For the past 24 years I’ve been an avid and faithful runner. Intentions and purposes for running and motives may have changed over time, but not the desire. For the past many years now running has been my way of entering into an intimate and personal time of worship with my Heavenly Father. I tie on my running shoes, plug in my MP3 player and hit the road focused on worshipping my Savior, the Creator and Sustainer of life. Since moving to Africa this has not changed. Throughout the week, when time becomes available, I run about 3 miles a day within our walled compound. Over the past year and a half I have stacked up quite a few miles and my shoes are definitely showing the wear and tear. Normally, I would have replaced them ages ago, but here in Africa you can’t just jump over to your local sportswear store, and finding good running shoes when you live in the middle of the bush is almost impossible. But, as silly as this may sound, I’m actually grateful for the condition of my shoes because it has made me think about some things lately from a different perspective as I’ve been reflecting on some of the difficult things we’ve had to face over the past few months.
The other day while I was running, as it usually does, my mind began drifting through thoughts and scriptures as I listened to Mark Hall, Chris Tomlin and others. As I looked down to avoid a Shea nut, I noticed my shoes again, and I began thinking about the parallels that can be found within the Word of God about running. I thought about how hard running can be and how we get tired, exhausted and want to quit at times. This led me to think about how the Christian life can be hard at times too, especially when we’re facing difficult decisions we really don’t want to have to make, or dealing with tough circumstances or disappointing results. These kinds of things can tempt us to withdraw from life until the storms die down and things become more agreeable. But this is not what God wants from His people. He calls us to persevere to the end (Mt 24:13). The more I thought about this and how God desires us to run our race, I started thinking about an interesting connection between running shoes and the Christian faith. Running shoes are of no good to anyone unless they are put to use. Shoes that stay in the closet may look nice, but they are of no benefit to the runner. The same can be said about our faith. Faith that stays tucked away and hidden, remaining untested doesn’t help us. We must take it out and put it to use. By allowing our faith to be tested through various circumstances, it will grow stronger, and it will enable us to persevere and endure trials and difficulties when they come, helping us to not grow weary doing good and to keep running our race. It may sound strange, but these shoes have reminded me that no matter how “worn out” we may look or feel, we can keep on going, persevering and enduring as long as we are relying and depending on the Lord to sustain us.
Paul said in Hebrews 12:1-2 “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Life is going to be hard. Difficult days are inevitable and we are going to have to make lots of tough choices as we run the race that the Lord has set before us. Like the runner, who’s not meant to cross the finish line wearing shoes that look as if they have never been worn, the Christian is not meant to walk through this life trouble free, escaping every hardship and difficulty along the way and entering into Heaven never having faced adversity of any kind. God calls the Christian to run their race of faith enduring persecution, persevering through trials, and doing the work of the evangelist as we take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth, fulfilling our ministry of reconciliation. We are meant to cross the finish line, entering into the glory of Heaven, wearing shoes of faith that are completely worn out and holding together by a thread and a drop of glue because we have run every single mile all out, giving everything we have for the glory of God.
James 1:2-3 tells us to “Consider it all JOY, my brethren, WHEN you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” And Philippians 1:29 says “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” God NEVER told us our Christian walk would be easy. In fact, He promises that it will be challenging and difficult, that we will face trials and hardships of all different kinds, and that some will even die for their faith. But He also promises us that we will NEVER have to walk this road alone! The Lord says that He will never leave us or forsake us (Heb 13:5) and that He will always be with us no matter where we go (Mt 28:20).
I pray that on the day that our Father calls us home we will crawl across the finish line completely worn out, beat down, and exhausted because we have given Him absolutely everything we have in order to make His Name known and to spread the Gospel! May we all hear the beautiful words Jesus said in the book of Matthew…well done my good and faithful servant, now enter into the joy of your Master. (Mt 24:14-30)
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up 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 loved His appearing.” 2 Tim 4:7-8