A few days ago, a package arrived at my door. When I saw the words “Finish Line” on the outside, I knew immediately that the package was from my dear friend, Meredith Heath. In a text conversation, I told her that I wished she lived close to me so she could come over every morning and run with me. So, what did she do? She sent me a brand new pair of running shoes.
And, what do you think I did? I went running.
It has been several months since I’ve run, so I knew I needed some help to pace myself, so I downloaded the Couch to 5K app. It’s a great app. The instructor talks to you while you run. You can play music, but her voice comes on to keep you motivated and to tell you what to do.
Because you are starting from your couch (meaning you are not exercising regularly) that app knows how to pace you.
You start out walking for 5 minutes, just to warm yourself up. So, I was walking along in the neighborhood, just thinking about what a gorgeous day it was. I was praying and listening to Christian music. My hearts desire was to spend time with the Lord while I ran.
After five minutes, the instructor tells me to start running. So, I am jogging along. Feeling great. Feeling totally able to keep running for miles. My heart was pumping and it felt great to be outside. After only a minute, the instructor says, “Now, walk.”
Walk? I’m thinking to myself. Walk already? We just started running. But, ok. I’ll do what the app says to do. As I slowed down, I noticed that I was walking past one of the houses in our neighborhood that flooded. Here is what it looked like during the flood:
This is only about 2 blocks from my house. The roof was barely exposed. These people lost everything they own. Here is their house today:
It has been completely gutted. The trash pile at the street is nothing compared to what it was. The entire yard along the street was piled high with the trash that was taken out of their house. This is probably their third pile that they made after the trash has already been picked up. But, this is what really got my attention…
This is the close-up view of their grass where the trash pile was. The trucks have already come and picked up the big pieces, but these little fragments of trash were left behind. So, right by my feet, as I’m running down the street, completely focused on myself and my run, are these little pieces of this family’s life, strewn across their front yard. Look at the little pink mini van. This family has children. And, their children’s toys were ruined. And, now everything is gone to a trash dump, except these little pieces laying in the grass.
It is such a sign of brokenness. Such a sign of loss. It just made my heart hurt for what these people are going through right now. We are surrounded by families in the same situation. Yes, everyone keeps saying that it is “just stuff.” But, to them, it is important stuff. Just about everything they own is destroyed and sitting on the curb.
Suddenly, I heard the instructor on my app say, “Let’s jog!” So I got focused and starting running. I ran pretty fast this time. I still felt good and wanted to see how fast I could go. Man, a minute can be a long time, right? Especially when you are not in shape. My pace had slowed a good bit by the time I finally heard that voice say, “Now, let’s walk.”
Whew. Thank you. Walking is good. By this time, I was starting to feel just how out of shape I really am. But, I walked as fast as I could so I could push on.
The next time I heard, “Let’s jog,” I dreaded it a little. But, I just pushed through because I knew it was good for me. I told myself, “Come on, Kristy. You can do practically anything for just one minute.” And, I did it. I made it through another minute of jogging.
This cycle continued the rest of the 30 minute run. Each minute of jogging felt a little longer than the previous one. My muscles got more and more tired as the time went on. Each minute and a half of walking felt shorter and shorter.
But, I made it. I did exactly what the instructor told me to do each time. And, I survived!
I made it to the “Cool Down” phase. This is the last five minutes of your run. You just walk and let yourself start to cool down. As I was walking, I started really noticing the beauty all around me. I was working hard to complete my run, and I was so focused on doing what the app was telling me to do, that I really hadn’t stopped to see the beauty God has placed all around me. In that moment, I just admired God’s work and praised Him for who He is.
Although, the run was hard, I was surrounded by beauty the entire time.
And, finally, I made it to the finish line. I turned the corner and this is what I saw.
Home. I was home. My favorite place in this world to be. Home. I had run my course, and finish my race for the day. And, I was home. In a place of total comfort. Total peace. Where all the things I hold most dear are waiting for me. Home.
I hope, by now, you’ve noticed the spiritual significance of this story. The Lord revealed several things to me on my run.
2 Timothy 4:7, is a very famous passage of scripture. Paul says,
“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.”
We are all running a course. This life we live is like a race, or a course for us to run.
God sends us packages, like Meredith sent me new shoes. These packages can be experiences, situations, life changes, etc. They are moments in time that change things and cause us to find ourselves running a course.
My package, in this particular race of my life, was a diagnosis. A very sudden change that put me on a new course.
Now, keep in mind that Meredith didn’t just call me and say, “Look, girl. You are really out of shape, so I’m going to send you some shoes and you need to start running.” It didn’t happen like that. I told her that I was out of shape and feeling it. I told her that I needed to start running. I didn’t ask her for shoes, but I told her I needed to run. She was sweet enough to send me the shoes, which gave me the motivation to get going.
It’s the same with God. He doesn’t force His will on us. He doesn’t just forcefully take over our lives. Do you know how long Clay and I had been praying for God to use us? To do something great with our lives? A long time. And, that’s just what He did. He responded to our prayers and He put us on a course that has become a ministry.
So, our package arrives and we start out on our course. But, we need help. We need an app that will pace us and we need an instructor to talk to us while we run our course. Our “Couch to 5K” app is the Bible and the instructor, whose voice we hear the entire time, is the Holy Spirit.
2 Peter 1: 3-4, says,
“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.”
Every time I need to accomplish something, that I know I can’t do on my own, I think of this verse. To me, this means that God has given us everything we need in order to live this Godly life. He gave us the Word, and He gave us the Holy Spirit to help us interpret the Word.
Ok. So far we’ve established the following:
I am running a difficult course.
God placed me on this course in response to my prayer for Him to use me and make me more like Jesus.
He has given me His Word and His Holy Spirit to guide me as I run.
When I first began my run, I felt so good. I felt like I could run 10 miles. But, the instructor knew I couldn’t. She knew I would get tired, so she paced me. This is what the Holy Spirit does, if we listen. He paces us as we run through life. He will prevent us from getting too tired, or getting burnt out, if we will respond to His prompts. When He says, “Walk!” we must walk. Even if we feel like we could keep running.
Likewise, when He says, “Jog,” and we are exhausted, we need to listen to Him and jog. He knows better than we do. Sometimes we can’t listen to ourselves. When your mind is telling you that you can’t do it, don’t listen to yourself. Listen to the Holy Spirit. Let Him tell you what you can do. He knows best.
Remember the flooded house and their trash pile? Just as the instructor slowed me down, I started to notice the devastation all around me. It is the same in our Christian life. If we are running our race too fast, or if we are too focused on ourself and trying to push ourself to keep going, we might miss something. We might not even notice the devastation in people’s lives all around us. You see, we are all running a course. They look different, but we are all on a course.
The Lord can’t use us in the lives of other people, if we don’t slow down for a minute to see their devastation.
For the rest of my run, I thought about how the instructor knew how to pace me. The creators of the app have studied the process and they know what your body can handle. Isn’t God the same way? He knows what we can handle. So, through the course of our life, there are times when we sprint, there are times we jog, and there are times we walk. When we are not in shape, the times of sprinting and jogging are much shorter than the times walking. Because He knows what we can handle.
As I was telling myself that I can do just about anything for one minute, I thought of how this is true in life, too. We can handle difficulties for a season, but when God knows we can’t take anymore, He gives us a season of rest. He is such a loving Father.
And, He surrounds us with beautiful reminders of Himself. If we will just take time to notice, He is constantly showing us His greatness through the beauty around us. Even though, the course may be hard, there is beauty all around that encourages us to go on.
I was excited to hear the words, “Cool down,” because I knew that this course was coming to an end. I had listened to the instructor and done everything she told me to do. Isn’t that how you want to feel when you come to the end of your course? Don’t you want to know you did everything that the Holy Spirit said. Because this course is preparation for the next course. And, each course we run is making us more and more like Jesus.
Until, eventually, we completely finish the course and He brings us home to be with Him. Turning our corner, and seeing Heaven, will be so much better than my feeling of turning the corner and seeing my earthly home. I can’t wait. Won’t it be wonderful? It will all be worth it when we see our new home and our precious Savior, who will greet us at the door.
I hope this helps you today. I hope it encourages you in your own race. Let God speak to you through your daily life. Ask Him to help you listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit. He will guide you. Stay tuned into His Word. Do what He says. In the end, you will see that He knows best. Don’t listen to yourself. Listen to Him.
And, most importantly, keep the faith. Keep the faith. Don’t faint. Don’t grow weary. Keep the faith. That is the greatest thing that Paul did. Through every trial and a most difficult life, he was an example to us of how to KEEP THE FAITH. And, he knew that, because he kept the faith, there was a great reward for him. That reward is for us, too. If we follow his example.
Help us, Lord. Amen.