Go ahead and laugh. It’s a good morning for a chuckle. Since I couldn’t find a photo of myself in buggy horse blinders, this image of me in my moose-hunting gear will have to do. Frankly, I think this is one of the best photos of me ever taken.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge cloud of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.
And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.(Hebrews 12:1-2 NLT)
I want to think shorter today. These verses have always spoken to me of a long-distance race, a marathon, the life-long living out of faith.
But within the marathon of our faith-life, we must run many sprints. Think of the times when a project seems impossible and overwhelming. Or those days when we can only hang on by our fingernails and hope the day will soon be over. And the fleeting moment, when we have to make a choice between treating someone as Jesus would or letting our human nature react. For all those races, the same principles apply.
(You’re wondering where those moose-goggles come in, aren’t you?)
Two things make it possible to dash the sprints and endure the marathon: stripping off whatever slows us down and focusing on the champion, Jesus, who is working in every circumstance to perfect our faith.
Jesus is working to make our faith complete and perfect. How encouraging! Even on those fingernail days, even when you think you have failed to run well, Jesus’ Spirit is at work perfecting the faith He began in you. I love the choice of the word “champion.” He ran the perfect race. And now He has us in training; under His guidance, following His example, He’s going to turn us into strong faith-contenders, too. Wow.
Does this change the way you reflect on those times you feel you did everything wrong?
Yes, you might indeed have done everything wrong, but God still works to achieve His purposes in you. It’s grace. It is how we go forward in life without fear or terror or timidity but with peace.
And just as any athlete has to follow the instruction of a trainer and coach, so we need to keep our eyes on the one who is training us.
That means I can’t be looking around at a whole bunch of things that will distract me. I’m thinking of those blinders on a buggy horse. I’m sure the moose-goggles are more attractive. But blinders is what I often need.
I cannot measure myself or the race I’m running by looking at others who run beside, behind, or ahead of me. Yes, there are many people whose stories can inspire us; Hebrews 11 was written for that purpose. And we are instructed to encourage each other. But we have to learn, somehow, to take inspiration and encouragement from the races others run and yet remember that each of us must run her own race, according to the purpose God has for her.
When I changed jobs, began a new race, the heaviest weight I carried was that habit of comparing myself to others, measuring my gifts and abilities against those of other writers. It was so easy, almost automatic, to read what someone else had written and then allow self-doubt to creep in. We humans have this habit of comparing ourselves, our abilities, what we have, what we’ve accomplished — even the shape of our bodies! — to what someone else owns or is or has done.
And when I start comparing myself to others on the same course, I can soon be thinking that I’m not running fast enough, I’m not running well, I haven’t trained enough for this … hey, why am I even doing this? I don’t belong in this event.
You know the downhill path of such thoughts.
I want to throw off this weight, be done with it, run freely. But like ashes from a bonfire drift back down and settle in my hair and leave smudges on my face, this tendency to compare myself with others keeps returning to me.
For me, this is one of the sins that so easily beset me in the race. It does come so easily, but …… is it really sin?
The Greek word used here for “sin” is hamartia, which means “any action or attitude that is contrary to the will of God and the revealed standards of God.” Whew. That would include many things we don’t normally label sin. And it convicts me: when my attitude about myself is other than what God says, then I need to repent and ask His forgiveness. (And remember: Repenting means changing!)
That’s why we need to keep our eyes on the Champion, why we need to know what God intends for us. We find all of that in His Word, the sword with which the Spirit battles sin in our lives.
Because His Word says:
We have been given a spirit of power and love and self-discipline
We are being transformed into Christ’s image
We are his masterpiece, created ANEW to do good things He has planned
(Did I emphasize that sufficiently?)
He will not abandon the work He’s started in us
His power within us will accomplish far more than we could ever imagine
(See references below)
And that’s just the beginning! These are just a few statements about what God intends for His children. Scripture is filled with His plans for us. I am convicted and humbled and encouraged and so loved.
Keeping our eyes only on Christ, running with His words in our ears instead of looking around at others, throwing off the things that weigh us down … that is how we run well in both the sprints and the marathon.
That’s my sermon for today. Preaching mostly to myself. Wearing my moose goggles.
Scriptures: 2 Timothy 1:7, 2 Corinthians 3:18, Ephesians 2:10, Philippians 1:6, Ephesians 3:20