When I was a kid I hated running. I hated running to catch the school bus. I hated running to play tag. I hated running in gym class. When I became an adult, I promised myself I would never run again unless my life depended on it. Fast forward to 2011.
I had recently been home visiting family and heard the inspiring story of my sister in law. She had joined a women’s running group and experienced a total physical and health transformation. She too hated running but her encounter with the group turned disdain into love. Her enthusiasm was contagious and I wanted to be infected. The group had a chapter in my city so I soon found myself lacing up my sneakers and driving out to an empty grocery store parking lot at 5am on a chilly January morning. There were about 20 women waiting, all of various ages, sizes. The leader welcomed first-timers, gave some instructions, and told us the mission; 4 miles. Before we started, I informed her privately that I would not be able to complete the 4-mile mission. She just smiled, advised me to keep my eyes on who was in front of me, and stop when I couldn’t go any further. And off we went.
For the first 10 seconds I felt like an Olympian. As I approached 30 seconds, I thought my heart was going to jump out of my throat. It looked like my run was over. But then something interesting happened. I did what she said and turned my attention to who was in front of me (very far in front of me). It was the leader with about six other women beside her. So I kept my eyes on her. I observed the rhythm of her strides, the way her heels contacted the ground, and the swing of her elbows. I also observed how she navigated over unstable parts of the road, pushed over grown bushes out of her way, and avoided tripping hazards. My observations were suddenly interrupted by the sound of my phone announcing that 1 mile had been completed. Impossible! I had never been able to run a mile in my life! I almost panicked, thinking maybe I should stop. But then I remembered what the leader said. I should stop when I could not go any further. I could go further. So I did. About 40 minutes and 3 miles later, I was back at the parking lot.
Then something really unexpected happened. A woman approached me and said she was behind me the entire time. It was her first time running too. She was feeling so tired at one point that she stopped completely. But when she looked and saw that I was still going, she started to run again.
This experience illustrated something I needed to understand about my relationship with the Holy Spirit. Hebrews 12:1-3 reads:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
I am running a race called life. It’s a race of faith. It is long and sometimes the path is full of obstacles and unseen dangers, but there’s an eternal crown at the finish line. I don’t have what it takes to make it on my own. But there’s someone in front of me who knows how to handle anything my race throws at me because He’s already endured it, and more. Jesus Christ suffered betrayal, torture, wrongful death and hostility for the benefit of the very people that orchestrated His suffering. When I keep my eyes on Him and remember His words and how He ran His race, I’m able to run my race, circumvent pitfalls, align to His pace and finish without fainting. But there’s the challenge. How do I focus on Him and finish running my race when life is full of weighty, clinging sin? I need a running partner.
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
It is the Holy Spirit that reminds me of Jesus Christ; everything He’s said and who He is in my life. And not only that, when I walk (or run) with the Spirit, His presence opposes and overcomes my sinful desires and a weight is lifted. But He doesn’t stop there. He uses my race to encourage others to keep running, just like the woman on that chilly January morning. That’s His mission, to equip God’s people to finish the race that Christ started. As we run, His mission becomes our mission. He teaches and reminds us of what Jesus said and we in turn teach and remind others.
How are you running the race of life? Are you enduring or do you feel like fainting? How are you engaging the Holy Spirit to keep running? Are you inviting/inspiring others to join the faith race?
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