“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do; forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14
She stared at me as if I were crazy when I asked the barefoot girl to pretend she had on running shoes, untie them, remove them and give them to me. She giggled an awkward “Ok” as she followed the make believe steps and handed me the shoes. I said, “Jimi, it’s time to turn in your running shoes. I took the pretend shoes to the front door and threw them outside.
Some of the women in the group laughed until her smile turned to tears, while others stared at me wondering what I was doing. Minutes before, Jimi had boldly announced that she was so tired of being on the run and was choosing to stay put and get her life straightened out. The commitment to complete the Christ-centered, seven-month program for drug and alcohol addiction was no small dash, but it was God’s provision to save her life and put her feet on the right path.
I have thought a lot about this day as the other young women joined in with laughter turned to tears and a decision to also surrender their runaway shoes. It is far too easy for all of us to run away when things get tough. We forget our commitments. We loose sight of our dreams. We close our ears to wise advice.
I find myself wanting to run away when the stress is too heavy or the criticism is too loud. When the commitment is too hard to fulfill or the self-discipline is found weakening every ticking second. When it’s too hard to continue to do the right thing, I want to shrink back and run the opposite direction. My struggle is not to turn and run to a life of drugs and alcohol, but to shut down, stop ministering to others and close myself off in my safe comfortable world. Both choices are a shrinking back, turning away, quitting the real race.
In today’s scripture passage, Paul’s words challenge us to register for a race that really matters. A race of pressing and straining; reaching and running toward the prize of Jesus Christ. There can be no turning back or running away, but a commitment to stay the course and take hold of Christ Jesus who took hold of us. In order to successfully run this race we have to throw out the run away shoes and lace up the marathon shoes. It is a race of discipline and endurance that we can only run in the power and strength of our Lord.
The days we now live in calls for a Paul like determination to forget what lies behind and press on to what is ahead. A glorious heavenly prize awaits us. In Hebrews 12:1-2 we hear Paul cheering us on to run with perseverance and endurance; not giving up but looking to Jesus.
While the voices all around us declare terror, evil and despair may I join in with Paul to encourage you to run the race with your eyes fixed on Jesus. May I join in with Christ Himself who cheers you on to run toward Him and His high calling? May I tell you it will be so worth it when we cross the line and His gold medal is placed around our neck and we in turn place all of our medals at His feet for His glory?
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