Go for the gold!

runnersHebrews 12:1Therefore, 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…”

I read a great story on this subject from Pastor David Allen that gives perspective to the Christian journey of life;
“It’s a grueling 543.7-mile endurance race from Sydney to Melbourne, Australia – the world’s longest and toughest ultra-marathon. In 1983, 150 world-class runners converged on Sydney for the event. On the day of the race, a toothless 61-year-old potato farmer and sheepherder named Cliff Young approached the registration table wearing overalls and galoshes over his work boots. At first, people thought he was there to watch the race, but to their surprise, Cliff Young declared his intention to run and requested a number.
    Cliff Young had grown up on a farm without the benefit of luxuries like horses and four wheel drives. When the storms rolled in, Cliff headed out to round up 2000 sheep over a 2000-acre farm. Sometimes he had to run them two or three days to complete the round up.
    The incredulous staff issued Cliff #64. As he mingled with the other runners at the starting line, spectators couldn’t believe their eyes. “This must be a joke!” some mused. When the gun went off, bystanders snickered at Cliff, left behind in his galoshes and overalls as the other runners with their sculpted bodies and running gear briskly began the race. Snickers gave way to laughter when Cliff began to run, not like the other runners, but with what could only be described as a leisurely, odd, shuffle.
    All of Australia was riveted to the live telecast as they watched the scene unfold. “Someone should stop that crazy old man before he kills himself!” Five days, 15 hours, and 4 minutes later, Cliff Young came shuffling across the finish line in Melbourne, winning the ultra-marathon! He didn’t win by a few seconds, or even a few minutes. The nearest runner was 9 hours and 56 minutes behind. Australians were stunned at this remarkable yet seemingly impossible victory. How did it happen?
    Everyone knew that to run the ultra-marathon, runners would run for 18 hours, then stop and sleep for six hours. This routine was repeated for five punishing days. But no one told Cliff Young. He just shuffled along, day and night, night and day, without stopping to sleep. Cliff broke the previous race record by nine hours and became overnight a national hero.
    Interestingly, professional runners began to study and experiment with the odd shuffle that Cliff used in his running. Many long-distance runners have since adopted what has come to be called the “Young shuffle” due to its aerodynamic and energy efficiency.     
    Victory in the Christian life comes through endurance. The Christian life is not a 100-yard dash. It is a marathon. In the short distance race, speed is important. In the long-distance race, endurance is what leads to success. In the race of the Christian life, some things are standard for all believers. As Hebrews 12:1 says, the race is “set before us.” But each of us must run the race in our own special way with the gifts and talents God has endowed us. Against all odds, we run the race; our race.
     Hebrews 12:1says: “Therefore, since we have so great a crowd of witness surrounding us…” It is speaking of all the people who have run the race of faith before us. In the previous chapter. Hebrews 11, the writer tells of the faith of Abel, and Enoch, and Noah, and Abraham, and Moses, and others, and how they endured sufferings, and overcome obstacles, and ran the race of faith which was before them. We each have many obstacles in our personal lives, and in our churches. But you and I are not the first to run the Christian race; others have “gone before us.”   
           “let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.”
    Would you take a moment right now and ask yourself: what is “weighing you down” and keeping you from being the follower of Jesus that God wants you to be? — It may be a sinful habit that is like a cancer that is draining your spiritual strength. Maybe it is bitterness over how you have been treated, or your unwillingness to forgive someone. Unforgiveness is a heavy weight; you can’t successfully run the Christian race with that weight on your back! Perhaps it is some friends who are dragging your down spiritually. There may be a person, or some people in your life, with whom you will never be able to run a strong Christian life. You need to sever those ties so that you can run the race unhindered. It may be a love for the things of this world that is keeping you from really being totally committed to follow Christ with all your heart. You can’t run the Christian race and run to the things of the world at the same time. You need to put those goals aside; they are slowing you down, so that you can run after the Lord.

    Or it could even be something “good” that you are giving too much attention to, and it is taking your attention away from the race that God wants you to run. It could be a hobby, or watching too much television, or spending too much time on the internet; any number of things that are just slowing you down spiritually.
    Jesus mentions this very thing in The Parable of the Soils in Matthew 13. He said that when the Gospel is “sown” into the world like seed, that some of it hits the road, and the birds devour it. But some of it finds thin soil, and it seems to sprout up quickly, but it withers quickly away. Jesus said that seed is like the person who hears the word and seems to receive it with joy, but just as quickly falls away when persecution or difficulty comes. That’s just another way of saying that the Christian life is not a “sprint”; it is a marathon. It is not how fast you go, but that you keep on going.

More about the race next week. Thanks for following.

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