Blessed are the Finishers: On Intimidation and Impatience.

Mixed-plastic-racetrack-running-track-

Vince gave us all some practical advice on how we can train better for the “race” we all have to finish. And the whole “running the race” metaphor that he (and, obviously, Paul) uses is apt: we all may not be marathon-racers, but we can all finish that race. 

And yet, often we quit.

It probably won’t surprise most people that I wasn’t big into sports in school… or ever, for that matter. By the time I got to highschool, I did the bare minimum in gym class, and rarely (if ever) broke a sweat. And it wasn’t so much that I was a slacker: I was a good student, otherwise. It was that I didn’t really know how to do these athletic things, and I didn’t want to try because that would mean a few things: work, failure, slow progress, etc. 

A couple years ago, many years after my high school days, my husband Jeff suggested I take up jogging with him. And my answer was something along the lines of: “No way, Jose.” 

In complete seriousness, I was convinced I was physically incapable of doing it. I hadn’t really jogged/ran ever in my entire life, probably. And no, I don’t have any weird condition, and/or crippling diseases that would prevent me from doing it.

And starting off, I coudn’t. It was funny/embarassing: I could barely run a couple hundred feet. After that couple hundred feet, I was convinced I was going to die. Thankfully, Jeff didn’t laugh at me… much. 

Now this was where I usually would just stop and say: “Yeah. Told you so. Running’s the worst. I can’t do it.”  Actually, I probably did say that. But Jeff, who was able to do a few laps on the first go, said something like: “Well, just because you can’t do it now doesn’t mean you won’t be able to do it eventually.”

And while that was reasonable, I was more inclined to be unreasonable; my usual line of thinking is 1.) “Easy for you to say.” and 2.) “If I can’t do it now, I’m just not going to do it.” 

And spiritually speaking, this is also the easy way out. When met with some kind of spiritual challenge, we respond these two ways: 1.) “Of course the pastor can say that and live that kind of life; he/she is a spiritual triathlete.” and 2.) “I tried praying, but nothing happened.” “I read my Bible, but I didn’t understand it or agree with it.” “I invited so-and-so to church, but he/she didn’t come.” “I volunteered in this capacity, but nobody cared.”

We become intimidated and impatient, and then we give up. 

  • We are impatient: The thing about races is that they aren’t easy. People who become marathon racers don’t just wake up one morning, sit up in bed, and say: “I feel like running 25 miles today. Yeah!” Maybe it’s easier for some people than others, but everyone who becomes a marathon runner has to work at it. It’s going to take time. 
  • We are intimidated: We see the marathon runner, compare ourselves, and we’re afraid. We’re convinced of our failure before we even start. 

This second reservation is probably bigger than the first, because there’s more truth in that thought; it’s not quite as immature or irrational as impatience. We have a right to be intimidated. We really aren’t all that great, actually. We are failures.

But that’s where we need to rely on God. If we’re in Christ, it’s not “us” as lone individuals who accomplish things in life; it is not through our own abilities or efforts, actually. It’s Jesus. Because, as Paul writes in Galatians, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (2:20). And we can rest in this reassurance, because we can do anything with the help of Christ:

I can do all things through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13 

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