These thoughts started a conversation that was had at Lee Memorial United Methodist Church on Sunday, October 9, 2016, as part of “The Message.” The discussion was based upon a reading from 2 Timothy 4:2-8. Paul encourages Timothy to endure till the end like him.
How was your run this week?
Chandra and I ran the Hartford Marathon yesterday. 26.2 miles running through Hartford, part of West Hartford, and South Windsor. It was a pretty amazing experience and one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done.
At the start of the race, I felt pretty good. The road was packed, the entire field, all 6,685 plus (that number doesn’t include those who didn’t finish) half- and full-marathon runners ran together for the first couple of miles. I ran my 10K (6.2 miles) at a good pace: 9:41 min/mi. I ran one of my best half-marathon paces: 10:20 min/mi (2:15:10 total). And even at mile 17, I was still doing pretty good, keeping a 10:57 min/mi average pace. This was the pace I was aiming to end the race at, a steady 11 minute per mile. Had I kept this pace for the remainder of the race, I would have finished with a time of four hours and 48 minutes. But, somewhere between mile 18 and 19, I hit the wall; and, I hit it hard.
It’s something every runner faces. It’s that part of the race where emotionally and physically you begin to tell yourself that you can’t go any further. It is an incredibly discouraging place. Your legs hurt. Your body aches. Negative emotions cloud your concentration. The temptation to stop is real. You question whether or not you can actually finish. The wall is something we all face; and the thing that differentiates the finishers is how one confronts the wall. Do you run through it? Crawl your way over it? Or, do you sit and cry at the base of it?
At mile 20, my average pace had dropped to a pace of 11:24 min/mi (I was running closer to a 13 or 14 minute mile). I eked my way over the wall. Around mile 23, I caught up with Chandra. Her back had seized up, but she was pushing through. We ended up finishing the race together.
In our reading for today, Paul is concerned about Timothy enduring the wall and finishing the race.
Keep running, instructs Paul. Proclaim the good news of God’s love found in Jesus Christ at all times—whether its convenient and easy or inconvenient and difficult. Patiently encourage the other runners of faith, especially when they hit the wall too. They’ll be tempted to shorten the distance. To take wide, straight, and easy road. They’ll be tempted to drop out of the race all together. Don’t get discouraged. Keep running. Keep focused. Control yourself. Endure. Push past your aching muscles. Don’t get frustrated. Complete the race.
Running the race of faith is challenging. One of the things I noticed while running the race yesterday is that were plenty of places to turn around. There were plenty of places to stop. But had I stopped I would have never finished the race and had I cut the course short, I would have been disqualified and the finish wouldn’t have been near as sweet. If there’s one thing I’ve come to terms with since finishing, it is that it doesn’t matter how fast we run. What matters is that we finish the race; that we don’t cut the course short, or stall at mile 24, but that we complete race before us.
Truth be told, there will be many who will talk about running the race. There will be many who study the teachings of Jesus and minimally participate when it’s convenient, but refuse to register and fully commit to the race. Some will commit to the race, but they’ll mosey along at a leisurely pace without pushing themselves. Others will commit and drop out.
Whatever the case might be, I now know that only those who commit and truly give it their all will experience the sweetness of the finish. Having now endured a marathon, I know in a new way what Jesus meant when he said that those who want to gain their life must lose it. For its in fully committing to the race, giving it your all, enduring when you think you can’t take another step that you find life at the finish.
There may be any number of reasons not to fully commit to the race of faith. What reasons for quitting do you struggle with?
What keeps you going?
Dear friends, run the race of faith with endurance. Keep moving. Keep the faith. Commit fully to and complete the race. There are going to be times when you don’t think you can take another step. There are going to be times when it’s incredibly inconvenient. There will be times when you don’t like the course. There are going to be times when you may even curse the fact that your running. The wall is real.
Endure. Complete the race of faith; and, at the last, a champion’s wreath will be awarded to you; and you will find life and rest and peace, comfort for your sore and aching muscles, and a joy beyond understanding.