Marathon Man September – Pastor Bill Lewis

Cathy and I have always enjoyed the Olympics. Every four years athletes compete on a world stage pitting the best of the best against one another. National pride is often at stake. These athletes have trained for their events for years. Jesse Owens was quoted as saying “a lifetime of training for 10 seconds.”
These athletes have endured hours of training and criticism from coaches. For some sports it comes down to one hundredth of a second between gold and silver. Sometimes the spread between the top winner and the bottom loser is a matter of a second. Getting the little extra can be the difference between winning and losing.
Some sports however, are endurance based. They are not the fast out the blocks and full out for a matter of seconds. These sports take pacing and endurance. Often the athlete will hold a reserve of second wind to give a final kick, or push to the finish. I remember the scene from the movie Hildago, the horses are lined up for a long race of days. The starter gives the sign for the start of the race and all the horse riders charge their horses at full speed off the line only to bring them to a walk or slow trot over the first hill. It was an endurance race.
The apostle Paul uses this metaphor to describe the Christian life. The race. We are exhorted throughout the word that this is an endurance race not a sprint. It is “he who endures to the end” that receives the prize. We are also exhorted to not lose hope, to not give up, to press on.
What does this mean? Well in any endurance race there is the temptation to quit because it is too hard. I have watched marathon races and triathlon races where the contestant makes it to the finish line and collapses, having used every reserve in the body to make it.
The Christian faith requires endurance. The reason is we live a life with many complexities. There is no cruise control on life. We face the joys and sorrows of living. There are tragedies that blind side us and throw us into a turmoil of faith and life. We struggle with existence and our current meaning. We bring everything into question. Our faith is challenged to its core. The existence of God, even though we have been born again, is questioned. We ponder his purposes and we search for a cause and a point of blame. Some things in life are an accumulation of small errors and other times there is no reason or blame to be had. Sometimes the troubles are of our own making and other times it is a compilation of hurts perpetrated on each other, such as in marriage, or family issues.
But, out of the trials, hurts, and unforeseen tragedies, we have to hold fast to our faith.
The busyness of life can be another factor that begins to cause us to lose the momentum of our faith. Jobs, school, children and their schedules, all lend themselves to diminishing relationship with the Lord. Our endurance begins to wane and we want to sit on the sidelines rather than be in the game. It happens to almost all of us at some time.
But, at the moments when we are being tempted to stop, slow way down, or bail out, is the very moment we need to ask God for a second wind, or a third wind. In those moments we may not be leading the race, but we need to stay in the race.
We really want to be as the apostle and proclaim we have run the race and finished well. I really want to hear some day, “well done, good and faithful servant.”
Endurance and faithfulness go hand in hand. Where are you today? What is testing your faithfulness? What is impeding your endurance? It is a Marathon!

I am Awake at Night…- Pastor Bill Lewis

In the wee hours of the morning, when sleep escapes, and the thoughts come up like a computer booting up, the weight of the day takes hold and the concerns for souls, the existence of a vision, and the proper way to accomplish things holds deep care in the heart.
As thoughts roll and scenarios play out, the individuals who are living like there is no end to life and the pursuit of pleasure is all there is, seem to deepen the concern. Lost is the acute awareness of life and death. Even though tragedies are reported every day and some of them come close to us; it is usually covered over with platitudes of empty words and meaningless gestures. It is as though “our thoughts are with you,” or “we are thinking good thoughts toward you,” some how means something. Wake up, your thoughts are useless to the eternal destiny of the victim of the tragedy or the death by some disease. Praying for the dead is an exercise in futility. All it does is salve the conscience of the one who has promised to pray.
Life is taken so lightly and funerals are conducted like everyone is okay with God. They are not. This is not an attempt to be judgmental, but to be factual. The door to eternity is opened and closed quickly. There is a last breath and the door opens and then closes just as rapidly. The person is ushered into eternity and no great eulogy will change that destiny. It can be the lonely graveside of a derelict or the lavish state funeral, but the outcome was determined long before and it was sealed with the last breath.
The piles of flowers, the candles, the pictures are all nice to pay homage and respect, but it is done. The soul has departed and has entered their eternal state.
Lost is the burden in the saints for those who are on the road to perdition. We are not sending them to perdition; they are choosing it. How we present the gospel may seem like that when we are rude and judgmental. But, the truth is the truth and it can be presented in a way that is a plea, a hope, a light, an answer.
However, as long as we sit in church, or live separate from the world, we will never do our duty to the Lord. There is that fine balance of being in the world, but not of it. Too often we have taken it to mean, “do not be in the world.” Sadly, we have succumbed to separatism and lost the ability to impact a dying world. A good example of separatism is played out in our area daily. The Amish community grows by childbirth, not conversion. Good people, but an oddity that has become an industry of tourism. Christians are doing the same thing. We have lost the zeal for conversion of the lost and now are worrying primarily about protection.
While we want to protect our children and families, the sad result is that the children revolt against the protection and seek their own way. Now, rather than having faced the world and been a light in the world, they now, as did the prodigal son, run to explore an unknown world and taste everything that was forbidden. Of course, we know the outcome, but that does not stop the years lost to hedonism.
The faith was meant to be infectious. It was not to be rigid and sterile. It requires not an agreement on facts, but an encounter with the person Jesus. We all talk about relationship, but all too often it is works.
I think about these things. I worry about the young and their lack of commitment, and I worry about the older generation and their “I am done,” approach. No one is done until the door opens into eternity and then closes. Does this really concern us enough?