me to look again or recalculate because something seemed off and it was. Nothing in life is flawless…except God and His Word. We can trust Him completely with our life. Those who trust and obey will see His Glory and Goodness manifest in their life over and over again. Humans have trust issues. We struggle to believe which hinders our faith delaying our blessing. We must believe completely trusting the Will and Way of God in all things to have His Very Best in life and win the race of faith.
Hebrews 12:1-3 (MSG)
Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!
God gives us vision. While we mull it over, He makes the way for it to come to pass. It is not delayed but every detail is falling into place. When He says, “Go!” We must find it in ourselves to take the first step, then another and another. I have seen God move mountains and do miracles in my life yet am still challenged like everyone else when it comes to big steps of faith into the realm of hope.
I find that when I am challenged I can usually can find someone in the Word of God to identify with. For our son’s journey, it was Abraham. Once I decided that the only way through this was to trust the Lord with our son, it was a challenge. Maybe not the first time I was told that he had cancer or the second, perhaps it was the third or fourth. I began to picture this mighty man of God walking up the mountain by faith. I did not have a knife in my hand but I did not have the cure to cancer either. So we kept walking. And walking. And walking. Then one day in my mind, I began cross country running up to the top. Rather than edging up the side of a cliff, I was jumping from rock to rock and I could see the dust rise from each footfall. Was I really running? No. But my spirit woman was and she intended to win. We did. We are now approaching one year of remission in a kid that was not given much of chance to live. This was our “last ditch” effort. But look what the Lord has done. We didn’t quit. Couldn’t. The price was too high. What if I learned to run like that in all things? When God says it, I just do it? What would my life be like? It would be victory after victory because Jesus is our Champion. Lord, teach me to run the race of faith in all things.
Galatians 5:7-9 (MSG)
You were running superbly! Who cut in on you, deflecting you from the true course of obedience? This detour doesn’t come from the One who called you into the race in the first place. And please don’t toss this off as insignificant. It only takes a minute amount of yeast, you know, to permeate an entire loaf of bread. Deep down, the Master has given me confidence that you will not defect. But the one who is upsetting you, whoever he is, will bear the divine judgment.
Watch your step today. The enemy is trying to create diversions and detours to keep you from successfully achieving and having all that God has for you. We must learn to guard our heart AND our way. Any deviation from the steps God has laid before us takes us from God’s Perfect Will into His Permissible Will. We cannot have the prize if we do not fulfill the necessary steps. I do not want to be disqualified. People are not your problem. Circumstances do not have the power to hinder you. Situations are not detrimental unless we choose to stop running and stay there. Faith takes us out of these places and puts us in His Presence where we find all that we need for every situation. Comfort and complacency may satisfy our flesh but it will never satisfy our soul so we will always be searching if we settle but those who break the chains of fear and run anyway by faith will win every single time.
Philippians 2:14-16 (MSG)
Do everything readily and cheerfully—no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night so I’ll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns. You’ll be living proof that I didn’t go to all this work for nothing.
Finally, Philippians 2:16 (NLT) says “do not run in vain.” If you don’t want all that God has for you don’t bother trying to chase after Him. I say that only to say you will be frustrated in your pursuit and spread the wrong message about Christ. See you are free to pursue whatever you want in this life. You can choose life or death. You can pick whether you are blessed or cursed. It is all up to you. That is what freedom is all about – anything less than the vision God has given you has the potential to become a nightmare. It is all or nothing. Why put in all the time and effort if the prize doesn’t matter? But if it does matter…why not run with it and decide that winning is the only option. Faith leads the way to victory. You must step out to finish. You cannot win if you do not try!
Hold back nothing in your pursuit of abundant life today and you will find it. When you do nothing and no one can every take it from you because it will be yours. You will own it. You were born for such a time as this. God has given you clear vision. He has ordered your steps. Now all you have to do is run with it!
Hebrews 12:10-13 (MSG)
While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best. At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God. So don’t sit around on your hands! No more dragging your feet! Clear the path for long-distance runners so no one will trip and fall, so no one will step in a hole and sprain an ankle. Help each other out. And run for it!