The Deathbed Perspective, Part 2: Running the Race

Read and reflect on 2 Timothy 4:6–8; Hebrews 12:1–3.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. – 2 Timothy 4:7 (NIV)

Last week, I began a three-part series called “The Deathbed Perspective.”

The apostle Paul wrote his second letter to the young pastor Timothy from a deathbed perspective. He was in his last days on earth and penned the words we’re focusing on in this series: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).

But those aren’t just words to die by—they’re words to live by.

This week we’re going to look at the second part of that verse: I have finished the race.

I’ve always admired runners for their coordination and grace, which I never possessed, even when I was young and much lighter. Although I don’t run, I do understand what Paul is referring to and why he compares living the life of faith to running a race.

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews best describes how to run this race in chapter 12, verses 1–3.

First, throw off everything that hinders, or, as the New Living Translation phrases it, “strip off everything that slows us down.” Ever try to run with a pack on your back? Or with clunky boots instead of running shoes?

Sin hinders. Sin trips us up midstride. Unforgiveness, holding grudges, anger, jealousy, envy, resentment, pride, being judgmental . . . the list goes on. Each unconfessed sin is like a rock in a pack on your back. So confess it to God, ask forgiveness, ask Him to pluck from your heart and mind, and fling it off!

Second, run with perseverance. Remember, the race we run is not a sprint—it’s a marathon. To persevere, we need fortitude—strength, courage, resilience, stamina, grit, determination, and endurance. At the start of a race, these qualities are in abundant supply, but as we run, they dwindle.

When the race of life is getting too much for me, I’ve learned I can slow my pace or stop and rest a while. Sometimes we need that time to lie down in green pastures, beside quiet waters to restore our souls (Psalm 23:2, 3). Replenishing that which was spent in the run is a good idea, too. Runners feed their bodies carbohydrates to give them energy. Spiritually, we feed ourselves on God’s Word—His promises—and reminders of how He’s come through for us in the past.

The third way we persist in the race is to keep our eyes on the finish line: Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.

While I’ve never run a race, I have hiked a mile up a mountain and another mile back down (neither was easy, believe me). Toward the end, every muscle in my body screamed with fatigue. Every pore oozed sweat. I just wanted my husband to pick me up and carry me the rest of the way.

I finished the hike by putting one aching foot in front of the other and imagining my reward when I got back to the camper—a long, hot shower; clean clothes; and a soft seat by the campfire (with a good book).

For the joy at His finish line—the salvation of our souls—Jesus endured the cross and was given a throne of honor in heaven. I haven’t endured such shame and pain as He did. Few in this life of faith will.

But the joy we have waiting for us at the finish line, is “exceedingly abundantly above all we can ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).

So keep your eyes on the prize, pilgrim, put one foot in front of the other. Someday you’ll reach the finish line and rejoice.

Dear God, give me the strength, courage, and fortitude I need to run the race of life. Amen.

NOTE: Next week, we’ll look at the third part of that verse: “I have kept the faith.”

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Images courtesy of Pixabay.

The View from the Top

 

Amy after her long, cold, scary climb

The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights. –Habakkuk 3:19 NIV

My friend Amy and her husband, Matt, are mountain climbing enthusiasts. So much so that they take a mountain-climbing vacation every year. They’ve scaled the heights in Switzerland, Canada, Mexico, and Norway, as well as all over the U.S. Currently they’re in Italy and are headed to Croatia.

In the months prior to their mountain-climbing expeditions, Matt and Amy train hard, strengthening muscle and endurance.

And when they head for the peaks, I follow their mountain-climbing exploits on Facebook. And am blown away. Yesterday Amy posted pictures, noting the climb was “long, scary, cold, big.”

It sure looked scary. Spikey and steep. Like almost straight-up steep.

“But I did it!” she commented. “Matt is an awesome mountain guide.”

The view from the top was breathtaking. And worth the climb.

For Amy and Matt, that is. You won’t catch me on a mountaintop unless I ride up. In fact I have – last year we rode to the summit of Montana’s Whitefish Mountain in a closed gondola. And when I was in Colorado Springs, I took the Cog Railway 14,000 feet to the top of Pike’s Peak.

Life has it mountain-climbing moments, doesn’t it? Long. Scary. Steep. Spikey. Cold. Big. Seemingly impossible. And no rides to the top.

And in life, our training for the tough climbs is the tough climbs.

But we have a Guide who gives us the strength we need. Indeed, when we are weak, He is strong (2 Corinthians 12:9–10).

On the climb, He enables us to scale the heights, making us sure-footed (even when our hearts and minds aren’t so sure) and keeps us safe, encouraging us with these words: “Be strong and courageous! Do not be terrified or dismayed or intimidated. For I am with you wherever you go. I will never leave you or forsake you” (Joshua 1:9, Hebrews 13:5, Deuteronomy 31:6).

The climb itself strengthens us like no ride to the top ever will. Not only are we strengthened physically, but also mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

“It was tough,” we can say. “It was long, scary, cold, steep, and big. But I did it! Jesus is an awesome guide.”

The view at the top is breathtaking – and worth the climb.

It is a view we carry with us as we descend and then traverse the valleys of life. A memory that strengthens our resolve because we know we are not alone. We have a Guide who enables us and will never abandon us, even when we’re clinging to the side of a cliff. A Shepherd who will leave the 99 and seek and save the one who wandered away.

And we are encouraged because we know when the next mountain looms before us and there is no way around it, we can strap on our mountain-climbing gear and follow our Guide up to the top.

Are you climbing a mountain now? Clinging to the side of a cliff? Or at the base of an intimidating spikey tower, staring up in dismay at the climb before you?

Rest assured, precious one, you are not alone, even though at times you may feel alone.

Anchor your faith not in your feelings, which fluctuate like weather on a mountain, but in the One who gives His angels charge over you, to guard you in all your ways (Psalm 91:11). And who is with you every step of the climb.

Thank You, Lord, for making the view worth the climb. Thank you for being my Guide. Amen.

Read and meditate on Romans 5:1–5.

MORE PICTURES FROM AMY AND MATT:

 

 

 

 

 © 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Pictures courtesy of Matt and Amy Talladay,  © 2018.