Finishing the Race

Men racing(Written 11/11/2010) As I mentioned in a previous article, I am in the midst of a nine week “Couch Potato to 5K” (C25K) program. Today was week 5 day 3–the first session comprised entirely of jogging (outside the five minute warm-up and cool-down walking periods). Twenty minutes may seem humorously minuscule to an accomplished jogger, but I knew that it was going to be difficult, partially because I am still so out of shape, but also because the genes my parents bequeathed me include flat feet, and my knees receive a tremendous amount of abuse.

From previous torture sessions I discovered that although my exhaustion increases, the physical pain actually decreases after the first jogging interval. So, this morning I tested a theory and jogged for sixty seconds before the five minute warm-up…and sure enough the discomfort was reduced.

I am not alone, when faced with a task, in figuring out ways to work around the most difficult aspects. When failure isn’t an option (for whatever reason), humans can be quite creative. It may just be that my ego was in control, but I was going to do whatever I could to make sure I didn’t bail-out of today’s run!

Both Paul and the writer of Hebrews compare the Christian life to a race (1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 2 Timothy 4:7; Hebrews 12:1-2). As we compete for the imperishable wreath (see 1 Corinthians 9:25) we are faced with impediments far greater than my faulty knees. Sometimes these roadblocks can seem insurmountable, but we know that we are never faced with anything we cannot overcome:

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13, ESV).

When we fall we have chosen to–God has promised away out if only we’ll take it. There is no allurement that is too great.

Having said that, when we know that we are especially weak in an area, doesn’t it make sense for us to develop a work-around–an escape of sorts? For instance, if gossip is a problem for you, and you get a juicy bit of news, perhaps the best option is to avoid the phone, e-mail, etcetera until you’ve taken the time to contemplate some advice in the Word (e.g. Proverbs 10:18; 16:28; 17:9; Ephesians 4:29)?

As another example, for us men perhaps one of the most rampant sins is that of ingesting pornography. If you have that issue, or know someone who does–what work-arounds can be developed? Obviously step #1 is not to purchase any of it, but how do you avoid that poison when an innocuous Google search can return an enticing link (or an unsolicited e-mail can contain it); a “normal” movie channel can display nudity; or taking children to the beach can bombard you with beguiling figures that leave very little to the imagination?

Let’s start with the Internet. If a program like Covenant Eyes won’t suffice, how about just never surfing the web or using e-mail? Still not enough? What about selling the computer and reading (and communicating) the old-fashioned way via ink on paper? “But then I won’t be able to stay in touch with my friends” or “my job requires I work on-line!” Really?!

And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched’ (Mark 9:47-48)

Send your friends postcards, give them a ring, or visit them! Find another job! It would be better to be friendless and destitute heading for the kingdom of God than popular and rich on a quick path to hell! Nothing on the web, a television, or a sandy beach can compare to the imperishable wreath since “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

What is holding you back from completing the race? What work-around will you, today, implement to “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely” so that the “great…cloud of witnesses” will see you “run with endurance the race that is set before” you? (See Hebrews 12:1.)

Now, if your greatest hindrance is fear of failure, take heart. The Lord knows you are weak (see Matthew 26:41), and “if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1b) and “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Don’t give up no matter how often you stumble while running…just keep “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2a) and “henceforth there is laid up for [you] the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to [you] on that Day, and not only to [you] but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8).

To quote Peter Gabriel: “Don’t give up, ‘cause I believe there’s a place…there’s a place were we belong.”

See you at the finish line!


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