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stay in the race

Amy Sports Day 1985

Stay in the race.

You do not want to watch me run a mile. I promise. It’s painful for me to run a full mile, and I am confident that it would be equally painful for you to watch. My dad is a runner, my sister is a runner, and I am a wannabe runner. I try, but this body is geared more towards walking and sitting…not running. Sometimes, when I’m running, and pretending to be the runner I wish I could be, I visualize myself running the Marine Corps Marathon. (I know…it’s actually a little embarrassing to admit.)

Almost eleven years ago I visited my sister in Washington DC and was able to watch, follow, and cheer her on as she ran the Marine Corps Marathon. It was one of the most exhilarating experiences I have ever had. The energy and electricity of the crowd, and the excruciating looks on the faces of the runners as they pressed on towards the finish line, almost – almost – made me want to join the race. It was incredible.

All that to say…when I run, I sometimes imagine myself running in the Marine Corps Marathon. And it is this silly brain-game that helps me push through the discomfort and complete my one-mile “marathon”.

As painful as it can be – as hard, challenging, frustrating and messy as it can be – the race we are running in our spiritual lives, in the ministry and the appointments, the circumstances and seasons that God has placed before us, is a race we must run to completion. We cannot give up. We cannot forfeit this race. We need to stay and run with endurance and perseverance.

The race will wear out our legs – our muscles get taxed from the constant beating against the pavement – we must resist the urge to quit and keep moving forward.

The race will mess with our minds- we can think of a myriad of reasons to quit- so we must continue to dwell daily in the Word in order to guard our minds from distraction and lies.

The race will make us tired – the race pulls every ounce of our energy and focus – so we must find rest and refreshing in God’s presence.

The race will cause our hearts to work extra hard – the cardio impact of pushing our bodies beyond capacity can tempt us to stop in frustration and exhaustion – so we must ensure that our hearts are kept in check with the heart of God.

The race will sometimes bring pain – skinned knees and body aches – we must lean into the One who heals our hurts and bandages our wounds.

The race will be sweaty and dehydrating – the pace and the exertion are depleting – so we must drink regularly the Living Water that will restore our strength.

The race will look endless – with miles behind us, and still miles to go – we must set our focus on the prize…the purpose for which we run.

The race will sometimes feel lonely – our singular focus can leave us blind to reality – so we must open up our ears to hear the cheers from the crowd.

The race will be long and oftentimes challenging – hills and rocks, uneven pavement and tough terrain can cause us to lose our footing – so we must tenaciously set our minds to the finish line.

The race will stretch us beyond capacity – so we must endure…resolve ourselves to keep running.

“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 had of the throne of God.

“Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3

What race are you running right now?

Has God placed you in a circumstance that feels far beyond your capacity?

Has God called you to surrender and you just want to hold on so tightly?

Has God brought you into a season where there seems to be no clear answer or direction, and quitting is not the answer?

Has the race become arduous and painful?

Stay in the race.

Every point of pain has an eventual ending, just as every point of victory has a beginning.

The race may be wearing you out right now. Fix your eyes on Jesus. Run to him. Find your strength and rest and joy in him. Do not waver. Set your feet to the pavement and keep pressing forward. “We are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…” We have a cheering section. We do not run this race alone.

It has been a challenging season for me, personally, and I will be honest, I am preaching to myself today. The race is hard. Running is hard. The last few days my legs have felt like spaghetti and my lungs are feeling spent, but the race is not over. As I imagine myself running in the Marine Corps Marathon to get me to the finish line, I want to encourage you, as well, to keep on running your race.

Finish it well.

Finish it strong.

Every victory has a beginning.

Do not quit.

Stay in the race.

“I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

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