Life is full of hard things. Loved ones die. Sin is tempting, yet destructive. Relationships get complicated. Things break. Storms rage. Inflation inflates. Illness (mental and physical) takes a toll. Sticks and stones break our bones, and words do (in fact) hurt us.
So how do we keep going in the midst of a life like this? How do we not lose heart? And as Christians, how do we not give up our faith when what we prayed for does not happen, we are persecuted for our faith, or the “giant” never seems to fall?
Well, I saw a quote this past week from an ultra-marathoner (you know those crazy people who run 100 mile races) that I thought was intriguing. Ultra-marathoner Dick Collins was asked how to prepare to run something so long.
“Decide the conditions that will cause you to stop and drop out BEFORE the race. You don’t want to be out there saying, ‘Well, gee, my leg hurts, I’m a little dehydrated, I’m sleepy, I’m tired, and it’s cold and windy.’ And, as a result, talk yourself into quitting. If you are making a decision based on how you feel at that moment, you will probably make the wrong decision.”
What a fascinating statement! Decide in advance what would cause you to drop out, because challenges are sure to come.
Now I am guessing that most of you reading this are not going to attempt an ultra-marathon. However, I do believe there is interesting insight from Collins’ statement for the Christian. It is as if we might say, “How does the Christian run with Christ for the duration of the ultra-marathon of their earthly life? How can we NOT GIVE UP SPIRITUALLY when things are hard or confusing or painful?” With this question, Collins’ answer creates an interesting consideration for us. “What circumstance might cause you to walk away from Christ? What would have to occur to prompt you to walk away from your Lord and Savior – the One who bled and died for you and has promised you eternity?”
Outside of the emotion of the moment, the obvious answer for any true follower of Jesus would be …. NOTHING. Nothing would be worth leaving Christ. As Peter says to Jesus in John 6:68-69, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”
That said, we still find temptation to “quit following Jesus” from time to time. Pain, frustration, or difficulty try to push us to despair on a far-to-regular basis. Sadly, the world is dotted with people who said “Lord I will follow you anywhere” at church camp or on a college retreat, but at some point jettisoned their faith. Given this possibility, what perspectives should we keep close that would encourage us to endure … to not quit, even when our “legs hurt?”
This Sunday at Wildwood we will begin an 8 week sermon series that will walk us through 2 Corinthians 4:16 – 7:16 as we see how we might endure on the mission Christ has called us to. This Sunday we kick things off with “Mission: Endure” part 1, focusing on 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. I hope you make plans to be with us each week of this series over the next two months. I want to run an ultra-marathon of faithfulness alongside each of you. Let’s look to God’s Word to see how we can keep the pace. See you Sunday in our 8:30, 9:45, and 11:00 service … and bring friends!