This week's devotional is from Pastor Art Greco.
I was always the fastest runner in my school – in fact, I don’t remember EVER losing a race to the cyclone fence and back during recess at Millikin Elementary in Santa Clara. And at Wilson Jr. High? Always a top finisher – even when we were racing the eight-graders. Freshman year at Mitty? Same result, at least against the other freshman. But even with much increased competition, I was always in the top two or three runners ... with every confidence that I could outrun anyone of the others if given another chance.
Of course, that was a notion held more in my head than proven on the track. But, even if I do say so myself in these years when it takes me a few minutes to straighten up after sitting for any length of time, as long as we were running sprints, I was fast ... REAL fast.
Put me at the starting line next to a decent long distance runner, however, and it was a completely different story. Those were classic “rabbit and hare” experiences. I would be smiling for the first 200 yards, then watching taillights for the next mile.
Running well for any significant distance was just not my thing. Perhaps that’s why, after joining the cross-country team and running (and winning, I might add) the first three-school race of the season, I faked an injury during the hilly portion of the next race against Riordan and St. Ignatius in Golden Gate Park, then quit the team at practice the next day. My completely contrived excuse? ... my doctor (whom I had never really visited) demanded that I do so in order to protect my growth bone.
I discovered then with regard to running what I’ve since confirmed is also true in life and faith: IT’S MUCH EASIER TO THRIVE IN SPURTS THAN IT IS TO DO IT OVER THE LONG HAUL.
Hebrews 12:1 speaks of running a race, but it’s really about living life in the sweet spot – hitting the bull's eye and thriving OVER THE LONG HAUL. “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us [see chapter 11 for a partial list of those champions], let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us...” – an obvious reference to the Olympic games and, in particular, the marathon race that was a prime feature of them. This was not the 100 yard dash; this was the long distance run - more than 26 miles of determination mingled with agony that ended in gut-doubling, puke-spewing elation and, possibly - if you were fortunate, a wilting vine being placed on your head.
The challenge of the writer of Hebrews?: “Run that 26+ mile race in such a way as to win it. Don’t come in first for the first segment only to quit in the difficult hills of the second. Thrive for the long haul.”
- Read Hebrews 12:1-3 and 12:12-17.
- Think about some of the “encumbrances” noted here (especially in vs. 12-17) and ask God the Holy Spirit to enlighten you as to how any of these hindrances might be relevant for your life.
- Rate the examples noted by the author of Hebrews from 1-10, "1" being “hardly ever slows me down” and "10" being “I’m infested with this one”.
- Now consider how much easier it might be to “thrive over the long haul” were you able to jettison those pesky anchors.
BE A BLESSING BY BEING TOGETHER
Sometimes the best way to bless people is to allow them to use their gifts and insights to help and heal you. Is there someone you can trust that you might process your “run” with? You might actually be doing pretty well with the issue of thriving over the long haul, but you may hold the key to someone else’s blessing when you offer to let them serve you by peering into your life and then reporting back to you about what they see or hear. Plus, they might be just what you need to go from being “pretty darned good” to “absolutely spectacular”.
Keep an eye out for an honest friend on the journey. If you can’t find one, ask God to show him/her to you.