Thursday, June 23, 2011

The "race" of faith

This short narrative was written by our long lost fellow blogger Rich Cherry. He wrote it for a sermon he preached about a year and a half ago on Philippians 3:14: "I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."

To say that Rich is a much more seasoned runner than Jude or I is an understatement, yet I still find myself returning to this whenever I contemplate the analogy Paul so often uses comparing the Christian life to a marathon.

I have several friends who are runners who follow this blog, may it be as edifying to you as it has been to me. (And may it entice Rich back in to the blogosphere)

Suppose a man were to come up to you and ask, "hey Iʼd really like you to run in my marathon
race." There are few responses that may come from you:

Response #1: "I hate running, I donʼt enjoy it, I donʼt want to enter your race, thank you very much have a nice day sir."

Letʼs say you fall into a river and drown. The man dives in the river, pulls you to the
bank and resuscitates you. As you are sputtering out murky river water, he says "hey Iʼd
really like you to run in my marathon". Although the timing is a bit odd, you obviously
feel some indebtedness because after all, he did just save your life.

So soaking wet, you throw on your running shoes and get going. After a few hard miles you begin to become exhausted.

Now what if the same man who rescued you from drowning in the river, and requests that
you run in his marathon is also the man who helps you along the way?

He assures that there is a great prize for you at the end of the race. He provides you
with a comprehensive running manual - everything you could ever need to know about
running is in the book - he even provides it in audio so yo can listen to it on your iPod
while you run. He also tells you that he himself will run the marathon along with you.

So you start off together. While you are running, he begins to talk (I know some people
donʼt like to talk while they run but he does), you courteously take of your iPod... he tells
you that he himself is quite a runner, in fact he has run this very marathon himself
before and ran it perfectly - finished in a great time, with the strongest finishing kick in
history, did not stumble once!

Thatʼs a bit surprising you think, he doesnʼt seem to have the outward appearance of a great runner, not the physique or swaggering attitude you would have expected from a world class athlete. You find that quite impressive, because already youʼve noticed that your footing is pretty shaky on some parts of the course. In fact just a while back you fell right over and the expert runner had to help you up. He suggests you keep your eyes on the course because there are a few treacherous parts where you could easily break an ankle, or worse, if you are not paying attention.

All the while, he himself doesnʼt even seem the slightest bit troubled by
anything on the route. Heʼs not even winded.

The next few miles are actually quite quiet, thereʼs not much talking, your legs are starting to burn and your chest hurts a bit, so you slow down, bend over a bit, grab the edge of your shorts. You notice some river residue on your legs. He wipes your legs to get some of it off, takes your shoes and socks off, dries your feet, gives you some new socks and a brand new pair of Asics Gel
Cumulus trainers out of the heavy knapsack he is carrying, which you are surprised to
see has your name on it.

With his help you get up.

You run and talk some more. As it turns out, not only is this guy a great runner but he is also the course designer! He mapped out the route on which the two of you are running. Paved the roads, groomed the trails, planted the greenery along the route. You start feeling the burn in your legs
again as you notice the course has become quite hilly. You think to yourself, “if I ever
design a marathon course it is going to be all downhill or flat at worst. Why in the world
would you ever put hills on the course?”

Your coach is now a few annoying steps ahead of you, every now an then he jogs backwards, fires you the thumbs up, smiles and says “come on up, this way, you can do it”. You fall a few more times before the crest of the hill and each time he pauses and returns, waits, gives you a breather, something to refresh you.

After many, many, many more long miles and spills, somewhere on the course after
many discussions, you discover that have come to love your running partner and love running the race with Him. The race is still hard but the running of the race with this
partner makes the difficulties seem so small compared to joy of running with Him. In
fact you would rather be running with this guy than doing anything else. You are
thankful that he pulled you from the river that day, but more thankful for the race He
asked you run and that He is running with you.

Curiously, as a Christian, the race must be run in order to learn to love the prize.
There are some things you only about the Christian life through living it and so...
The normal Christian life is the purposeful, perpetual, persevering pursuit of Christ, without ever fully attaining him during oneʼs life’s time. and therefore....

“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”

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