Keep Running!

Have you ever watched a marathon at the finish line? The leaders arrive head high, often arms raised, still running… then come those who are limping, exhausted, faces drawn in pain. It is beyond my comprehension why they subject themselves to months of punishing training and then to 26.2 miles of struggle. But, they do! Their resolve astonishes me. How deep must a person dig to keep putting on foot in front of the other when every muscle fiber is screaming – Stop? And they keep coming, the later ones even more exhausted, but determined to finish, to be able to say “I ran a marathon!” 

That’s life for us, if you stop to think about it. We start full of optimism and energy. Obstacles we meet in the early years are more easily overcome, most of the time. But, with time, the hills seem to get steeper, the excitement less. Fatigue and sometimes, cynicism, takes hold.  What then?  Will we curse or cry; whine and whimper; sit down and wait for somebody to rescue us? Will we become a couch potato, unengaged, refusing to get involved? Or, will we dig deep, look up, and find a higher reason to press on?

The letter to the church in Philippi that is at the center of our New Testament is full of joy, a work of encouragement from a man who knew what tough times were!  Paul had been an evangelist for Christ for about 25 years at the time of the writing.  His work did not go from triumph to celebration!  He knew rejection, persecution, was unjustly accused of crime, had been beaten by mobs and the law, and was jailed on false charges. I’m sure the thing that hurt most was the criticism he received from the people he had brought to the knowledge of Christ’s salvation. But, he never quit.   Like a runner in a marathon, he kept on serving, loving, and hoping.

How did he do it? He reveals his Source:

“I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13, NLT) 
The Message goes like this: “Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.”

While I cannot know your state of mind today, I can invite you, whoever you are, wherever you are, to trust Jesus to live in you and, as you trust Him, He will infuse you with strength beyond your comprehension, with courage that you may not even be able to imagine!  Not for a moment do I mean to imply that Jesus is a motivation word just for the awful days, a thought to pull up in hard times, or a magical mantra that will make it better.

The strength and joy that Paul experienced is our when we keep our lives centered on Christ Jesus. We find the joy of the LORD when we make our decisions around His eternal purposes, when we are willing to be surrendered to His will – in self-denying obedience.  It is a fool’s thought to believe that we can cry ‘Jesus’ and find everything is instantly better after living selfishly, sinfully, focused on all the wrong things in this life.

Let’s set Paul’s declaration – . “I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”  Into the full context of the letter.  He writes –  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:6-13, NIV)

The promise of victory emerges from consistent choices to think in a way that God desire, to discipline our mind to a singular focus on Christ, our Lord. Yes, Christian friend, the life to which He invites us resembles a marathon, not a sprint, a ‘long obedience in the same direction!’

Tell yourself, today, “Yes, I can!”  That is not true because you are smarter, richer, or more courageous than the next guy.  It is true because you are a child of God Who is walking with you, Who will see you through. Near the end of his earthly journey, Paul looked over the marathon of faith that had been his course.  His final words form one of my favorite passages of Scripture, words that are etched into my mind, that inspire me.

In spite of the pain and problems, Paul had no regrets, no gripes but he did have a rich assurance. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8, NLT)  “I did it! Now, all that’s left is the awards ceremony!”

On this Monday, take a few moments to recenter yourself in Christ Jesus. Think thankfully. Ask for fresh inspiration for the road. Take courage and remember “I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”

The word from the Word: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21, NIV)
 Finish the race.

Goodness Of God

(Tasha Cobbs does this worship song with joy!)

I love You Lord
All my days
I’ve been held in Your hands
From the moment that I wake up
Until I lay my head
I will sing of the goodness of God

All my life You have been faithful
All my life You have been so so good
With every breath that I am able
I will sing of the goodness of God

I love Your voice
You have led me through the fire
In darkest night
You are close like no other
I’ve known You as a father
I’ve known You as a friend
I have lived in the goodness of God

Your goodness is running after
It’s running after me
Your goodness is running after
It’s running after me

With my life laid down
I’m surrendered now
I give You everything
Your goodness is running after
It’s running after me

Ben Fielding | Brian Johnson | Ed Cash | Jason Ingram | Jenn Johnson© 2018 Capitol CMG Paragon (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

SHOUT! Music Publishing Australia (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

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