Mick’s Memo – Finishing the Race

The Apostle Paul and the writer of Hebrews both drew upon the principles of athletics and running in their teaching.  As we conclude our sermon series from Hebrews this Sunday, we will consider the exhortations that conclude the litany of “faith heroes” in chapter 11.  Another familiar use of the metaphor is found in Paul’s 2nd letter to his protégé, Timothy.  Most scholars believe this letter was written within days or at most weeks of Paul’s martyrdom.  He said…

But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:5-8 (NIV)

Many of Paul’s companions had abandon him by this point.  Luke was with him and may have been the one writing it for him.  

Living by faith is like a long race.  It cannot be won in a moment, challenges to our trust in God will always be a part of this life.  The heroes we have discussed in Hebrews 11 and Paul and certainly Jesus are all examples that demonstrate that truth.  What can we learn about endurance and consistency by their examples?

First, we can learn to expect challenges.  I think this is particularly difficult in our era and our culture.  We are obsessed with “ease” and “convenience”. A friend forwarded an article to me this week that pointed out how this desire to live by “proxy” affects us all through the many devices that substitute for real, incarnated involvement.  The author, Jen Pollock Michel, writes…

I donʼt know that I can fully recover from my entitlement to ease. I am not,

after all, giving up my iPhone. But perhaps I can remember that love,

patterned after Godʼs own self-giving, is bent on inconvenience and cost.

Perhaps I can temper my expectations for the effortless life I think am owed.

Perhaps I can remember, when feeling especially put out by needing to

show up in the world (and not by proxy), that I am supposed to love with my body.

The metaphor of a running a race and finishing with the prize is a stark contrast to the ethic of “ease”.  Challenging workouts expand the capacity of runners. Challenging circumstances of life grow our spiritual capacities.  We learn greater dependence on God. we learn to appreciate the sacrifices of the Savior. We learn the benefits of brothers and sisters in Christ who run with us and encourage us.  

In addition to challenges we can expect the Lord’s rewards.  We will have the satisfaction of contributing and seeing the fruit of our efforts in this life; but even more in the next.  Any sacrifice or suffering we experience in the service of the Lord will be affirmed and rewarded by Him.

How is your race progressing?  This weekend we will spend time gaining some practical advice for finishing strong in the passage that concludes the litany of heroes in Hebrews.

By the way, many thanks to our teens and their leaders for their contributions to our services last weekend.  We were also blessed by the efforts of the Married Life team who planned and led the Married Life “Getaway”. We were blessed by the fun games and thought provoking teaching provided by Mike Maurer.

Thanks also to the volunteers who have been framing, sheet-rocking, and painting in the expansion!

Looking forward to seeing you Sunday!

Mick

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