Faith of a Father

"Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; for he is faithful that promised; – Hebrews 10:23


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Running the Race: Be Prepared

 

running hail

10. The path is not easy.  There are hills and potential weather hindrances.  We were fortunate that the day of our race it was a cool and dry morning, but Lynchburg is called the Hill City for a reason.  Our course had hills to climb, not just small rises in elevation but several long hills.  For a new runner, this was rough.  My training consisted of a treadmill and a fairly flat road at the beach.  Veteran runners on the other hand know their courses and train on various terrains and in all kinds of weather.  I have seen runners on TV running in rain, sleet, snow, wind and extreme temperatures so they prepare themselves for these conditions they know they will ultimately encounter.   Knowing the course and being prepare to the best of your ability is key in running any race.

As we consider our Christian race do we wait until something extreme hits us and then scurry to figure out what we need to do or do we have a game plan for those “hills” and extreme “weather conditions” that will undoubtedly hit us?   Over the years we have taught our children that they must purpose in their heart today on how they will respond when confronted with sin tomorrow.  The time to decide what to do in a time of crisis is not in the mist of the crisis.  The time to decide how you will respond is before the crisis hits.  The Bible tells us that Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the king’s meat (Daniel 1:8).  We cannot foresee all the storms of life ahead of us but we know they will come and preparing ahead of time helps us to have the victory over those storms and trials.

Paul says in I Corinthians 9:24-27,

Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.  And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things.  Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.  I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

So how do we prepare for the storms of life that want to blow us off course or worse, sink us?  Live the Word.  Let the Word of God become a part of your life.  Let it flow from you so that your response to the troubles, trials and testings of this world are biblical responses and are automatic and second nature to you.  Many people even “scholars” know the Word but they only know the Bible in a intellectual way they have not allowed it to grow and permeate every part of their life.  When Satan came to Christ to tempt him, Christ quoted the Scriptures to Satan (Matthew 4).  But is knowing or quoting the Scriptures enough?  No.  Satan quoted Scriptures to Christ (Matthew 4:5) so we know that anyone can quote the Bible.  It is not enough to just quote God’s Word but we must believe and live the Scriptures.  James 1:22 “But be ye doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.”  This is how we prepare for the unknown storms of life that want to push us off course or wear us down until we feel like we can’t go any further.  Let the supernatural responses from God’s Word to the cares and trials of this life follow through us like an unstoppable river that cannot be contained within us.

So how are you preparing for the storms of life?  How am I?  Are were studying the Christian’s guide book?  Are we seeking to gain the strength we need by being a self made man?  Are we trying to help ourselves and stand on our own two feet?  Or are we deepening our faith with the Word and Love of God and allowing Him to control our life and allow His Spirit to give us the strength and guide us along our way?

Remember:

 “But without faith it is impossible to please him…” – Hebrews 11:6

“ I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” – Philippians 4:13


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Running the Race #8

8.  There are encouraging fans.  We discussed the other runners but we also have fans.  First and foremost, if we have no one else we have the Comforter, the third person of the Trinity who will always be with us (John 4:6 ) who will teach us (John 14:26) and encourage us ( John 15:26) . The Bible says that “He (the Lord) will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.  So that we may boldly say, the Lord is my helper and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.”  Hebrews 13:5b-6.  If we have no one else around us, He is all we need.  He is our strength, our deliver and our salvation in the time of trouble (Psalm 27:5 , Psalm 41:1, Isaiah 33:2)  He is our light and salvation, whom shall we fear?  (Psalm 27:1).   No one.

In addition, the Lord has provided us with other to witness and encourage us.  In Hebrews 12:1-3 it says:

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,  Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.  For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

Who are these witnesses or “fans”?  Verse one of this chapter begins with the word “Wherefore” which can also be translated “Therefore”.  My Dad used to say we need to ask what the “Therefore” is there for.  As we know, the original letters of the Bible were not divided into chapters and verses but were added for us to more easily reference the various portions of Scripture.  So in this case, the reader is reading the 11th chapter known as the “Faith Chapter” and rolls right on into chapter 12.  So the writer of Hebrews is referring to those in the Faith Chapter (chapter 11) as the great cloud of witnesses.  I would recommend that you take the time to go back and see who these witnesses are.  They are not only those that were named but so many that were unnamed in verses 32 through 40.  Close your eyes and imaging Abel, Noah, or Abraham surrounding you and cheering you on in your race with the Lord.  Imagine Isaac, Jacob, Moses and Joshua beside you encouraging you along the way.  Or how about seeing martyrs of the past shouting “You can do it, don’t give up, the pain is worth the victory!”  Wouldn’t that encourage anyone?  Guess what, you don’t have to imagine any of this.  The writer of Hebrews is saying THEY ARE THERE! The witnesses that surround us are those heroes of the faith, the named and unnamed, the abused and even martyred in His name are surrounding us and encouraging us.  There have been times in our family’s life when it seemed we were all alone and we needed Him to pick us up and carry us.  The other runners in the race seemed so distance and some may even have shunned us.  But what joy can come to our hearts when we can turn a spiritual corner and realize that we are not alone and that we have fans who have finished their race and are running the sidelines cheering, encouraging and yelling, “Don’t quit! It will be worth it all, when you see Jesus!

Are you discouraged? Do you feel like no one cares?  Do you feel like giving up at times and just stepping to the side and sitting on the curb?  Look to your left, look to your right.  Don’t you see them?  Can’t you hear them yelling to you?  DON’T QUIT!  The pain, the attacks, will be worth it all.  Look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.


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Running the Race Set Before Us (part 3)

Well this is taking longer then I though.  As I work through each point I hope to keep it short but I just can’t seem to do that.

7.  There are other runners.   Like all races, there are other runners.  In the race I was in there were over 3,000 participants combined in all the races.  Having others running the race was not a bad thing, it actually inspired me to do better.  The Monday before the race while I was at the Outter Banks, in Duck, NC I ran/walked 4 miles.  Granted, it was in the middle of the afternoon, but for the most part it was fairly flat with a few rises on the course.  It took me an hour and 8 minutes to complete the 4 miles.  When I ran the actual race, as noted earlier, it took me just under 50 minutes.  In addition, Lynchburg is called the “Hill City” for a reason and for a large portion of the course we were going up a long hill.  Why do I think I did better?  For various reasons, but one of the main reasons is because I was running with other runners.  There was something about running with 3000+ runners that was inspiring and encouraging.  It helped me to focus more and push myself further than had I been running alone.  It is the same in the Christian race.   There is something about living the Christian life and having others running with you.

When Christ sent out his disciples, he sent them two by two.  Paul took various missionary journeys and as he went he had others with him. Why?  Because it is important not only to have someone with you to encourage you along the way but to help push you to do more and go further then you may have ever dreamed had you gone alone.   As I ran my race, in a sense, the other runners, by their very presence were pushing me to go further, to go faster, to not give up.  Although we need no one but Christ and His strength to finish our course, isn’t it a blessing to run the Christian life with fellow believers?  Running the race that morning I saw strangers encouraging other strangers.   It didn’t matter who you were, what you looked like or how you ran, people were encouraging each other to help them finish the race before them.  As Christians, to be able to turn to someone next to you and to have that encouragement that they are right there with you, to know that they know what you are going through, they have experience the same or similar spiritual struggles, they know the spiritual hurts and pains that come, isn’t that  wonderful blessing?  To be able to look around and see that you are not alone is inspiring.   As we run this Christian race, what a blessing it is to be able to encourage one another and to be encouraged.

Maybe your running partner is your spouse, your parents or your kids.  Maybe there is that special someone or someones in your church that you have enjoyed running with in your Christian life.  No matter with whom you run, as Proverbs 27:17  says you are sharpening each other along the way.

In addition to the other runners encouraging you, they can also be someone to help hold you accountable and can help you to avoid detours and pitfalls.  As I ran my race I was able to look ahead and follow other runners.  I couldn’t see the finish line until 50 yards away from it but I knew that if I followed those ahead of me I would get there.

How about you? Do you, do I look at others running with us and see them as an encouragement or a distraction?  You may say, but Donn, they are not running the way I am,” or you may say “Donn, they aren’t wearing the exact same style and brand of shoes that I think they need.”  Yes, some may have a little different stride, some may even be wearing Nikes instead of New Balance shoes and some may even be carrying some unnecessary weight but are you encouraging them or blocking them from doing their best?  Maybe they are hardheaded and don’t want you help or suggestion or maybe they are just too comfortable with their extra weight and all you can do is kindly point them to the runner’s guide.  But are you helping or hindering?  Regardless of how others are running beside you, you are responsible to God for how YOU run your race.  If they are in the Christian race, are you encouraging them and allowing them to encourage you or are you allowing the other runner differences to be a distraction and a discouragement to you?


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Running the Race Set Before Us (part 2)

Continuing with our comparison between running a race and our Christian walk, we move on to point number 3:

3.  Seldom are 2 participant’s times the same.  When we started our race in the 10 and 4 mile races, while there was one starting sound, due to little magnetic strips on our assigned numbers on our chests, our individual times did not start and stop until we actually crossed the start and finish lines.  Because our Christian race begins when we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior and it is not over until we cross the finish line into Heaven upon our physical death, our races begin and end at different times.  As Christians, we may guestimate when we expect to finish our course down here on earth but as I said in another series, our life is short and we do not know when it will end. 

 James 4:14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

Hebrews 9:27:  And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:

I Peter 1:24  For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:

4.  In every race there is a time keeper, but they don’t know how long it will take for us to complete our race until we actually finish.  In our Christian race, our timekeeper knows ahead of time when our race will start and end.  In Ephesians chapter one it says that God choose us before the foundations of the world and that he predestined (determined beforehand) that we were to be his children.  He says in Ecclesiastes 3:2 that there is a time to be born and a time to die.  And Job 14:5 tells us  “Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass;”  So as a Christian we can rest in the comfort of knowing that our time is in His hands. Psalm 31:15

5.  Extra weights and distractions are removed.  In a race you want to remove everything possible that will slow you down.  Some runners train while wearing weights on their legs but when race time comes, the weights come off.   In Hebrews 12 Paul tells us that we need lay aside every weight and the sin that easily besets us.  Notice it says weight AND the sin.  There may be some things that are good and “OK” but not beneficial or “best” for our Christian race.  Hobbies and sports are fine but if it begins to interfere with your relationship with Christ it is an issue.  Other things like social activities, various forms of media are fine as well as long as these do not consume us to where Christ takes second place in our life.  In less than a month from now an important election for our country will take place and while participating in the political process is great, if changing someone’s political view becomes more important than pointing them to Christ to change their heart, these are weights that need to be removed.  These are weights but if we allow them to weigh us down they hinder our performance.  The second portion of the verse says “and the sin…”.  While some things may be good but are weights to our race, other things are out right sins and must be immediately removed or serious injury and delays may hinder us from our peak “performance.”

 6.  Proper attire is necessary.  This kind of goes along with point #5 regarding weights but is referencing clothing more than other types of weights.  A runner wears clothing that will “draw” the sweat away from the body and lightweight shoes.  In the Christian race we need to have on the right attire.  We are told to put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:13-17 ), we are to put on immortality ( I Corinthians 15:53 ), we are told to put on the new man, a changed godly man (Ephesians 4:24 ) we are told to put on the new man because we are holy and beloved of God and we are to put on compassion, kindness, humility, longsuffering, forbearance (holding up someone) , forgiveness one towards another, and above all we are to put on love.  I had a dorm mate in college and anytime he got the least bit sweaty he would change his clothes.  I swear I think he changed clothes even if he ran up the one flight of stairs to our dorm rooms and got just a little bit sweaty.   Like a man who showered and was washed clean would not think about putting back on his dirty clothes, so ought we as Christians to have a desire to put on what is clean and godly and desire not to put on the dirty clothes of this world and the things in life that will soil our Christian life.


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Running the Race Set Before Us

Donn finished his 4 Mile Race

 

A week ago today I ran in my first “race” since probably high school.  Our town has a 10 mile race every year and people come from across the country even from other countries to participate.   Although I have been exercising regularly since my heart attack last December, I knew I wasn’t ready for a 10 mile race and may never be, so after encouragement from co-workers I signed up for the 4 mile walking “race”.  This is the race that people sign up for who know they don’t have a prayer in being even somewhat competitive yet want to have a feeling of accomplishment, an opportunity to achieve a personal goal.  I figured I could run a couple of the miles so “running” the walk was my goal.

I finished the “race” with a time of 49:23, just a little more than 12.5 minute miles, nothing at all spectacular but a finish none the less, and a milestone in my rehabilitation and ongoing lifestyle changes.  I came in 19th place out of 727 “walkers”.  That sounded pretty good until I decided to include those who signed up for the 4 mile run as well in my calculations.  I came in 833rd when I combine the walking and running races, but hey, I was still in the top 50%.  When I told my wife of my second calculations she asked why I figured it out that way, that, doing so was depressing.  Maybe so but it gave me a clearer picture of where I really stood in the overall standings.  It brought more reality to me.

In contrast to my running, the winner of the 10 mile race was Kenyan born Julius Kogo who won his race with a time of 47:48.  He was done with his ten miles before I was done with my four!  A little closer to reality, my daughter has a 14 year old friend who completed her 4 mile race in 27 minutes.  Wow, what a difference.  She was almost done by the time I got halfway.

So after the race was all over I began to contemplate what I should post on my blog.  In my reflection I came up with 11 things found common to races.

  1. Registration is required
  2. Preparation is required, workout, training and mentors
  3. Seldom are 2 participants’ times the same.
  4. There is a time keeper
  5. Extra weights and distractions are removed
  6. Proper attire is necessary
  7. There are other runners
  8. There are encouraging fans
  9. The race requires endurance to complete it successfully
  10. The path is not easy, there are hills and potential weather hindrances
  11. A goal is set – the finish line

When I consider these topics I begin to see how they can apply to my Christian Life.  The Bible talks about our Christian life being a race I so I wanted to draw a comparison between the two.  The physical and the spiritual.

  1.  Just like the race I ran a week ago, an individual must sign up to participate in the Christian race.  Salvation is not an automatic registration, you don’t get “registered by going to church or being baptized or because your parents are Christians, we are not all “the children of God”.  Salvation is an individual, intentional pursuit of a relationship with Jesus Christ.  A recognition that we have sinned, we all have fallen short of the glory of God (  Romans 3:23), because of our sin, we are separated from God and are destined to Hell for all eternity (Isaiah 59:2) .  But, if we confess with our mouth, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 10:1-13) and trust in His finished work, what He accomplished on the Cross and His resurrection defeating death, we shall be saved (registered and a participant in the Christian race).   Without this salvation, you are bound on a broad course to Hell for all of eternity (Romans 6:15-23).   To learn more about this salvation, this entry into the Christian race and a part of God’s family feel free to contact me directly or go here
  2. Once we are registered in the Christian race, preparation for the race an ongoing need.   An athlete doesn’t get themselves into shape and never train again.  They continue to work hard and eat right, constantly trying to improve in areas of weakness.  As Christians, we must continue to develop our knowledge and exercise our faith, and take in proper spiritual nutrition continuously so that we may grow stronger in the Lord and in the power of His might (II Timothy 2:15) and many other Scripture references are listed here.   In addition to our own spiritual workouts and healthy eating, we need to seek out mentors that can help us and instruct us in the Word of God so we are prepared to face the course ahead of us.  Elijah mentored Elisha, Eli mentored Samuel, Mordecai mentored Esther, Naomi mentored Ruth, Moses mentored Joshua, Jesus mentored his 12 disciples and Paul mentored Timothy and many others, just to name a few mentorships in the Bible.

Next time we’ll pick up where we left off and continue on our discussion of the life’s race.