Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV) 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.
I have a good friend who is a runner. This is not a shared common interest. If you see me running, you should probably run too as something must be chasing me. When our son was sick, many people reached out to us in a variety of ways. My friend found a bracelet honoring our son’s cancer battle and committed every marathon to him. It was a race of faith and each footstep she made symbolic. She won many of the competitions finishing well above her class in most. I believe it was the Team Unconquered spirit that gave her such strength not in her body but her spirit and soul. Each time she finished well was a heartfelt reminder that God has promised our son would finish this race, too.
My friend would run for another woman battled the same wretched foe. Her outcome would be different as she leapt into the Arms of Jesus to finish her course. Another course with a different ending but the same Great God. Just recently I was devastated to learn that now my friend who has faithfully run the race of faith with us is now running it on her own. She has been diagnosed with cancer. How can this be? Someone who unselfishly and unrelenting in her faith offering encouragement to others now must fight the same war.
2 Timothy 2:4-6 (NIV) No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops.
Life is full of attachments and entanglements. Things that attach themselves to us and those things which cause us to stumble and fall. We are all running a race of faith. It doesn’t matter if you are a runner, walker and crawler. In every marathon, all the runners are similar in appearance. Shoulder to shoulder, most begin strong running together in a pact with no clear cut winner or loser just participants on a crowded road. After the first few minutes, the group thins and become a string of runners. Each one a little more defined by experience and endurance. As the journey continues some will stop, give up or fall away. The runner who has conditioned their body against the elements, nourished their bones and muscles with proper food and water, rested prior to the race, and trained for it – those are the ones who cross the finish line. Some will run across with their arms in the air, others will walk to the line collapsing on the other side, and then some will literally crawl or be carried to the end. It doesn’t really matter how you start, but your life is contingent on how you finish this race called faith.
We must not get tied up in civilian affairs. This world is ruled by darkness and influenced by the enemy of our soul. It is his dominion. It is his domain. Our mission is the great commission. We cannot and will not change the world. We are not called to do so. We have been commissioned with a direct order by Jesus who has all power and authority over heaven and earth granted by God to do just one thing – “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20) If it was our mission to take over the world, why would we be instructed to respect all authority even governmental who have effectively cut God out of every public platform possible? (Romans 13) Our focus must be on the one, the sheep that is lost. The Lord desires the souls to build His Kingdom. We are not of this world and must conform to the rules of engagement set forth by Jesus.
I believe as my athletic friend ran each race honoring our son, her feet pressed in seeds of faith for this season of life. This time the good fight of faith will be fought by her. She will have what she needs because she will reap what she has sown. What kind of provisions are you planting today for tomorrow’s battle? Will you have what you need to finish the race? Faith is compared to a mustard seed. A seed of faith cannot grow until planted. We must learn to sow seeds as we go rather than checking a barren field for a crop not yet planted.
Isaiah 35:8-10 (NIV) And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way. The unclean will not journey on it; wicked fools will not go about on it. No lion will be there, nor any ravenous beast; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there, and those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
The way of holiness is the narrow road talked about in Matthew 7:13-14 because few will ever find their way there. It is just too hard to let go of reality to take hold of faith. I think that is why is compared to roles like soldier, athlete and farmers. All of these people sacrifice. They give their all. Giving up time, talent and treasure (resources) to pursue something more, bigger and greater than themselves. I believe such a sacrifice is need to fight and win the good fight of faith. Life without limits comes when we breakdown the strongholds of fear, pain and doubt to be overcome with faith that moves mountains, heals bodies and prospers our life. There are various stages to every race. Strong beginnings, waning and whining midway but then we can vaguely see the end in sight. It is at that moment giving up is no longer an option and hope rises within us. Love, joy and peace are the fulfillment of hope. It is a place of right standing with Jesus that removes every barrier from our life. It is time to unload those things that are keeping us from finishing the race.
Matthew 19:21-26 (NIV) Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
An impossible life begins and ends in Jesus Christ. He is the author and finisher of faith in our life. He is the beginning and end of all things. Those who choose to live by faith pursuing a relationship with Jesus will come to the end of themselves at some point. A moment in time when you must lay down your life for what you believe. It will change your commitment, confession and conviction until it is all or nothing. You must believe to be saved. Jesus Christ must be the foundational thought in all your thinking to know that you will finish the race and win the war for your life. The rich young man came to Jesus for validation of faith. He was a religious person who knew all the dos and don’ts set forth by God. He worked hard to follow all the commandments…that is until it all came down to the one that mattered the most. “Go, sell all your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven.” We are good with stay, hoard our stuff, and pray for the poor but what is this give it all away stuff? My life is worth nothing until I give it all away. Nothing is possible but I remain subject to all the impossibilities until Christ becomes my beginning and end with everything wrapped up in the middle. For me to live is Christ and die is gain. He must increase and I must decrease. We read the words. We carefully repeat them. Until we live them, they are lip service that will not open doors, break chains or add to the Kingdom beginning with me.
I Timothy 6:11-16 (NIV) But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.
My friend will win her race. She is a finisher. The one who has put the time into training body, mind, soul and spirit. She has laid down her life for others. It is in that moment that we lay down our life for a friend (John 15:13) or maybe even love our enemies (Matthew 5:44-45) that God’s Love can reach the innermost parts of our life and perfect those things which concern us. (Psalm 138:8) Faith expands the capacity of our existence to receive that which we hope for. Nothing is impossible for God. Nothing. By faith, we have a wonderful opportunity to live a limitless life. It is time to step down from soapboxes and move away from politics to enter the race of faith also called the Highway to Holiness. Abandoning anger and offering forgiveness making our light (the Light of God’s Love) to shine brightly in the darkness. It is time to run the race of faith to the finish rather than throwing the towel in when the Lord doesn’t do it our way, the journey seems to long or things get uncomfortable. If we would just collect all the broken and fragmented pieces of our heart and life thrusting them into the Hands of Jesus, He will make a beautiful life from that which was broken. He will fill our voids with His Presence. He will bind our wounds and heal our hearts. No longer slaves to sin or bound to the past – we will finish the race of faith with the victor’s crown as promised. Thank you Jesus that you have not placed limitations on my life but given me the power to live without limits.
I Corinthians 9:24-27 (NIV) Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.