Episode 1. The Starting Line
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Living life is a bit like – well, running a race. And that’s great – running a race I mean. Provided that we actually get to the starting line. Can’t run a race until you start. That’s …
Living life is a bit like – well, running a race. And that’s great – running a race I mean. Provided that we actually get to the starting line. Can’t run a race until you start. That’s obvious. So why is it that so many people avoid the starting line?
Once every 4 years they hold the Olympic games. And whilst most of us aren’t that interested in swimming races or diving competitions or track and field events for the other 3 years and 50 weeks, over those two weeks we seem to become fixated on those very events. And it doesn’t matter which event we watch – swimming, running, pole vaulting… whatever it is – we see the athlete’s line up at the starting line or step up onto the starting block or walk into the throwing circle, and then… then they do their thing. Then they compete. They run or they swim or they throw. And why?
They do it to win.
But there’s one really obvious thing about these competitions. Unless the athlete steps up to the starting line, they can’t win. I mean if nine athletes crouch down in their blocks waiting to start for a sprint, and they’re waiting for the starting gun and the tenth athlete, he’s wandering around behind the blocks, well… there’s one thing for sure. When the starter fires the gun that tenth athlete has no chance, absolutely no chance of winning the race. Pretty obvious really.
So how come we miss that obvious reality over and over again when it comes to running the race of life?
Last week on the program we started a series that I called Running the Race – Winning the Prize. It’s all about asking ourselves, what race am I running in? Am I just wandering around aimlessly on the track expecting to win a prize? Am I running in the wrong race? Am I in the 400-metre track and field when, given who I am, I really should be in the 200-metre butterfly in the pool?
They’re good questions to ask because each one of us is made by God to run a particular race.
Ephesians chapter 2, verses 8 to 10 say this:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. It’s not your own doing; it’s a gift from God not the result of works so that no-one may boast. For we are what He has made us. Created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.
We’re made the way He made us. Each one different. You’re so different to me. We’re made to run our own race. God’s race. The grace race. But you know, one of the most daunting things about what we’ve been looking at the last week on the program. It’s this sense that God does have a plan. That there is, in fact, a mighty race for each one of us to run but in our hearts we’re afraid.
We’re afraid to step up to the starting line. We’re afraid to, I don’t know, just to take that first step. It’s called inertia. It’s a basic law of physics. It’s a tendency to do nothing or remain unchanged. In physics it’s a property of matter by which the matter continues in it’s existing state of rest unless that state is changed by an external force.
You know that feeling. You can see what lies ahead. You know, you know it’s the right thing to do but you just can’t get started. You just can’t go.
What’s holding us back? Maybe it’s a sense that we haven’t been running this race. We kind of know God had a plan all along but we’ve left it so long. What would God think? Maybe if I ignore it. Maybe if I hide it will go away and He won’t notice. Maybe it’s a sense that if we start running this race for God we’ll look stupid or feel stupid or something. What’ll other people think? What if I fall flat on my face? I’ll look stupid.
It’s a problem for many people who believe in Jesus. Is that it can be hard to connect our faith with our lives. But the journey won’t begin. The journey in the race of faith and grace that God has laid out for us. It simply won’t begin without the first step. It just won’t. And you can buy the CD’s of this program. You can listen to them over and over and over again. But nothing is going to change unless we resolve in our hearts to take that very first step.
To step up to the starting line and say to ourselves, “You know something, God is calling me, ME, to run a race that He planned for me since before time began. That Paul guy got it right. I know that today God is calling me.”
This is what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians chapter 9:
Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete but only one receives the prize? Run is such a way that you may win it. Athletes exercise self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath but we, an imperishable one. So I don’t run aimlessly nor do I box as though I’m beating the air but I punish my body and enslave it so that after proclaiming to others, I myself shall not be disqualified.
Starting the race is saying, “That’s for me today. God is speaking to me through His word and you know something. Doesn’t matter how much my body craves for comfort and safety and security. I have a race to run. A race with a purpose.”
Your race is going to look a whole bunch different to mine and that’s okay. That’s good. That’s how is should be. And yes, running the race, it’s hard work sometimes. It’s tiring. It’s exhausting. It’s painful. All of those things. But have a listen to how the writer of Hebrews puts it in Hebrews chapter 12:
Therefore since we’re surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin that clings so closely and lets run with perseverance the race that’s set before us. Looking to Jesus, the pioneer and the perfector of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, disregarding it’s shame and has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him, who endured such hostility against Himself from sinners so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.
In the bigger picture, heaven’s cheering us on. That’s the big picture. That’s the heavenly picture. It’s time to lay a hold of the life that God’s got planned for us. Actually shed the flab, the weight, the sin. Lose it because it’s lead in the saddle bags. And I know, shedding that lead, that sin, it’s kind of like losing weight. It takes time.
But what’s been talked about here by Paul and by the writer of Hebrews is shifting our focus from the temptation. You know, like that, I heard someone say the other day, like the chocolate cake that you just want to eat today. That soft, sweet, creamy, luscious, delicious chocolate cake. You can just smell the smell going up your nostrils. It’s the thing that’s going to clog up your arteries and put the weight on. I know it’s crying out – eat me, eat me. It’s a seductive cry at the very core of our being.
What the writer of Hebrews is saying here is, ‘let that go. Say no to it and say yes to Jesus’
Who for the sake of the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross.
He gave up a great career He could have had as a preacher and a religious leader. He gave it up to die on the cross for the joy that lay ahead. And that’s the whole point. That’s it. That’s where it is. It’s so incredibly hard running a race but when you get to the end of it and you’re exhausted and you’re tired and you ache, it’s a fabulous race to have run.
I’m going to ask you a question. A question for yourself to ask. Am I ready to run this race? Only you can answer it. But I want to encourage you. Go to God today. Answer the call that you’ve heard His voice and tell Him, “I am. Lord, I am ready to run Your race.”