Tag Archives: Run the race

Sticky notes

A friend wrote to me recently saying she’s had a sticky note on her computer for the last 3 1/2 years to remind her to pray each day for Marcia and me and for the Go Light Our World (GLOW) ministries across the world. Wow! What a faithful prayer warrior to intentionally carve out time each day to support us in a way that releases God’s power. And what a humbling thought that God invites you and me, broken vessels, to carry his blessings to others. My friend said about her brightly colored sticky note:

“Every once in a while it gets pretty tattered looking and I replace it. Right now, it’s starting to look tattered again and it’s reminding me that my faith has become a bit tattered lately…and I’m not facing a trial even remotely close to the trials of you and your loved ones. But, I’m also humbled and thankful that as easily as I can make a new sticky note reminder to pray for you, I can also, once again, take my tattered faith to our Lord Jesus. He can restore to me the joy of my salvation (Psalm 51:12), He can help my sometimes shaky belief (Mark 9:24) and He can encourage me in the most simple yet intricate ways through His people (Hebrews 10:24).”

She goes on to encourage us and remind us of this truth;

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

I love her comment: “I can also, once again, take my tattered faith to our Lord Jesus.” That is SO true! Our faith does at time seem tattered and torn. Troubles beset us and unanswered questions and prayers nag at us like a dripping faucet where refreshing water is intended to flow. Like the psalmist, we feel we are in a “dry and thirsty land.”

Sometimes my prayers seem so inadequate. Usually, when this happens, I struggle to remember verses that speak God’s truth an I pray those back to God. When you want wisdom, go to that place where true wisdom is found! Sometimes, I simply take my seemingly tattered faith and give it to God just as it is, yet reminding him “I don’t want to stay here.” I want to draw closer to him and to feel the warmth of his love and joy.

Have you ever found yourself in a tiff with someone you love and care about, usually over something that doesn’t matter, and often due to a misunderstanding. And then you realize, “I can keep going the miserable direction I’m going” or “I can go away and pout for a while,” OR I can choose to say: “I love you deeply. I’m sorry we’re having this temporary time of poorly expressing that love. I want it to get back to the love and joy we both know.”

That’s the way God designed our lives. When we run into dry and tattered spots in our faith and relationships, he calls us to come closer to him, to put up a fresh new sticky note reminding us in one way or another that “The only thing that counts is faith, expressing itself through love.” We need reminders to encourage one another, to stay focused on the goal, and to run the race with perseverance.

Just as we continue to ask for a healing miracle that would allow us more ministry time together, we also seek the miracle of God using our tattered faith to actually advance the gospel of Jesus.

I think the Lord is honored when we are honest about a dry faith. He is always faithful to bring the well of living water.

Running the race


Paul uses the metaphor of running a race to describe the Christian life. Running a race requires diligence, preparation, dedication, total focus on the goal, and the discipline of not being distracted. Sometimes the race is more like a marathon than a run around the track. There’s pain and suffering along the way. We fall down. But we keep getting up. Sometimes our job is helping others who are faltering.


I remember seeing a girl’s track team T-shirt years ago that had the image of an oblong track course with the words:  “Run hard. Keep turning left.” It was a humorous attempt to keep the girl’s focused on their task: to run quickly and not get lost in the race. Actually, it offers good advice to all of us in the race of life. Parts of the course are really hard. We might be tempted to give up or slow down, but there is no reward in that. Sometimes when the road gets tough, we just have to keep persevering and endure the challenge. If you’re injured or wounded, rest. Seek help from the one who can heal you perfectly. Rest in God’s arms. But stay on the course. Let him strengthen you with his sufficient grace. Don’t give up. Above all, stay on track. Don’t get distracted by ‘rabbit trails’ that take you away from your goal.


One of the enemy’s primary and most effective strategies is to keep us busy, even busy with good deeds. You see, he doesn’t have to get you to hate God. If he just gets you to forget God for a while, he wins. When we get distracted by all our busyness we start to think it’s productive. But if it’s just running in circles and we’re not maturing or really drawing closer to the God we will one day meet face to face, what’s the point? You probably know someone who looks busy all the time but never really gets much done. Where’s the value in that?


Paul wrote to the church in Galatia how disappointed he was that they had fallen off the path. He laments how they lived like immature baby Christians, when they should be growing in maturity and producing spiritual fruit.


Keeping busy and running fast is not our calling. Keeping on the right path and continuing to move forward in faith is our only worthy pursuit.


Have you found yourself worn out from all your efforts to be in control? Does it seem like you are constantly running in circles? Have you started to sit out the race and rest on the sidelines? The Christian life is not a spectator sport. Get up and prepare yourself for the daily challenge by being nourished by the Word of God. Keep your eyes fixed on Him and His calling even as you’re doing things you consider to be mundane. Run the course set before you as if you were running for (and to) the Lord. Give Him your all. Don’t give in to the worship of a busy life. Stay in the race you were called to run and stay on course. The finish line is closer than you think.



All about you?


“It’s all about you!”


That’s the message which constantly bombards us. Advertising, politics, and too many false preachers tell us ‘you’re worth it, go for the gusto, get what you want, you deserve to live in comfort.’  If we’re honest with ourselves many of our prayer habits might resemble this. We want it all, right now, just the way we like it, and with little cost.  But this falls in dark contrast to what God’s Word says. Yes, He wants the very best for you. But his best is often so very different from our desires.


Consider Hebrews 11, the story of faith giants like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Gideon, David, and other faithful martyrs who were persecuted, flogged, sawed in half, and killed by the sword. So great were the martyrs of the faith that “the world was not worthy of them”. “They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. THESE were commended for their faith, yet NONE OF THEM received what they had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” (v 38-40)


Wow. Stack that truth up against the name it and claim it prosperity gospels. The truth is, it’s not all about us. It’s not about our worldly desires and ambitions and goals. It’s certainly not about lifelong efforts, however godly they may seem. For the followers of Jesus, it is simply about maintaining the faith that does God’s will. And that we can only do by the power of the Holy Spirit.


What does this look like? In Hebrews 12 it’s the vigilant and persistent race; a relay race started by the great men and women of faith before us and continued by those who follow us. It’s a race run untangled by worldly passions. Faith runners have their eyes completely fixed on Jesus, their prize, not the spectators. It’s about “enduring hardship as a discipline”, not comfort as a luxury. It’s about living in peace with others, not constantly squabbling over trivial matters. It’s about being holy, the goal of our Christian life. Not some ‘holier than thou’ pious life, but simply and profoundly being set apart for God and nothing else. It is believing we are citizens of a kingdom that cannot be shaken. Isn’t that what you desire?


In Hebrews 13 it’s persistently loving one another, honoring our marriages, being content with what you have. It is about imitating the faith of faithful leaders, not idolatrous celebrity personalities and sports stars. It’s about fidelity to God’s truth and not being carried away by all sort of false teaching. It’s about experiencing strength in God’s sufficient grace. Instead of fighting to achieve our personal goals, it’s about finding the peace that equips us for doing God’s will.


It’s not easy in my daily fight and I’m sure it’s not easy in yours either. But it’s possible. What if we lived today in the truth that it’s not all about us?  What would happen if peace guarded your heart and mind instead of it being filled with fear and despair? How would it impact your family, your church and your community to live in the confidence that God answers His promises when it is best for us – even if that best is after we leave this earth? Would that be enough for you?


Let’s aim higher today, beyond ourselves.



The rest of the story



Sometimes the work of God in our lives is a mystery. In my journey through AML, I recall feeling that His grace did not dispel the pain. But it did give me assurance to bear it a little longer, one day or moment at a time with certainty that God’s Word remained true despite how I felt or experienced it.


What are we to say about the part of our story that is filled with seemingly hopeless and unbearable trials? Only that they add to a long history of faithful warriors fighting seemingly unbeatable odds. Our singular expectation is to stand firm in God’s protective armor, faithful and courageous, prayerful, and mindful of God’s blessings in the face of turmoil. Even so, the testimony of strong warriors and faithful servants have not always gained them access to the promises they sought. For example:


“There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with US would they be made perfect.” Hebrews 11:35b-40


The passage that follows points to US…and our leg of the faith relay which somehow completes theirs:


Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3


So it seems that our journey of faith through all kinds of trials is necessarily linked to the completion of the race of the faith heroes of all history. You and Moses, Gideon, David. It seems that we are presently completing the chapters in the REST of the story that will be told in heaven for all time. Perhaps in ways unknown to us, our most difficult chapters of our story are also influencing the story of others who will be encouraged to press on and continue their race. It is evidence that Jesus’ suffering for us was not in vain, and that His grace continues to strengthen so we will not lose heart.


Live well, until you reach the end of . . . the rest of the story.



Put on and press on



Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. Ephesians 6:11


I Press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14


Many images are conveyed concerning our life journey. One is the image of standing firm, protected by God’s equipping armor. Another is one of throwing off everything that hinders us and running a race with perseverance, of pressing on to win the prize. Yet another is being still, laying down in green pastures.  Which is it? Stand firm, run the race, or lie down in peace?


The answer is all of the above. God always has our very best interest at heart, protecting us from evil and providing us with His grace. Because we so easily come to think of this life as our only life, He reminds us that we are strangers in a foreign land, and that we are in a daily battle against evil which wars against us in the spiritual realms and sometimes in the physical realm too.


And so we are commanded to put on His protective armor that equips us for the battle. His belt of truth secures us. His breastplate of righteousness guards our heart.  His gospel of peace fits our feet with readiness and help us to stand firm. Our faith in Him shields us from fiery arrows that seek to wound and kill us. His helmet of salvation protect us from being taken by the evil one. The Sword of His Spirit is double-edged. It is the Word of God that protects us and attacks falsehood with the truth of God. With our spiritual armor on, our job is to stand firm, unwavering in faith, fully persuaded that God is able to fight the battle and win the war.


The thing about spiritual armor is that is not like traditional battle armor that we’ve come to know. It is light and agile. It doesn’t entangle us when we need to move. And so pressing on while running the race is another image of our journey with God. Running requires effort and perseverance. If you are running to win a race and the prize it offers, you can’t be encumbered by things that entangle you. You need to be free to run and keep on running. A successful runner doesn’t look behind. The spiritual runner keeps her eyes focused ahead, fixed on Jesus, unwavering in her faith that she will attain the prize and that it will indeed be worth the effort and pain endured in the race.


As a sheep depends on the good shepherd for green pastures, press on in your dependence on God and in your humility. You can’t fight and run in your own power. Press on by resting in the strength of God, not your own. Press on while resting in the green pastures, listening to and obeying the shepherd’s voice.



No more hiding- run the race unhindered



I remember playing hide and seek with our children. The older ones would try to find a decent hiding place in the house, while the youngest would hide somewhere obvious – like on the sofa, with their head under a pillow. They figured as long as they couldn’t see me, I couldn’t see them.


As adults we realize what a silly strategy that is – or do we? If you’ve ever caught yourself hiding a secret sin, a rebellious pattern of thought or behavior, you eventually come to realize how foolish the thought of hiding is. God looks at our heart (1 Samuel 16:7); nothing is hidden from Him. Here’s a sobering thought: No secrets will remain: “The Lord [will] bring to light the things hidden in the darkness.” (1 Corinthians 4:5)    Jesus said, “There is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.” (Luke 12:2)  Can you imagine a video of your secret life played out on the big screen for all to see? No shame  withheld; everything revealed.

And so the author of the book Hebrews begins chapter 12 with this beneficial advice:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” If everything is going to be revealed and is already revealed in the heavenly realm, why try to hide our head under a cushion? Let’s throw it all off. The language here speaks to an athlete boldly throwing off his robes that would entangle him in the race, and run unhindered and with all his might.

We are to run our race – our life – in the same manner: “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1b-3)


You CAN persevere during the tough times of your life because Jesus-in-you already persevered. And not only did Jesus-in-you persevere the trial but He endured it with the joy set before Him! Have you ever wondered, “What possible joy could be found in enduring the excruciatingly painful cross?” Friend, it was the joy of being reunited with His heavenly Father and of knowing that this act paid the price to bring you, and me, to God. It was the joy of knowing that this sacrificial act would bring you hope so that you would not grow weary in life and come to despair.


Jesus-in-you can run unhindered, honestly and without secrets, your eyes, fixed on Him, and with the joy set before you in this world and in the next.  Let’s put away the secrets and live with reckless abandon for Christ. Start today:


No more secrets. No more hiding.



How determined are you to win your race?

Paul writes, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14) It is our calling too, you and me.  I don’t know about you but a lot of the time that race seems like a marathon or a triathlon. Ironically, those human challenges, while impossible for me in my condition, are minor endeavors compared to the race of life that you can and must run; it is much longer and sometimes more grueling. It’s a race where I’ve fallen down numerous times. You too? It can be easy to get discouraged in those times. The feeling of giving up is strong. But we can’t give up. We have to press on. We have to get up and keep on running.


Why? First, we are commanded. The only thing we are told to do once we put on the armor of God is to stand and stay standing, praying at all times in all things. You might not be the strongest warrior, the fastest runner, the most talented at anything, but you can stand. The promise of God attests to it.


Second, it’s worth it. There is a reward at the end of the race. Matthew writes, “You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Matthew 10:22 


Never give up. Keep running your race. Jesus gave you His Spirit to make sure you can endure! Trust Him.




You are a delight to God



Delight in the one who delights in you.


Being a light-bearer raises the bar for all fully devoted followers of Jesus. Even during the challenge of running the race we need to maintain a perspective of who we are – from God’s point of view.


“Jesus loves me this I know” – we’ve been taught it from the beginning but do you believe it today? “For God so loved (insert your name here; also the name of someone who irritates you) that He gave his only begotten Son.” “The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him – in those who hope in His steadfast love.” (Psalm 147:11) “He will rejoice over you with gladness.” (Zephaniah 3:17) “He brought me out into a broad place – he rescued me, because he delighted in me.” (Psalm 18:19) And the list goes on and on.


It’s official: God loves you and delights in you. How can that be when we have so very many shortcomings? It is because God sees us as redeemed and made holy by the forgiving grace of His Son. As John Piper relates, “He sees us becoming in practice what we (already) are positionally in Christ.” Believe it or not, God loves you dearly. Put your troubles at the feet of that truth!


Such an affirmation of our worth, our value to God could be a dangerous thing. We could (but better not) let our egos get puffed up and say, “Look who God loves.” It is a popular “me-centered gospel” preached too often today: ‘God delights in you and wants to favor you with all kinds of (materialistic) blessings.’ The truth is that God does delight in you but His favor may be evidenced by the hardships that draw you ever closer to Him.


The best choice of how to respond to God’s amazing expression of love for us is to delight in Him. “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.” Psalm 63:3. We are created to delight in God and to enjoy Him more than anything else. We are made to seek His presence throughout the rough parts of life and the mundane as well as the mountaintop experiences of great joy. It is our primary purpose.


Delight in God, not just in His blessings. Delight in Him for who He is, not just what He has done. Even if nothing else is going ‘your way’, fill your day with your delight in Him who delights in us!


“But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” Isaiah 43:1-2



Which Path?

imageSpeaking of choosing new paths for a healthier life (see yesterday’s post), my sister Jane sent this photo from her hike in the Franklin Mountains. The sign gives a choice between taking the “more difficult” path to the right, or the “most difficult” path to the left. Jane observes, “I am reminded that the ‘easy’ path is not always an option, but our choice (our response) determines just how difficult the road ahead will be.”

What are the paths you’ve chosen to renew your mind daily? This is key to having victory over circumstances. We all know that the path of denial doesn’t work, and that the power of positive thinking, while helpful, doesn’t take us the whole distance.

Our personal experience is that meditating on the Word of God and talking with Him frequently is the only way that has brought us true renewal. New ways of thinking and responding to our circumstances have to become habitual. Even then, there will be struggles. This last week has been increasingly challenging for me, even at home. More tired, I push hard to walk 1/4 of what I did in the hospital and 60 days of gastrointestinal distress is taking its toll.

But when we take our eyes off our problems and focus instead on Jesus, our problems don’t take control.

I can’t imagine going through this cancer experience without enjoying a personal relationship with a loving God and the power He gives for victorious living throughout the storms life brings.

Even if you don’t know God or aren’t sure He exists, He welcomes your fellowship. Tell Him exactly how you feel. (Guess what…He already knows!) Whatever your position right now, the path to a renewing relationship is right before you. Whether it is “more difficult” or “most difficult,” walking with God is the best path you could choose. Even if you have walked a thousand steps away from God, it is just one step back to His loving arms.

Make good choices today!

“I am the way, the turth, and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me.” – Jesus, John 14:6

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Hebrews 12:1-3