I entered the Hooters Half-Marathon which raises funds for cancer research. The race started and almost immediately I was dead last. It was really embarrassing. Then this guy in front of me sarcastically yelled: “Hey buddy, how does it feel to be last?” Dropping out of the race, I yelled: “Now you know!”
Many Christians drop out of God’s spiritual race because they do not heed the warning from Hebrews to “Strip down, start running and never quit!” (Hebs. 12:1). I have a friend who says: “People waste so much time exercising. Marathon runners always talk about their ‘runner’s high.’ But they must go 26 miles for it. That’s why I smoke and drink. I get the same feeling from a flight of stairs.” My friend needs to reread Hebrews chapter 11 and be reminded that through faith God transformed losers into heroes of faith. Over and over again we read: “By faith.” “By faith Abel, by faith Noah, by faith Abraham.” Go home and read the stories of those heroes and note that first they were losers. These guys were such losers that if they played hide-and-seek, nobody would look for them, nobody but God.
Think about it. Abraham thought that it was a big joke that he would be a father of a great nation saying: “I get winded rocking in my rocker, and my back goes out more than me.” Samson believed in “Life, Liberty, and the Happiness of Pursuit!” When in college, David majored in romance languages and gave women the kind of look that could be poured on waffles. And Rahab brightened things up for a man by sitting with him in the dark. The truth about our heroes of faith is: “They were once weak, but by faith in God’s transforming grace they became strong.”
Living life “by faith” opens doors to amazing possibilities. A “by faith” life gives you an attitude of “Yes” instead of “No.” A “by faith” life opens one up to receptiveness instead of defensiveness. A “by faith” life addresses challenges and real hardship with the Spirt of “why not” and moves forward instead of collapsing in defeat bewailing “why me?” A “by faith” life is not a perfectly lived life, nor a state of being, but a state of becoming.
The writer of Hebrews says that the way to have a faith fit for the race is to go back to the story. Read it again and again. Be reminded that you are not the first person to weep, to be weak, nor to sin nor the first person in need of help. Read the story and remember, their story is yours!
And if you still don’t believe that Jesus seeks out the unworthy saying: “Strip down and start running, and never quit.” Just look at who wrote this article. And just look at who’s reading it!
Roger Lemke is pastor of Fishers of Men Lutheran Church. The church is at 10360 Stringfellow Road. Call 239-283-1170 for service times and/or additional information.