“I have observed something else under the sun. The fastest runner doesn’t always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn’t always win the battle.”
–Ecclesiastes 9:11 (NLT)
It was the day of the big race, and first place appeared to be a shoe-in for the previous champion. Being a smug and very proud man, the former champ scoffed at those who thought they could beat him. Jeering, he came out to the starting line wearing a backpack, and he sneered at the other racers as the starting gun went off.
The former champion tore off down the course, and seeming to have the advantage of expert training, he ran for all he was worth. Passing each contestant, he grinned and waved flippantly as each runner dropped back. “This is no contest!” he told himself, as he turned onto the streightaway.
The backpack was starting to get heavy, though, and the other contestants were all quite a ways behind him now. Since the finish line was in sight, the former champion thought he could cross it with no problem, so he decided to slow down. Then he looked around, and seeing that the other racers were still a long ways back he thought, “Why not take a short rest?”
But to his surprise, the race wasn’t over by a long shot. The coach who had trained the youngest and most promising competitor signaled for his student to speed up.
Seeing this, the former champion struggled to his feet. The boy, who had been losing, noticed that the former champion was huffing and puffing, and began to gain on him. They were soon neck-and-neck, and for a minute it looked like the crown would have to be forfeited.
As the finish line came closer, however, the boy appeared to be falling back again and the crowd jumped up, spellbound. The winner would be anybody’s guess.
Then the crowd began to cheer for the boy. There were catcalls and whistles. Bewildered, the boy glanced at his captain. Making eye contact, his trainer only nodded, and the boy drew strength from his hero and, sprinting ahead with herculean effort, he made a frantic dive and fell down, barely crossing the finish line.
Immediately, he was surrounded by reporters who helped him up, seeking an interview.
“What’s your secret?” they asked the boy, who was still panting.
“It’s no secret,” he replied, once he had caught his breath. “I just kept my eyes on my hero. He is the real champion.”
Of course the above story is absurd, but I would like to use it to make a point. In this world, we all live at a frantic pace, and we find ourselves in our own kind of race. You may be racing to meet that deadline, or racing against rush-hour traffic to get to that appointment. But have you ever asked yourself why you are going at such a break-neck speed?
Just like the former champion in our story, we are all carrying heavy burdens in backpacks, but most of us don’t want to face this truth. Rather than being literal, however, these backpacks usually contain future anxieties, regrets about past mistakes, or a lack of trust in God in the present.
Knowing that you are carrying a backpack that weighs you down and actually doing something about it are two different things. It is the act of doing something, therefore, that we will address when we talk about the biblical race which we are all called to run.
Let’s say you were applying for a physical race. Before you filled out the application, you would most likely ask yourself some questions.
The most important one would be, “What are the overall goals of this contest?” Actually, though, it is more important for us to ask ourselves this question when it comes to the race which God calls us to run.
Our overall goal as Christians can be summed up in one phrase: obedience to God. But this obedience is not to be seen as a duty. God is a good and loving Father who wants only the best for His children. When we know this, our backpacks begin to fall off, and we can experience new peace and joy as our load begins to lighten. Let me illistrate it this way, and please listen to what god is saying to you as you read this.
Imagine that we’re taking a trip in an airplane together. You are excited, and you don’t want to miss a thing, so you look out the window during take-off.
“This airport looks so huge,” you say. then, noticing that I am already asleep, you jab me in the ribs with your elbow.
“Stop it!” I yawn. “I’m trying to sleep.”
“I know, but you’ve got to see this view!”
“But as we gain altitude, the airport buildings seem to grow smaller and smaller.”
“I’ve seen this view a lot of times,” I snap. “Don’t bother me.”
Therein lies the problem. Just as in the above story, most of us would like to sleep through the race. Instead of enjoying God’s freedom, you might say something like, “Don’t bother me, God! I’ve grown comfortable with my backpack.”
It is the same in life, and as in any race, growing comfortable can be deadly if we snooze. Our race of obedience, therefore, calls for speed in some things that all of us need to attend to. For example, we are called to be prompt in the confession of sin, ready to forgive a brother or sister in Christ, and swift to hear what others are saying.
But in contrast to a real sporting event, the race we are meant to run often calls for us to slow down. Scripture tells us to be still as we let God search our hearts, and to come before Him in worship and praise. You may say you don’t have the time for that, but you don’t have the time to ignore God, either.
As we ascended in the plane earlier, physical objects appeared to shrink. Our walk with Jesus can accomplish the same goal. As I have grown to adore Him more and more, I have found that my problems have become more and more manageable. Also, trying to adopt an eternal outlook can give us a new perspective on living our lives in the here and now.
Just as He multiplied the loaves of bread and the fish, God can perform miracles with our own schedules. So take a time-out, and let Him mold you into His image.
“But,” you say, “when we are going through life’s trials, it’s almost impossible to live that way.”
However, if we are followers of Jesus and we actively seek Him, He will direct our thoughts. Rather than training for something temporal that will pass away, then, those of us who love Him are in God’s eternal boot camp. This should offer hope, for the Bible tells us that God disciplines those whom He loves, while filling us with a peace that passes all understanding. Therefore, when our circumstances appear to be dark, God’s Word will shed light on our situations if we surrender to it.
Having an eternal perspective is also foundational. It is way too easy for any one of us to become encumbered by the cares of life. We all get caught up in our day-to-day struggles, so what is the answer?
If you are under a lot of stress, and God’s commands for us don’t seem realistic, maybe it is because we are trying to live in our own strength. In fact, we can’t do this. The good news is that we don’t have to run this race alone. Jesus told us that without Him we can do nothing, but we can do all things with and through Him. I pray that you will trust in God to help you endure and finish this race, today and every day!
Thank you for reading this, and may the Lord give you a wonderful week! We are trying to reach people who are hurting, so if God lays it on your heart, please consider becoming a partner with us. If you would like to make a donation, please visit www.hcmachaplains.org and click on the Donate Now link. You can also send donations by mail to HCMA (Healthcare Chaplains Ministry Association). Our ID number is 560. The address is 101 S Kraemer BLVD, Suite 123A, Placentia, CA 92870.
Finally, you’re always welcome to join our Tuesday night Bible study. These studies are conducted by conference call, and they take place at 5:30 PM Arizona time. Our conference number is 313-209-8800. Our PIN is 8699032. We hope to talk with you soon!
If you have questions, comments or prayer requests for Timothy or Stephanie Burdick, please call 507-369-6861.