Posts Tagged ‘run the race’

Separating myself from “corrupting influences” is not so easy. It’s a matter of degree, that difference between good, better & best. In some areas, I have been successful and on occasion, I have been blessed and used in a powerful way but it’s an erratic arrangement.

II Timothy 2:21
So whoever cleanses himself/herself [from what is ignoble and unclean, who separates himself/herself from contact with contaminating and corrupting influences] will [then himself/herself] be a vessel set apart and useful for honorable and noble purposes, consecrated and profitable to the Master, fit and ready for any good work.

Some of this “separation” feels too strict and legalistic, like those Pharisaical laws that disallowed touching contaminated things without all kinds of ceremonial washings and waiting times. It smacks of the story that Jesus told about the Good Samaritan [Luke 10:25-37] who broke all kinds of laws to minister to an injured and “unclean” man. There are contemporary versions of this, various religious sects that will not allow people of differing beliefs to sit at table or to share in communion or other sacred acts.

And so I manage to excuse or validate some of my choices in the name of freedom. But it can be a slippery slope, I know.

I think it’s important to recognize the value of single-minded piety, as long as it is also lived with grace and generosity toward others who do not live in the same way. That kind of life does indeed prepare the mind and soul for greater challenges of faith. There are other hints to this concept like Paul’s references to the athletes who prepare hard for the race, who practice their craft diligently, who commit their energies toward attaining a particular goal.

In earlier years of my faith journey, I have somewhat foolishly asked God to drop gifts and signs on me, to use me as that intermediary for healing or miracles. And yes, it’s true that these are gifts; it’s possible that God, for the sake of the moment, might grant such experiences. But for the long haul? I think it’s the warriors of faith, the ones who don’t necessarily shy away from “corruptions” and “contaminations,” they simply don’t have time or interest there. It’s a non-issue.

If I am in a time of prayer and meditation, I am not watching the unenlightening television show or browsing the Internet for inappropriate content. My “self” is elsewhere engaged.

It all boils down to this for me: to be used for “noble purpose” is part and parcel of my daily life, how I manage the little things [Luke 16:10a]. Thanks be to God.

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The goal is the prize but it’s not the finish line. In human terms, that may seem illogical, but it’s important to remember that God doesn’t operate on our human terms. Our “template” for the ultimate prize is revealed in the Christ.

Philippians 3:13b-14a
But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me. . .

One of my favorite movies is Forrest Gump. At one point in the early part of the movie, he is chased by bullies and his little friend, Jenny, tells him to “run, Forrest, run.” And as he does run, the braces come off and he becomes stronger and stronger with each step. And soon, running becomes a testament or symbol of who he is and who he can be throughout the film.

Paul is telling us the same thing: to run, to run the race with perseverance, and to keep our eyes on the future, for tomorrow is full to the brim of prizes and surprises.

Part of running the race is developing a sensitivity to the paradoxes of life in Christ. In Christ’s universe, the tortoise can beat the hare, the weak can outlast the strong [II Cor 12:10], and the barren can have more children than the Duggars [Isaiah 54:1]. The rule of perfection is a different measurement. It all happens within.

Of course, my outside behaviors and decisions are imbued by the presence of the Holy Spirit, but the prize is not there. Like the voice of God that Elijah sought on the mountain, it was not in the wind, the earthquake, or the fire, but in the stillness.

Life is not just a carousel where we strain to pluck the brass ring to get the prize. It’s a life in conjunction with the Holy Spirit who is perfection. [Matthew 5:48]

The goal/prize is captured in these loaded phrases: to live IN Christ, to live IS Christ, to be found IN Christ, and to know Christ.

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