As a distance runner I know what pre-race preparation is like to run a marathon (26.2 miles)… I’ve run several of them, and on top of the long runs I do daily over at least a 6 week period to harden my legs to the road, there are the pre-race preparations just before the marathon… The evening before I will often do what is called “carbo-loading” – a hearty high carbohydrate meal (usually some kind of pasta) to provide body fuel for the run. Then it’s off to bed early to get a good, full, night’s sleep. I usually get up quite early on race day, a good cup of coffee, no breakfast (at most a piece of toast) all the while thinking about the race. Dress is meticulous… I put on no more that I absolutely must – a comfortable running jersey, support underwear, light running shorts… I’m even careful about my socks and how I put them on. 26.2 miles is a long journey “pounding pavement” on two legs! Then after arriving at the race site you get your identification number, pin it on, begin stretching, and perhaps getting that last big of hydration. All the while you’re preparing your mind for what you may face during the race – you just don’t know the challenges you may face on the course… I’ve had broken pieces of glass pierce the sole of my running shoes, I’ve stumbled and fallen over uneven pavement, I remember “killer, gut-wrenching hills,” I’ve had to run through water barriers, I’ve had to resist the temptation to be pulled along by an elite runner and exceed my finishing pace, I’ve had to run through the pain and discomfort of a “stitch” (runners will know what I’m talking about)… I could go on… But finishing and finishing victoriously on a personal level is the goal… In a marathon I run against myself, more than against other runners…
All of that came to mind this morning as I read in the Bible about another “marathon” – the “faith race!”
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses (read Hebrews 11 for what that’s about), let us also lay aside every weight, and the sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance (or patience) the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Hey, the “faith race” is long… It’s a marathon (not a sprint)… It’s filled with obstacles, temptation, and challenges. Because of others who’ve gone before and my heavenly coach and trainer, Jesus, I know I can finish – I’ve trained for it! But I must run patiently… the race is “life-long!” I’m grateful for those along the way that cheer me on and fellow runners who encourage and help me. In this “faith race,” with God’s help, I’m determined to finish with a “personal best!” I want to hear Him say to me at the finish line… “Well done!
During my personal time of daily Bible reading during “Coffee with the Lord” this week I’ve been reading Hebrews 11 – the great “Faith chapter” of the Bible. Reading the chapter again I’ve been so impressed by the recurring phrase… “by faith.” (How “faith” enabled people to walk with God, do His will, deal with life’s challenges, claim God’s promises, see miracles happen and deal with difficult circumstances!) The phrase (or a similar phrase) appears at least 25 times in this chapter! Pretty significant wouldn’t you say?
Faith’s importance and expression begins even before there was ever a written copy of God’s word! It is also the foundation for belief in Creator God and His activity at the beginning of time. It sustains God’s people through every event and experience here on earth all the way to heaven. It embraces the good, the bad and even the “ugly” of life.
Here’s a few key Scripture from Hebrews 10:35 – 11:40 for your consideration…
“Do not throw away your confidence which has a great reward! You have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised… ‘My righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back my soul has no pleasure in him.’ But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls! Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen… And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.”
So based upon what Hebrews 11 teaches, several years ago I crafted a personal definition of “faith” … Here it is for your consideration…
“Faith is confidence in God… trusting His character, believing and obeying His word, embracing His promises, following His leadership, and drawing upon his encouragement and strength.”
Just take it from me… That’s the way to live! That’s the way I want to live! … “The righteous person shall LIVE by faith!” This year my wife and I have faced a challenge or two… things that have tested our faith to the core… But we’re agreed that we’re going to go on living “by faith!”