Summary: Our lives will include many different phases in our spiritual journey. Our job is to keep taking the next step and keep the finish line in our mind.
Last Monday (Memorial Day). 9:00am. I’m standing in my front yard. With a wet suit on. With a swim cap and goggles on my head. With a sprinkler spraying me with water.
Across my driveway from where I stood I had my recently purchased road bicycle leaning against the back of my car. A few steps away was a towel with a bike helmet, sunglasses, and biking shoes.
Standing near my car was my daughter and my wife, holding a stopwatch.
It must have been quite a scene for my neighbors to watch. Then Ann said, “Go” and raced from the sprinkler across my driveway and quickly removed my wetsuit, dried my feet, put socks, shoes, sunglasses, and helmet on, and quickly ran my bike into our cul-de-sac where I then jumped on my bike, still dripping, to ride around the block.
Maybe by now you’ve figured it out. I was training for a triathlon. And in fact yesterday I ran in my very first race!
It was the culmination of more than 8 months of training since my wife first challenged me to give it a try. Over these 8 months I spent a lot of time learning to swim better, researching the right equipment to purchase, running, and biking, but what I was doing on Monday morning was a lot less exciting than swimming, biking, or running. I was practicing my transitions. Huh? What’s that?
Well, one unique aspect of the sport of triathlon is that although there are 3 main segments of the race (swim, bike, run), in between these events there are transitions in which you have to quickly remove the gear from the last stage, and gear up for the next stage. During the transition times the clock never stops. My finish time in the race is a combination of my swim, bike, and run times, but also my 2 transition times as well. From the time I start the swim to the time I cross the finish line – the clock never stops.
By now you’re probably thinking - “Great – but why are you telling me all this?” Hold on and you’ll see.
As I’ve trained this year, God has been leading me through some difficult paths. I’ve dealt with doubt, with depression, with questions about God’s will for me, with feeling like God is far from me, and many other struggles that only a select few people have known about. But through it all, my triathlon training has reminded me that in life – “the clock never stops”.
The Apostle Paul must have been a fan of athletic contests and races because he mentions them as a metaphor for our lives as disciples of Jesus Christ on a number of occasions. What I’d like to do this morning is share with you some of these scriptures, and hopefully encourage you to keep on moving ahead in the “race” you are running in life. Because it doesn’t matter where you are in life: whether it’s like you are coasting down a hill or swimming in cold water, or just trying to get your shoes tied– one thing is certain – the clock never stops.
Paul, writing from house arrest, where he is waiting for a hearing before Caesar, has time to reflect upon what is really important in his life, and he writes to his friends in Phillipi:
Phil. 3:10-11 (NIV) I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Paul has a goal in his life – he wants to win the prize – the resurrection from the dead promised to those who follow Christ in this life. It is his stated goal in life to know Christ and the power of his resurrection AND the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings.
Some lofty goals, and as one who has tried to follow God the best I can for over 25 years now I can appreciate what he says next…
Phil. 3:12-14 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Paul recognizes that he has not achieved perfection in his Christian walk. He knows the same thing we know: there are good days and there are bad days. “But one thing I do”, he says. “I leave the past behind and I keep straining toward what is ahead – the finish line of the race.”