Acts of Faith

I love to run but I hate to do races. Races are the worst. You have to be diligent in your pre-race workouts for months, and then on race day, you get up at an ungodly hour and run a course you’ve never seen before, being passed by young people pushing strollers with their dogs trotting alongside of them. Or maybe that last part is just me. I have been beaten by many a kid/dog combination in our local Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day. It is a little humiliating.

I mention this to let you know that I have officially lost my mind and have registered for a Half Marathon in Celebration, Florida. This charming little town is a favorite place of mine, and I have loved morning runs there. But to commit to a long-distance run when I will have to get up too early to run too long to be passed by too many dogs and strollers is either an act of insanity, or an act of faith. We’ll find out in January.

But even now, that commitment has landed in my soul, and I am motivated to be faithful to my daily runs. I have included a long run once a week into my training, just to remind myself that 13.1 miles won’t be doable unless I keep going now. This is the only sane part of doing a race … your commitment to it in the future informs your discipline in the present. It is an interesting dynamic: commitment informs discipline, but discipline also informs commitment. Plus, there is always the hope that there will be one dog running slower than you.

Paul uses a beautiful race analogy in this passage from Hebrews:

Hebrews 12 (The Message)

12 1-3 Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in.

I have always loved this passage. We don’t know if Paul was a runner, but he sure knew how to finish a race. This passage comes right after a listing of all the people who suffered for their faith and performed many acts of faith to get us where we are today. These people kept their eyes on Jesus through persecution and suffering, knowing that the reward was just ahead. That fueled their running and kept them on track.

Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

Are you flagging in your faith? Have sin and doubt weighed you down? Remember the stories of those who came before us. Remember the path that Jesus created. Keep moving forward and don’t stop.

Never, ever quit. Keep that finish line in sight and keep on keeping on. Just fix your eyes on Jesus.

Celebration Lake

Second Wind

Have you ever had a never-ending week that turned into a never-ending weekend that suddenly became the middle of the next week, and you had not yet come up for air? And then it became a month, then a year, then a life of never ending-ness? I think this is why God created the second wind. Were it not for our ability to catch a second wind, we would have all burned out decades ago.

So let’s talk about second winds for a second. (See what I did there?) According to Grammerist.com, a second wind is defined as:

A second wind is a renewed sense of vigor after becoming fatigued, a fresh conviction that one is able to achieve one’s goal, a burst of energy following exhaustion. The word wind, in this case, refers to breath. The idea is that one becomes fatigued and is out of breath, and then becomes reinvigorated and catches one’s breath. The term second wind may be used to mean a burst of energy after one becomes physically fatigued, or it may mean a burst of energy when one is mentally or spiritually fatigued. The term second wind was first used in the 1830s, to mean a renewed sense of vigor when one has become tired from physical exertion.

I love the fact that this definition mentions becoming spiritually fatigued. Spiritual fatigue can happen just like any other fatigue. When we push hard at something, even the rewarding task of spiritual development, worship, sharing the good news with others, trying to be a light in the darkness, or just getting through the day without punching somebody in the throat, exhaustion can happen.

We are living in a time when hate, anger, hostility, rudeness, and viral vomiting are the norm. These things hurt our spirit. These things exhaust our souls. It is exhausting to be the light when people feel the freedom to bash, criticize, condemn, and bully others on every social media platform, news program, and radio show that we turn on. We are surrounded by a cacophony of negative noise that makes in impossible to hear anything good or wholesome. And that wears us out.

Are you worn out? Need a second wind?

I think there are two things to keep in mind when your will to go forward goes backward and you just want to sit down and stop.

First, sit down and stop. The whole reason God created the sabbath is so that we would stop everything and have a sabbath rest. Some days you just need a day of disconnected, unplugged solitude in order to recharge. Pushing when you have absolutely nothing left in your tank just means your engine will stop anyway, just farther down the road.

Second, consider what Paul says about second winds:

Hebrews 12 The Message (MSG)

Discipline in a Long-Distance Race

12 1-3 Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

When you see yourself flagging in your faith, take a breath, stop to rest, wait for the second breath to come, and remember why you are doing this. Remember what Jesus plowed through. Remember the story, every step of the way, and how Jesus plowed through all the hate, anger, and hostility that he had to overcome.

YOU are the light of the world. YOU are the salt of the earth. You got this.

Take a breath, and then a second breath, recharge, and get back in the race. And keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we are running. God is at the finish line, so breathe.

Just breathe.

Resting Sun by Steve Hanf.