These thoughts started a conversation that was had at Lee Memorial United Methodist Church on Sunday, September 11, 2016, as part of “The Message.” The discussion was based upon a reading from Hebrews 12:3-16 where the author encourages the Hebrews to be disciplined that they might endure.
How was your run this week?
Mine wasn’t the greatest. My motivation waned. My entire family has battled sickness this week: sore throats and sinus drainage have made us feel pretty puny.
I did start the week out pretty strong. The way our training is broken up, there are two short runs, an intermediate run, and a long run each week. As we enter the “home stretch” of our conditioning for the Hartford Marathon those runs are getting shorter. I ran the two short runs this week. I went for the five and four mile runs, but I skipped out on the 8- and 12-mile runs. I didn’t feel well.
I’m not sure whether it was a good or bad move to skip those runs. To be honest the toughest part of the training is over, we’re tapering down till the race itself; but, what I do know is that in skipping those runs this week, I didn’t go as far as I had planned or should have. It may seem glaringly obvious, but we’re the slowest when we stop. We don’t get any closer to the finish line when we sit down even to rest.
I don’t know if it was a good or bad decision not run. I was sick. What I do know, is that it was my decision. It was my choice to run or not. And, because its ultimately my choice, I’ve learned that it takes a great deal of discipline to get up, pull on some running shorts, lace up some sneakers and go for a run. There are plenty of reasons—good and shady (not necessarily bad)—that we can give for not getting up and going out. It takes discipline to run and a willingness to endure.
What does it mean to be disciplined?
How do we learn discipline?
I know for me discipline is instilled through example; and, through examples leading me along.
For some of us it might be parents, a Sunday School teacher, family member or mentor. These saints help us on our journey. They guide us along showing us what it means to be faithful; and, they hold us accountable when we’re not.
In the chapter leading up to today’s reading, the author describes the faith of generations that have gone before: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Rahab all lived by faith. They completed the race. “What more can I say? [He writes] I would run out of time if I told you about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthath, David, Samuel, and the prophets. Through faith they conquered kingdoms, escaped the edge of the sword, found strength in weakness, were mighty in war, and routed foreign armies” (Hebrews 11:32-34, Common English Bible). These forebears of the faith had faith in the face of the impossible. They were disciplined. They endured. They’re an example to you.
The community was struggling to run the race of faith. They were experiencing extreme hardship. Their motivation for continuing was waning. The writer was trying to encourage them to be disciplined, to make the decision to follow even when the decision was a hard or unfavorable one.
Many, it seems, had stopped running the race. And every runner knows that it is incredibly difficult to get going again once you’ve stopped.
Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus [the author pleads], who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!
It takes discipline to endure. It takes a conscientious decision to get up each day and face the elements. It takes intentional effort to say I will face whatever comes my way. I will run the race over hill or vail, in heat or cold, through temptation and joy, when its easy or not, when the pastor’s sermons are interesting and the music is good and when the sermon is flat and the music terrible, when the work is easy or hard, when asked to be the leader or a participant, when the time commitment is short or time-consuming. It takes a great deal of discipline to say that I will run the race even when my calendar gets full. When I’m stressed at work. When the kids just aren’t cooperating. It takes discipline to run the race of faith. And when it gets hard, when the decision is difficult to make, all you need do is look to Jesus. He is the ultimate, perfect example of discipline and endurance. When you think your decision is difficult remember how Jesus endured.
Find encouragement in the runners who have gone before you who now stand at the finish to cheer you on and welcome you home. Keep your eyes on Christ and the finish; and, be determined to get there no matter what. It takes discipline to run and a willingness to endure.
 Hebrews 12:2-3, The Message.