Hebrews 10:36 “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise”
The High School my kids attended had an incredible Cross Country running program. A short walk in the gymnasium proved evidence of their success by all the championship banners that are hanging in the rafters. Whether it was the girls or the boys teams, the sequential years of victory proved the techniques they used for preparation was working well.
Endurance is a quality that is critical for life. Whether your competing in a cross country race or your running the race that God has set before you, preparation, training, and having a right mindset is key to finishing well.
1 Corinthians 9:27 “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”
The greek term for discipline is the word, ‘hupópiazó‘, literally it means to strike under the eye. Basically, Paul is saying that in order to keep himself pure and undefiled, he must beat his body into submission. Now if punching yourself in the face seems a bit extreme for you, you might want to take a closer look at the reasoning for an approach that emphasizes keeping oneself pure.
The discipline required for you to run the race and finish well is one of control. Self-control or temperance is not one that comes naturally or occurs without a measure of effort, in order to properly run you must prepare.
For an athlete to effectively prepare for an endurance run, they must not only train their bodies, they must train their minds. What you eat is important in developing the ability to sustain the rigors of a race that requires a sustained effort.
Jesus understood where true nourishment comes from when He spoke about spiritual food.
John 4:34 “Jesus says to them, “My food is that I should do the will of the One having sent Me, and should finish His work.”
Training each day is imperative to developing the necessary muscles and strength required to finish well. Recognizing how your body is responding to the rigors of the training is likewise important in not pushing too hard, or too fast and potentially injuring yourself. Staying within the appropriate regiment allows the runner to develop over time so that when the race occurs, that are not overwhelmed.
As we practice discipline, the Lord strengthens us. There is an expectation God has placed upon us for Holiness. The practice of holiness is important but what many don’t realize is how God has a process and following that process is key to running a race well.
Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Prayer is a key component of preparation. When giving your day to the Lord, presenting it before Him places your heart and mind on His will and not your own.
Petition is another component of preparation. When we lift up to God our weaknesses, our concerns, and our fears…we give Him room to be glorified in our life.
Intercession lifts up others before God. When we pray for the lost, it gives the Lord priority over those we want to be a testimony in their lives. We can pray for other believers and as we interact it gives us opportunity to be an encouragement in their lives. There are times when we are given opportunity to be a light and following those times up with prayer places the power in God’s hands…exactly where it should be.
Preparation may not be clearly seen by others but is a crucial aspect of God’s overall plan for our lives.
There is a saying that goes, “When you run alone it’s called a race, when God runs with you it’s called Grace”.
The opportunity to go through life with God has our strength is an opportunity that we don’t deserve.
Isaiah 42:16 “I will lead the blind by a way they did not know; I will guide them on unfamiliar paths. I will turn darkness into light before them and rough places into level ground. These things I will do for them, and I will not forsake them.”
The guidance God gives is the path of the righteous.
God doesn’t expect us to strive alone but leads us each step of the way. We may not be able to see the entire journey but we know what lies at the end. How we prepare is part of God’s plan, and then taking that preparation into the race and applying it shows wisdom. As God leads us through trials they will bring strength of character, and He will develop our ability to withstand the rigors of what lies ahead. The Lord knows what we are going to experience and prepares us for it.
If an athlete goes into a race without a plan, they run the risk of not being prepared for the unexpected. Whether your gauging your next move with an expectation of winning, the plans of how to finish the race or simply preparing for your next step in life, each should be met with wise planning, counsel, and prayer.
Listen to Advice. Good coaching makes a big difference in an athletes career. Coaches guide and direct, help train, and give honest feedback. We must seek out wise counsel and heed godly advice when given the opportunity. Proverbs 12:15 “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a person who listens to advice is wise.” If you don’t know someone who is godly and wise, seek them out, ask others if you have to but look for them and the Lord will lead you where you must go.
We are not meant to run this race alone. The path of the righteous may be unique individually but it has a collective purpose. The body of Christ is the church and they all run together. We will all meet at the end of the race. The victors will receive the Crown of Life that is promised to all who follow Christ, who have been redeemed by His grace. The Lord went before us, set the course, and now directs our path…He will lead you if you will follow.
Follow God’s Rules. Any athlete that runs a race must run according to the race guidelines, stray off the path or try to take a shortcut and you might find yourself disqualified.
2 Timothy 2:5 “And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.” The Lord has given us His moral law as the guideline for traveling His path, it serves as a standard for Holiness that will keep you safe.
Finish the Race
The reward at the end of the race is one that never ends. The imperishable crown of righteousness is the God given reward for those who have been found faithful. The race has many opportunities to stray off course, yet when we realize it is by God’s strength and guidance and not our own, we find we have the endurance necessary to finish. Trusting the Lord as He leads you on the way is the path of hope.
1 Timothy 4:7-8 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.”
Although the race may seem long and difficult, we have a cheering section, those who have gone before us, those who travel with us, and our Savior who is waiting for us at the end. Don’t lose heart, if you look to the Lord He will be your strength, He will sustain you when you feel like you can’t go on any longer.
Keep your eyes straight ahead—Soon you’ll realize in the end that the journey was worth it, that it wasn’t as long as you had thought.
Hebrews 12:1 “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us”
Sin is what hinders us in this race. Taking our eyes off of the Lord and placing them on our circumstances or on this world can lead to trouble and stumbling along the way. Go in the way of righteousness and you’ll finish well and even if you fall, get up and continue…it’s not over.
The joy that awaits God’s people we will be a joy that will be shared together, as a team…this team is the church. The church encourages, strengthens, and builds one another up in the race; they will all be together at the finish line and the celebration will be one for the ages.
What a day that will be…