Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Runner

Are you a runner? Do you love to hit the road and run 3, 5 or maybe 10 miles a day? I don't! Don't get me wrong, I want to but it's just not in me. I have tried numerous times to become a runner. I bought new running shoes, new short socks and new shorts - not those short shorts - just regular shorts! But it did not make a difference. I would go out side and stretch, I would bounce up and down, I would roll my neck, I did everything I saw runners do before they hit the pavement. I would step out of my driveway onto the road with high expectations only to find myself sucking wind after only about a half a mile or less!

Over the last couple of days I have been reading a passage over and over. I cannot seem to shake this one.
Acts 20: 22 - 24 - 22 “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.
I have written about this passage before but this time I read it again and it will not leave me alone. These verses are like a spider web that I walked through, it is all over me and I cannot get it off! Paul was a runner, not in the sense of physically running although he may have had to run from time to time but he was a spiritual runner. His goal was to finish the race no matter what the cost. He repeats this theme of running in his writings.
I Corinthians 9: 24 - 27 - 24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
Galatians 5: 7 - You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?
Paul's race was not easy, his race was more difficult than any Iron Man Triathlon, more difficult than any Ultramarathon or any Death Race Challenge. Take a look at what Paul endured:
II Corinthians 11: 24-28 - 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.
Not to make light of this but if you are a fan of Seinfield I think there is a scene that illustrates vividly how Paul finished his race. The episode has a story about Kramer participating in an Aids Walk. (The part I want you to see is around the 2 minute mark) He refused to wear the ribbon and was attacked by all of the other walkers. At the end of the race Kramer rounds the corner, Jerry and George see him and cannot believe their eyes. Kramer's jacket is torn, he is missing a shoe, his hair is a mess, he stumbles and falls and has to drag himself across the finish line. Minus the humor I think this is how Paul finished his race. He had nothing left to give. He ran with all he had. At the end of his life he wrote to Timothy and explained this:
II Timothy 4: 6, 7 - 6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
Paul was a runner and he ran with all he had, he endured the most difficult race anyone could ever run. He ran well all the way to the end. My question to you and me is how will we finish? Will we walk across the finish line in a nonchalant fashion with our nice shorts and shoes or will we drag ourselves across the line like Kramer because we gave it all we had and God took us home just in the nick of time?

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