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August 1, 2016, 12:00 AM

Running the Race

If you run races, the last thing you want to see in your stats are the letters “DNF”. That stands for “Did Not Finish”, and a lot of those indicate that someone doesn’t really have what it takes to run a 5K or a 10K or a marathon.

Why do people start races and not finish? Well, it could mean that there was an injury that made it impossible to finish. But sometimes people just quit. They get tired. Their resolve fails them, and they think, “This isn’t worth it.” Experienced runners know that those thoughts and feelings happen in every single race. So perhaps the most important part of being a successful long-distance athlete is learning to push past the inclination to quit.

One word that keeps popping up in the Bible is “perseverance”. The dictionary definition of perseverance is: “steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.” So, for athletes, the ability to persevere at training even when it’s difficult is incredibly important. How to keep going even when you keep losing—that is perseverance.

Allow me to switch metaphors for a moment. Think about sowing seeds. Preparing a garden and putting in seed is perhaps the most labor-intensive part of the work. Weeding and cultivating—waiting for the plants to bear fruit—can take many long months and is often accompanied by all sorts of unforeseen circumstances: drought, and hailstorms, and excessive heat. Perseverance is required of all good farmers and gardeners.

When Jesus spoke of sowing seeds, he was referencing the spreading of the good news—the gospel—of the Kingdom of God. And words, like seeds, are fragile things. There are lots of failures and difficulties in the work of ministry. And yet we keep sowing seeds anyway. We persevere.

The greatest danger in all ministry is coming to a place where we think, “Is it worth it?” Is it worth it to keep feeding people who stay hungry? Is it worth it to help people who sometimes act as if they don’t want help? Is it worth it to keep preaching to people who don’t really want to change their lives?

The only place I know to go when I feel like giving up the race is to the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus asked his three closest friends, Peter, James, and John, to stay and pray with him in his most desperate moment. Yet they repeatedly fell asleep. What must Jesus have felt?

Yet he persevered in his journey to the cross—out of pure love for God’s people.

Friends, in the middle of a heat wave, persevere in whatever tasks God has set before you. Sow seeds of good news, as the Psalm says, “beside every stream”. Keep going past discouragement and frustration and failure.

Because his race we are running—this effort to follow Jesus—is worth it. I believe that with all my heart.

See you in church!  We need you! ~Pastor Julia

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