Saturday, August 18, 2012

Going the Distance

I am coming soon. So hold firmly to what you have, and no one will take away the crown that you will be given as your reward.

-- Revelation 3:11

The coverage of the recent London Summer Olympics is a timely reminder to Christ-followers that our faith journeys are much closer to a marathon than a 100-meter dash. But as with any arduous race, weariness is bound to set in. Long distance runners call it The Wall. It's that barrier of mental and physical fatigue that medal-winning athletes train for years to overcome. And when they endure, they reach the finish line with power left to spare. Meanwhile, others drop out of the race in defeat, discouragement and exhaustion.

As Christ-followers, we face our own wall every day as we try to live up to God's calling. We tire as we struggle against our natural tendencies to do what's wrong ("sin"). So instead of following Jesus' example of loving our neighbors, helping the disadvantaged and honoring God, we're often tempted to head for the sidelines and return to the old "me first" lifestyle. And it can be a real challenge. It's the selfish stuff we know we shouldn't do versus the world-changing things we can and should do. And right on time, fatigue begins to overcome us.

Of course, giving up is never a viable option. We read in John's Gospel that because of Jesus' disheartening words, many of His followers began to turn away and head back home...just as things were getting more difficult. Christ then asked His 12 disciples if they also planned to leave Him. To this Simon Peter replied, "Lord, there is no one else that we can go to! Your words give eternal life."

What should we do when we face resistance and hit our own inevitable spiritual wall? First, we should lighten our load by shedding the excess possessions and unnecessary distractions that restrain us. For example, do any of us really need the burden of more credit card debt when we probably have more than enough "stuff" in our homes as it is? And like champion marathoners, we must keep our eyes focused on the finish line. Yes, there are plenty of hills and rough pavement ahead. But every step takes us closer to victory.

Finally--and most importantly--we must always pray for strength along the journey. And we get this much-needed vitality through the Holy Spirit--the Power that all Christ-followers receive when they ask Jesus to be their Lord and Savior. The Holy Spirit is literally God residing in every believer. It's this Force that enables us to do or say the things we never could before, overcome seemingly insurmountable odds and generally do the impossible. In fact, the Bible tells us that it's this same Power that raised Jesus from the dead that first Easter morning.

James--the stepbrother of Jesus--gives us these words of encouragement recorded in the New Testament:
"Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test of time, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him."
Do you have the power you need to make it across the finish line in this Olympic-size race called life? You can endure. But not without asking for the Power to go the distance.

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