Updated: Apr 27, 2020
It has been over a month now that most of us were told we need to keep social distancing. Over a month of not seeing familiar faces, not having our regular routine, not being able to go to our favorite places, perhaps not working, maybe even over a month of being alone in your place of dwelling. Are you struggling at this point to stay encouraged? Are there things God has reveled that He wants you doing during this time that are becoming harder as this isolation period drags on?
Hebrews 11 is often known as the “Hall of Faith.” The writer recalls the heroic saints who journeyed before us, having demonstrated unwavering faith in God (though imperfectly at times) despite hardships and tribulations they encountered along the way. We are told in the beginning of the next chapter, Hebrews 12, why the writer has championed their stories. As we learn of their deep faith and great works for the kingdom, we are motivated to turn away from the things that keep us from steadfastly walking with God. Taking this verse apart piece by piece gives us a picture that resembles a clip from a movie about a runner. Here we are at the starting line preparing to run a race. The stands are full of godly men and women like Noah, Abraham, Rahab, and Joseph who are cheering us on! They are smiling, clapping, and calling out to us: “You can do this!” “Don’t give up!” “Keep looking forward!” They have already run the race and finished to win the prize. Paul cries out: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:24). You turn and see this man full of joy and contentment. You quickly are reminded of his journey on earth where he relentlessly kept going and preaching the gospel no matter how difficult things became. You recall his astounding words that he wrote while in prison.
For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:11-13).
His words calm your anxiety and a surge of energy fills your body. You find yourself starting to chant the words from the fans: “You can do this! You can do this!” Suddenly the Holy Spirit interrupts your thoughts and turns your attention to the deep voice of the prophet Zechariah. “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit’ says the Lord Almighty” (Zechariah 4:6). Immediately you confess that you were about to take on this race in your own strength, and repentantly you ask the Spirit to fill you with His power and wisdom. Now you are ready. You have been training hard. You still have a long way to go to be as faithful as the saints who are cheering you on, but you are willing to take on this next challenge. The gun goes off and with every muscle you push off from the starting block. After you stand up, you begin to pump your arms. You notice a couple runners ahead of you. Anxiously, you begin to pump your arms even harder, but you forget what your coaches have told you about the proper positioning of your arms. You go back to your old way of running, and you notice other runners begin to pass you. This only causes you even greater anxiety, and you put your head down and push even harder. Your coach, the Holy Spirit, abruptly breaks into your concentration and reminds you of the words of the apostle Paul. “Therefore, I do not run like a man running aimlessly” (1 Corinthians 9:26). You remember the coaching you were given about your posture as you run. Your arms straighten out, your head goes up, and your speed immediately increases. You notice a runner falls behind you. Then another. And another. You thank God that His ways are always the best. Our own ways and following the teaching of the world is folly. Now you are in a beautiful stride. You ask the Lord to help you continue in His strength and His ways.
Take some time today to stop and ask the Lord whose voice you are listening to as you run your daily race. Are you listening to the Holy Spirit and the words of the saints who wrote the Holy Bible, or are your turning back to your old ways of doing things? Are you letting the fear or anxious thoughts sweep back in as this pandemic continues, or are you standing firm on the Rock that is unshakable? Are you giving up on the acts of service, times in prayer, and things the Lord has purposed for you to do right now because you feel tired and “over it?” The Holy Spirit will help you keep running, friend. If you’ve stopped, confess this to the Lord then ask Him to link arms with you and get you back up and going. Let us run in such a way as to get the prize.
Today’s Bible Reading: Hebrews 12:1; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Zechariah 4:6
-Sue Corl and Nancy Martin