Thursdays are often the longest day of the week for me, the middle of the pastor’s week, the ‘make or break’ day for weekend preparation. This morning while I was getting focused for the day I thought of the child’s tale about staying in the race.
Remember Aesop’s fable about a race between a tortoise and a hare? The speedy rabbit challenged the old turtle to a race. How could he lose? With so much of an edge in speed, over his heavy-shelled, short-legged friend, he knew his victory was inevitable. Turtle accepted the challenge because he knew something, too. Mr. Rabbit was over-confident, lacking character! You know the story, right. The hare turned off the course to find a shade tree and catch a nap. “I’ll just wake up and speed past my old friend and win the race,’ he thought as he snoozed. Meanwhile, the turtle just kept pushing along, not stopping. When rabbit awakened and ran to the finish line, he found turtle waiting for him with a bit of advice – ‘slow and steady wins the race!’ It is a good Thursday morning story for me. Sometimes we paraphrase the lesson – “You snooze, you lose.”
Paul says it this way: “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power … put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:10,13, NIV) Stand your ground! Do everything you can! Then, take God’s strength and keep on standing!
We love those who are attractive – physically. We admire those with charisma. We are often prone to trust those who ‘look’ like winners. Mere mortals, the majority of us, are sometimes deceived by the lie that we cannot compete in the race, that we will never win, because we do not look like a winner or because we have too much baggage. Look around! Stars may get the attention, but the faithful plodders usually carry the heaviest part of the load in life. Finishers often compensate for what they lack in ‘star power’ with hard work, networking, and showing up every day, on time, ready to do what they are asked to do. In the end, when the star has burnt out or moved on; the steady one is still standing.
God needs steady plodders in His Kingdom who are finishing the race. What does that look like? They work at their marriage for God’s glory. They love and teach their children for God’s glory. They develop and use their spiritual gifts, for God’s glory. They practice the disciplines of the Spirit, for God’s glory. They show up whether they feel like it or not.
We are drawn our culture’s myth that there is a ‘secret’ that will make life work without struggle. We find it difficult to believe that sin and evil are real, opposed to everything good and godly. But, the Word tells us that are engaged in a fight to the finish. We are called to soldier on in the struggle with the World, the Flesh, and the Devil! Conflict, by definition, is exhausting. The Devil seeks to kill and destroy. The systems of this world that surround us are corrupt and oppose the will of God which includes living a life of love, integrity, humility, faithfulness, and sacrificial service. Our own internal desires are often at odds with the call of the Spirit to holiness. We all struggle with temptation to lust, or greed, or laziness, or pride! The Christian life is a pilgrimage, as we walk through a world that is not our home.
The good news is that we do not stand alone! The Spirit of God is with us, right here, right now. He gives strength to the faithful who seek Him. The Bible calls on us to endure: to keep on walking in His strength even when we just want to lay down and rest. Paul reminds us: “I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen. This is a trustworthy saying: If we die with him, we will also live with him. If we endure hardship, we will reign with him.” (2 Timothy 2:10-12, NLT)
Keep walking! Here is a steady, standing word of wisdom from God’s Holy Word. “Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. … So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.” (Hebrews 10:23-24, 35-36, NLT) “If you hang in there, you will be able to say, at the very end of this earthly life: “This is the only race worth running. I’ve run hard right to the finish, believed all the way. All that’s left now is the shouting—God’s applause! Depend on it, he’s an honest judge. He’ll do right … by everyone eager for his coming.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8, The Message)
Stand your ground! Do everything you can! Then, take God’s strength and keep on standing!
How Firm A Foundation (Foundation)
How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?
Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God, I will still give thee aid!
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee,
And cause thee to stand
Upheld by My gracious, omnipotent hand.
© Words: Public Domain