Faith of a Father

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


Leave a comment

#11 Running the Race: The Finish Line

                                                                                                  Finish line

11. A goal is set – the finish line. Every race has a finish line. I remember running in the 4 miler and I started to see signs indicating the finish line was “just” ahead, so I was inspired to press on. I’d go around the corner and see another sign indicating the finish line was “just” ahead, so on I struggled. Finally, I could see the finish line, it was in sight! I was hurting and exhausted but once I actually saw it I was encouraged again. It didn’t matter that hundreds had crossed the line before me, I made it. I finished my first race. I was satisfied.

The goal of all runners is to finish their course. To finish the course set before them. Depending on the runner the goal may be to just finish the course and to have a feeling of personal accomplishment while for others it may be to finish in a specific time or in a specific placing such as in first place or top ten. Some run for the fame or the endorsements, but whatever the reason, completion is the goal.

I Corinthians 9 Paul talks about how as a free man he became a servant to have an audience with the slave, he became a Jew that he might witness to the Jews, and he became as weak to have opportunity to minister to the weak. In verse 23 he says he does all this, he denies himself of what is rightfully his position and station in life so that he might be a partner with whom he writes and that they might share in the winning of souls to Christ to the honoring and glory of Christ. From this Paul moves in to the passage that states:                                                                                                

“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.”

In my 4 miler, while many received a prize, only one received “the prize”. Not so in our Christian race, God is no respecter of persons. Everyone that runs His race receives an incorruptible crown, the crown of everlasting life. What more could we every want or need, a reward that will never perish. A reward of eternity in heaven with the God of the universe, how great is that?

In Philippians chapter 3 Paul tells of his background, his pedigree, a man of means and station but he says he counts it all loss for Christ. He calls it all dung. What he had, the fame, the position as part of the Sanhedrin, the revered name, the success, and no doubt the fortune, he gave it all up for Christ. In verse 13 he says that he hasn’t “arrived”, nor is he some great man in society because of what he had accomplished in his past. Paul willingly put all these things, all these worldly successes behind him so that he might reach forth to those things which God has before him. He said he presses toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Reader, are you willing to leave those things behind that are hindering you from moving forward with Christ? Many people pursue fame and fortune, they strive for status and position in life, they seek recognition and accolades above all else. Some are even willing to put their struggle for material success above even their family and worse, their faith, to obtain a perishable crown. Is there anything wrong with success and striving for excellence? Of course not, as Christians we are commanded to do our best in whatever our hand finds to do. The question is how do you define success? Is it defined by things and position or in a relationship with Christ? As we see in the passages previously mentioned Paul didn’t define his success in his pedigree or in his status with the religious leaders of the day, he defined his success by his relationship with Christ.

What is your life’s goal? Yes we all want to live a comfortable life but what is driving you to live each day? How do you want to finish your course? Are you, am I seek a corruptible crown or an incorruptible crown? When your life comes to an end how will you be remembered? Will your life be summed up by the dash between two dates or will your life have eternal significance? Will your friends remember you for a brief period of time or are you striving to leave a lasting legacy?

“Two little lines I heard one day, 
Traveling along life’s busy way;
 
Bringing conviction to my heart,
 
And from my mind would not depart;
 
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
 
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one, 
Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
 
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet,
 
And stand before His Judgement seat;
 
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
 
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, the still small voice, 
Gently pleads for a better choice
 
Bidding me selfish aims to leave,
 
And to God’s holy will to cleave;
 
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
 
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, a few brief years, 
Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;
 
Each with its clays I must fulfill,
 
living for self or in His will;
 
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
 
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

When this bright world would tempt me sore, 
When Satan would a victory score;
 
When self would seek to have its way,
 
Then help me Lord with joy to say;
 
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
 
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Give me Father, a purpose deep, 
In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;
 
Faithful and true what e’er the strife,
 
Pleasing Thee in my daily life;
 
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
 
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Oh let my love with fervor burn, 
And from the world now let me turn;
 
Living for Thee, and Thee alone,
 
Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne;
 
Only one life, “twill soon be past,
 
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one, 
Now let me say,”Thy will be done”;
 
And when at last I’ll hear the call,
 
I know I’ll say “twas worth it all”;
 
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
 
Only what’s done for Christ will last. ”

Only one life, ’twill soon be past, 
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
 
And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be,
 
If the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee.”

C.T Studd


Leave a comment

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


Leave a comment

Endurance to Finish Your Race

Image

9.   The race requires endurance to complete it successfully.  Being able to withstand the pressures of the race both physically and spiritually is critical for no one wins a race by skipping their training and taking a blasé attitude.  

Hebrews 12:1  “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 (endurance) the race that is set before us,”

I am reminded of when I was a freshman in collage I helped coach a high school soccer team that went all the way to the state championships.  We weren’t an overly talented team but we were a team that had a dedicated head coach and players that were willing to work harder than the other teams.   During practices the head coach pushed his players hard to build their stamina.  He would run them around the field over and over again requiring the last runner to sprint to the front of the line, when he got there he yelled and now the new last runner sprinted to the front of the line.   This training, along with other endurance skills enabled the out players to play hard throughout the entire game.  While other teams played hard, part-way through the second half they would start to drag.  Our players on the other hand had a second wind and were able to push past the other team and win.  The point of this story is that it is not always about being the best and the most skilled at something but having the endurance to outlast your opponent.  It is the same in our Christian life, while it is important to hone our “skills”, continue to learn and do our best ( I Corinthians 10:31), like a tortoise, plodding along, being consistent and developing the needed endurance is what gets us to the finish line.  

Physical conditioning is not easy.  It is tough, you want to quit, it hurts and often it is just plan no fun.  So it is with our spiritual conditioning, it is tough, there is often pain, and at times you just want to quit.  But like a runner in training, they press on.  We are reminded in II Corinthians 12:9 that His grace is sufficient for us.  When the pain seems to become overwhelming and we think of giving up, it is HIS grace that is sufficient, not our works.

So how do you want to cross the finish line?  Will you be a casualty in the race and have to be carried across the line on stretcher, will you allow the things of this world, the heartaches of life take your breath away or will you strengthen yourself in the Word of God and recognize that His grace is sufficient for you to finish your course? 

Oh let us not become distracted by the world, let us not give up but press toward that mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14) .


Leave a comment

Preventing another Newtown tragedy

Friday, December 14th, 2012 was a tragic day.  Twenty-eight individuals lost their lives due to a lone gunman at an elementary school in Newtown, CT.  Since then the families and friends of these individuals have been in our prayers continuously.  This act of terror will change the lives of so many people forever.  As a parent of five children I can only begin to imagine and yet even then fail to grasp the brokenness that comes to a parent’s heart when such devastation hits a family and community.

Over the past week we have heard from many people proclaiming what needs to be done to prevent such a tragedy from ever occurring again.  From arming teachers and placing armed guards and police officers in schools to stricter gun control laws and a re-implementation of the “assault rifle” ban.  Gun sales and accessories are skyrocketing and concealed weapons permits are on the rise.  As a concerned citizen and parent, I support an open and honest discussion on these topics.  I have heard politicians such as our President, House Representatives and Senators on both sides of the aisle seek to politicize this tragedy and have taken the popular position of never letting “a serious crisis go to waste.”  I am saddened that selfish goals and agendas have gotten in the way of the real issue.  In an effort to promote their agenda many politicians and influential organizations are attempting to treat this tragic incident like a cancerous disease that is spreading wildly throughout the body with only an aspirin.  It may make them feel like they are doing something to affect the cancer but in reality they are only covering symptoms of the bigger problem.

Our President, in a recent speech said, “We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end.  And to end them we must change.”  I agree one hundred percent.  Change is necessary.  The answer to the tragedy in CT and similar attacks across our country is not that difficult to figure out but it will be a difficult “fix” because many, if not most, will lack the courage and fortitude to make the necessary changes.

Tragedies of this kind don’t happen just because someone had access to a gun, and the answer is not just to have armed guards in assault garb roaming the schools.  Tragedies of this nature don’t happen because of lax gun laws, access to “assault rifles” or because our mental health system failed us.  This tragedy and others like it happen because we as a society have devalued life itself.  The teaching and training of righteous morals, values and absolute truth have been replaced by situational ethics, relative truth and “live and let live”.

 I’m not implying that we as a nation condone such murderous actions that happened in Newton or in any other area of the country, but what I am saying is that we as a nation are sending mixed messages about how we value life itself. 

 We all love the occasional heart-warming story of a life saved from the clutches of certain death yet in our entertainment, general media consumption and even in our political speech we allow ourselves to feast at the table of distain, anger, hatred, violence, all slathered with the au jus of depravity.

Why are we surprised when such a murderous terror act occurs in a small town like Newtown when saving the black footed ferret or the Mississippi gopher frog is more important to us than millions of unborn babies?  Why are we surprised when a horrific act occurs like what happened at Columbine, when violence and murder are popular movie and computer games themes?  Yes, some would say that videogames, TV programs, movies and music violence don’t affect societal actions, but go ask those who spend billions of dollars each year in advertising how medium affect societal actions..  Why are we surprised when such horrors like 9/11 happen, when we teach our children we are only accountable to our societal rules?  A society whose morals and values change almost annually based in large part on its emotions and feelings.  Why are we surprised when a 16 year old shoots and kills someone over a pair of tennis shoes, when we view ourselves and teach our children that we are nothing more than a higher form of life in the animal kingdom which evolved through the process of survival of the fittest? 

We will spend millions if not billions of our taxpayer dollars debating, posturing, politicizing and defaming one another over the symptoms of these violent attacks in our country while most will ignore the root cause; the devaluation of life due to the depravity of man by the ignoring of our need for absolutes (truth, morals and values) that are unchanging. We give ourselves too much credit when we make ourselves the authority over what is right and wrong.  Left to our own devices and a lack of these absolutes as our compass, chaos would abound.  We don’t need laws and rules because we are so good, it’s because we are not as good as we think we are.  Until we as a nation are willing to come together and address the root cause of our problems, like the cancer patient taking only aspirin, the President, Congress and “We the People” are fooling ourselves.  

So yes Mr. President, we must change.  But it is not our rhetoric or even our laws, but our hearts.


2 Comments

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.


Leave a comment

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?


Leave a comment

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.