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!

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