Gospel Workout: Endurance Training

Gospel Workout part 5: How does the gospel help me press on when I want to quit?

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Katrina’s eyes were wide as she informed us she was going for a 7 mile run tomorrow morning before church.

“I’ve never been a runner, in fact I’m not much of an athlete at all, but I needed a challenge. I mean a personal challenge, not my day job of being a mom and a teacher.”

The other ladies jumped on her excitement.

“When did you start?” “What app are you using to train?” “When’s the race?” “Do you have a time goal for finishing?”

She flushed as she gave more details, her enthusiasm rising, “I just want to finish. I don’t care how long it takes me. I can’t imagine running for 13 miles, but after tomorrow I’ll be more than halfway there!”

It was fun to see her so pumped, but there will be days when she’ll be dragging. She’ll want to hit the snooze button or just turn the blasted thing off. Maybe because it’s raining or her legs feel like concrete or her kids were sick in the night or she’s got too many other things to do.

She’ll need something to keep her going when things get hard.

The Race

What’s your race right now?

Is it chasing small children around the house day and (often) night? Is it navigating teenagers through the confusing assault of hormones, peer pressure, and materialism? Is it filling out another round of job applications as you fight despair of ever finding work again? Is it going in for yet another round of diagnostic tests in hope of finding answers or at least a path forward?

As the writer to the Hebrews put it, “You have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised” (Hebrews 10:36).

Isn’t he talking about the final finish line? The day I die? I’m not worried about that day. I’m struggling with today!

Today’s struggle matters for that day. We are running a race of faith in Christ. Today’s lap is about continuing to trust him no matter what I encounter. I’ve watched people veer slightly off course, not realizing that they were on a trajectory of leaving the faith they had professed. A man’s wife grew sick and died suddenly. His grief hardened into bitterness, revealing that love for someone other than God was at the center of his life. A woman pursued doctoral studies in theology, confident that her childhood faith would survive the assault of her unbelieving professors. It didn’t.

Apostasy didn’t happen overnight. It began with small, daily choices to shrink back.

My Gaze

Sobering thoughts. Where should I look then? Should I scrutinize my heart and constantly weigh my motives?

No, the writer to the Hebrews goes on to tell us

“…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…” Hebrews 12:1c-2a

Why would he tell us that? How does looking at Jesus help us run our race today? He finished his race, I get that, but why would that make a difference to me in my race?

Looking to Jesus isn’t like watching another entry in the marathon finish before you. It isn’t his example of finishing that helps me, it’s that his race is the one that saves me.

Jesus ran his race alone. As the second Adam he came to succeed where the first Adam failed. He lived as man by obedience and faith in God, one day at a time. He trusted God on the days he was hungry. He obeyed God when his mother and brothers didn’t understand him. He submitted to God when the terrors of the cross loomed in front of him.

Jesus endured to the end of his race, the cross. He endured the cross, bearing our sin away forever. The solitary runner, battered and betrayed, crossed the finish line of a race we could never have run. Having finished that race, trusting God to the end, he is the “founder and perfecter of our faith.” He gave us faith in the first place. He can give us faith today when we cry out to him. He will give us faith to the end.

Meanwhile, he stands at our finish line, so we can look to him by faith.

His Joy

It’s sobering to think of Jesus suffering for us the way he did, enduring the cross. It might even feel like another burden we carry in our own race. Not only am I a lousy mom, but Jesus had to bear THAT sin too! I’m so sorry, Savior, for piling on like that.

That’s why we need to know about the joy set before him:

“…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

What does a runners’ face look like when he can see the finish line ahead and the trophy gleaming in the sun? All the fatigue and fear and strain melts into a grin of triumph. What did Jesus’ face look like when he crossed the finish line? We don’t know, but the cry, “It is finished!” gives us a glimpse of his triumph.

His agony was over. But what was the trophy gleaming in the sunlight? You. Me. Us. His blood bought brothers and sisters. We are his reward, his inheritance. That’s the good news of the gospel for you and me today: we are his joy!

The gospel of Jesus Christ doesn’t just fuel me for the race, it helps me endure to the end. Let his joy in you keep you running.

 

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