Friday, June 29, 2012

Are You Prepared for the Race?


 Yes, it's about time I came back to the table with a new post, but my absence was family-related. I  recently went to San Diego, California (birth home), to be with my siblings, children, and other family members due to the passing of my mother last month; she had turned 84 years old in April and I was so thankful to God for granting her another year with us. In my mind, I wanted to see her get even older, but God had another plan for her and for the rest of us.  Even though we were numb, hurting or in disbelief at our loss, we had a memorable time in San Diego as we gathered together with  each other and close friends, we had not seen in a while. We encouraged each other, reflected on special (and funny) memories about my mother, got personal closure and celebrated her life at her home-going service held at the church where she and my late father married in 1950. It was a bitter-sweet time, which went by too quickly and then it was time for us to return to our various homes and continue life without our mother, grandmother, godmother and friend. Death is imminent and an appointment no human being on earth will escape (Hebrews 9:27).  It comes as an unwelcome guest to survivors and leaves aching hearts that no one but God can heal and an emptiness that only He can fill with Himself. The consolation for my family is that my mother is now free from  pain and sickness and  that at God's appointed time, we will see her again in Heaven.  I have heard it said that: "We are born to die."  Yes, each year takes us closer to the end of this life and the beginning of the next. Life is a race with time and we all have a specific time to run our individual race.  During the course of our lives, there are various races we will need to run; a portion will be spiritual and others will be physical just like the Peachtree Race that will be held next month here in Atlanta, GA.  Unless one is physically fit and is dedicated to properly  prepare for this race,  winning,  placing  or making it to the finish line is unlikely. 

Each year thousands of individuals participate in the 10K Peachtree Road Race (PR Race) that is sponsored annually by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) and held in Metro Atlanta, on the Fourth of July--Independence Day. One important requirement for participation is ‘timely’ registration, because the race is currently limited to 55,000 entries. The first 45,000 online registration applications received are automatically entered into the race and an additional 10,000 are randomly selected from mailed applications, which must be postmarked by the end of March.  Along with their application, participants are to include the running time from a previous race that was a 5-mile distance or longer and run on a USATF-certified course, to help determine their placement/group category.   
Those of us, who believe in Jesus Christ also, have a race, but our race is not of a competitive nature.  Unlike the participants of the PR Race, Christians are NOT to compete or compare, but instead, we are to cooperate with each other in our service to God.  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress.  And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us” (Hebrews 12:1 NLT).  Let us find hope and encouragement in the life of faith demonstrated by the cloud of witnesses, who went before us.  Just as the Lord strengthened them to run their course, He will also strengthen us to run ours with endurance.  Before attempting to run any race, the following things are necessary:
  • Train to ensure that you are physically fit and equipped for the task.  For the Christian race, we train by prayer, praise and studying the Word of God (Matthew 26:41; Psalm 33:1;  2 Timothy 2:15).
  • Adhere to a diet that will help you to maintain and/or produce the best health and energy levels.  We must be consistent in feeding on the Word of God so we can grow in the grace and knowledge of God (2 Peter 3:18).
  • Include strength training and some type of cardio exercise.  As we actively wait on the Lord and train for our God-given place of service, we gain strength. But those who wait on the LORD will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint”  (Isaiah 40:31 NLT).
  • Get proper rest each day.  We can receive perfect rest and peace in the Lord. “He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams” (Psalm 23:2 NLT).
  • Have clothing that is suitable for your activity.  Having the proper clothing will help to keep the body comfortable and free to move without restriction.  We are to put on Jesus Christ and make no provision for anything that will hinder our progress in the Lord; also, we are to put on the full armor of God so we can stand against the wiles of the devil (Romans 14:14; Ephesians 6:11).
  • Have shoes that will provide support for your feet during training and the activity.  We must put on and walk in the peace of the Good News of the Gospel so we will be fully prepared for service and to run our race well (Ephesians 6:15 NLT).
Just as professional runners wear light, loose-fitting clothing to be free of restrictions, we too must strip off anything burdensome—‘every sin, which is a hindrance in running the Christian race.’   In order to be free to run our race well, we must guard ourselves against becoming accustomed to the burdensome and dangerous weight of sin because Scripture tell us that the penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23).  Aside from hindering our Christian walk (Romans 6:20), sin separates us from God and without God; we are nothing and would cease to exist.  For in him we live and move and exist.  . . . We are his offspring” (Acts 17:28 NLT). 

In a traditional race, there are participants, who will earn a place of recognition (e.g. second and third place), some might even receive honorable mention but only one receives first place in a given race and/or in specific categories.  The Christian race differs because we each have an individual course that we must run well and at our own pace.  The blessing in this race is that, if we endure and don’t become weary and faint, we will receive the prize God has for each of us (Galatians 6:9).  We are to “strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven (Philippians 3:14 NLT). 

Those who wish to participate in the AJC 10k Peachtree Road Race can only run once a year. Once registration is submitted, it is time to start training for the big event.  On the day of the race, excited participants will run the PR race to the best of their physical ability, but there will only be one first place runner in each category. Once the race is over and the winners are publicly acknowledged, the participants will go back home to their usual routines. The race that is set before believers is currently in progress and began the day we accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives. God will provide us the grace and strength we need to continue our race until the day of the Lord Jesus Christ.  What a day of excitement it will be when we reach the finish line and joyously receive our prize and eternal reward and finally hear the Lord say: “. . ., well done, my good and faithful servant . . .  Let’s celebrate together” (Matthew 25:23 NLT)!  Are you prepared for the race?