Maybe you’ve never been a participant or observer in any physical race but according to Hebrews 12:1 each of us are in a spiritual race:
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. (NKJV -Emphasis added)
When my daughters were in middle and high school, they began running on the track and cross country teams. At first, I was their encourager and enthusiastically stood on the sidelines cheering. But after a while, I joined them in their leisurely evening jogs around the neighborhood. Finally, when my youngest daughter was a senior in high school, we ran our first half marathon together. In the years to follow, I participated in two more races.
I ran my last half marathon without my daughter or a friend. I must have been with God though, because He showed me mental images during that quiet foggy morning, of what is required to run our spiritual race and successfully cross the finish line.
I drew six conclusions that day:
- Train regularly
- Throw off weight
- Identify the real enemy
- Live in community
- Persevere to the end
- Focus on the prize
During my race I reflected on the training that took place for months prior to the event. My training involved a daily commitment to exercise my muscles and instruction on how to take care of my muscles so that they stay strong.
Spiritually speaking, we need a similar commitment. We set aside time each day to open God’s Word and receive instruction.
When is the best time for you to spend time alone with God?
During the hard seasons of life, we have the opportunity to exercise our faith.
Without regular time with God we will miss important instruction or direction. This will cause us to slow down, miss the right road, or pass out from exhaustion.
Reflect on a particularly hard season. What did God teach you? What did you learn about His character?
Throw off Weight
One of my weekly training spots was a dirt track around the circumference of a small neighborhood lake. A couple times around the lake let me know I’d run a mile. Most times, though, my deep thoughts caused me to lose count of the laps around.
Collecting small rocks—one rock equals one lap—fixed the problem. I’d store these small rocks in my pants or jacket pocket or hold them in my fist. When a lap was completed, I’d throw a rock into the lake. When all the rocks were gone, I was finished. But a new dilemma was created. The rocks in my fist or pocket were weighty, bulky and distracting.
A sinful habit or attitude can resemble that rock in our pockets that weigh us down. Psalm 32:3-4 describe this sin as a heavy hand upon us.
What emotion, thought, or attitude is currently weighing you down?
I vividly remember a time when I felt this “weight” on me. But this time I recognized the weight as the hand of God. He was pressing into me to bring me to confession and into a right relationship with Him. I spent time with God that day asking Him to search my heart. He did and revealed my sin to me. After I confessed I literally felt the pressure leave my body. I felt as if the weight had indeed been lifted.
We’ve got to throw off that weight!
We can’t run into this day, next week, or this new season with weights we choose to stuff in our pockets. Toss them into the lake of God’s love and mercy.
Identify the Real Enemy
Feeling weak and exhausted, I slowed my pace.
With eyes downcast to the road in front of me I was able to spot it. A snake!
First introduced in the Garden of Eden, Satan began cleverly slithering his way into hearts and minds, distorting God’s truth, hissing lies and casting doubt.
The snake in my immediate race path was dead—flat out, car-squished, and dried up. Unable to hiss. Powerless to strike.
But Satan is alive and continues to hiss and spew his venom right here beside you and me. His to-do list is summed up in John 10:10:
He desires to:
- Steal your dreams, strength, peace, joy
- Kill your hope and your faith
- Destroy your confidence in God that He made you for a purpose
- Destroy your work, your family, and your relationships
With God-confident strength you fight against Satan’s attacks. Use God’s Word and His promises to slice up Satan’s lies and cut him to the core! He will be unable to hiss. Powerless to strike. Unable to spread his venom. Do this often.
Live in Community
An hour into the race I found myself trotting beside another woman. Within just a minute, though, she was no longer beside me. I glanced back to see that she had fallen behind. Using only my eyes and hands, we communicated.
I pointed to her with my index finger and then motioned for her to get back to her spot beside me. My body language said, Get up here girl. We can do this together!
We ran the rest of the way side by side, occasionally smiling, but never talking.
But we were together.
Life is hard. I wouldn’t want to trudge through the valley of hard times without someone to help pull me up. Neither would I want to reside on the mountaintop alone without someone to celebrate with or share the joy.
We need someone for:
Find that friend. Be that friend.
Persevere to the End
The race had been long and hard and I wasn’t finished. Headed up a steep hill, I could only manage to vocalize, “Oooouch.” My calves ached. My feet were tender and my breathing labored. My entire body was weary. It certainly made sense to quit.
What hill are you climbing? Oh, that one. Where you feel the wind has been knocked out of you and your heart is aching, your mind is confused, and you don’t understand what is happening? These are the hills of hardship and despair. Financial uncertainty, physical and emotional pain. Decisions, disappointments or loss of hope.
Philippians 3:14 tells us to press on.
Fill in the blank:
With God’s help I will _________________________ working towards the goal of _________________________________________.
The hill will level. The difficult times will get better, the relationships will heal. And you will leave this marathon of heartache running better than before with a sense of renewal and relief.
Suddenly I saw the top of the hill. Cresting the top of the knoll offered me hope—to complete what I’d started. The downhill felt good with wind blowing ever so gently on my sweaty, grimy face. Gravity worked in my favor and moved me along. For that moment I felt a sweet freedom. The road leveled again and I heard it—distant cheers, coming oh so much closer.
I caught sight of the banner, the people, onlookers and runners alike. I saw the finish line. I spotted her—my daughter was standing on the sideline. “C’mon mom. You’re almost there. You can do it!” I noticed him—my husband. He was proud of me.
A sudden burst of energy allowed for a sprint. I ran under the banner, across the drawn line, beside the large clock, and into the arms of my family.
Finished. A completer who won the prize. My family’s cheers, words of confidence and encouragement brought me to the finish line.
But we have another finish line. One day we will run into the arms of Jesus.
You also are not alone in this race. Philippians 3:13 tells us, “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead” (ESV).
Do not be discouraged by previous defeats. The victorious runner doesn’t look back. Run the spiritual race with confidence, looking forward to the prize of hearing the Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:14 (ESV)
Debbie is a published author, national speaker and workshop presenter, co-founder of Shine! Ministries and a partner with the Polished Conference L.L.C. She has an online Bible study page on Facebook, teaches Bible study in her church, and blogs at Living Life Together. Debbie has written Shine! Radiating the Love of God, a Bible study designed exclusively for young women ages 13-18. Additionally, she has articles in the Divine Moments series and is a monthly contributor to Refined Magazine. All books are available at grace-publishing.com. She would love to speak at your next women’s event, teen event, or at the college where she brings an inspirational message to teachers in training called, “A Christian Perspective for an Inspirational Classroom.” Debbie is married and has three adult children. She travels from Asheville, NC. Visit her website at www.debbiepresnell.com, email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit her page on Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/shineministriesnc/