Sharper focus – Are you still in the race?
By Charleen Bradley, Major
Someone once said, “The Christian life is not a sprint, but a marathon. It is not enough just to begin well; to be faithful in the Christian ‘marathon’ one must finish well.” We know that Paul in his letter to Timothy said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
In a real marathon, runners say that a time comes when you “hit the wall”—you are absolutely exhausted and start trying to talk yourself out of continuing to run. Some say this is around mile 17; others say mile 20.
If active service as a Salvation Army officer is a marathon, then I am nearing the finish line. I have 6 months before I retire, so I am on the final leg of this part of the marathon. Believe me—at times during my officership I felt like I had hit the wall–—not just once but several times!
While I am thankful for the vehicle of service that God has given me, occasionally I have had to ask myself, “What keeps me in the race? Is this really worth it? Why am I doing this at all? Is my calling to The Salvation Army still the place to run the race? Or am I just going through the motions, when in reality I am bogged down, ready to turn in my running shoes? Is my daily ‘duty’ taking the place of true devotion?”
In the article “Staying Faithful through the Years,” Jerry Bridges identifies Enoch as an example of a marathon runner because he stayed faithful to God through the years. Enoch did three things: He walked with God, he pleased God, and he served God. Bridges’s insight challenges me as I continue to run the race. Examining my life, I realize that sometimes I do well, but sometimes I lack what it takes to run well.
I must consistently live in the awareness of God’s presence and seek fellowship with him through his Word and through prayer. Sometimes I fail him in this area, but I know that if I make this a consistent part of my race, I will finish well—I will have endurance and stamina. I also know that when this does not happen, I am weak and the challenges of the Christian life and service to him exhaust me. I must continually be obedient to God in order to please him. I must not let bitterness, resentment or disappointment get in the way of pleasing God.
The tragic loss of my husband 14 years ago could have caused me to be bitter and resentful toward God. God, however, does not want me to be bitter and resentful; those negative emotions will drain my energy. I must accept the circumstances of my life and rejoice that I can go to God with my frustrations, trusting in him to energize me for the race. He will soften my heart and remove any resentment.
As the years go by and my stamina for the race is challenged, I must remember that I still have much to offer. With God’s help I can stay in the race. Psalm 92:14 says, They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The Lord is upright; he is my Rock.”
I may have a ways to go until I am truly “old,” but as the years pass and the routine gets stale I pray that my obedience and faith in God will stay strong. I will continue to run the race with endurance, not letting pride, selfishness and disobedience distract me and weaken my service for him. I want to finish well!
In Hebrews 12:1 we read, Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders, and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
I am still in the race and I want to please my coach, the Lord Jesus Christ, and win the crown that he has prepared for me.