Summary: Like disciplined athletes we are called to cast off everything that would prevent us from running with endurance the race set before us.

“Running With Endurance”

Hebrews 12:1-3

On Monday of this past week I went to Bishop McGuinness High School where Nate was running in a track meet. There were 7th-9th grade boys and girls from all over the state who left their homes early in the morning to make their way to the track. I sat and watched races for most of the day. There were short sprints and long distance races. There were relays and individual events. There were those who were fast and those who were not so fast. There were big kids that I could hardly believe were in middle school and there were kids that I would have thought were in grade school. As diverse as the kids were, and as varied as the events were that day, there was one commonality among all of the kids -- they came to win.

For weeks now, while so many of their classmates went home after school, these kids had hit the track. They traded their backpacks for running shoes. They laid down their pencils and paper, picked up their batons and stop watches, and hit the track. They have been running, training, sweating, nursing sore muscles, listening to their coaches, and trying to improve their times so that they would have a better chance of winning when the day of the race came.

This is Nate’s first year to run track, but he has done really well. Nate competes in four different events, but his best race so far has been the 400 meters. As I sat and watched all of the 7th-9th grade boys and girls run the 400 meters I noticed a trend. Many of the kids who ran the 400 meters started out strong. When the starter’s gun went off the kids were blowing and going at full speed. On Monday, the wind was blowing like a tornado was overhead. When the kids made their way into the last turn of the race the gale force wind was right in their faces. So many of the kids who looked like Michael Johnson or Marian Jones coming out of the start began to fade when they hit the 200-300 meter mark. Their young, fresh legs that had churned like a well-oiled machine in the beginning began to look like they were running in mud. The kids that did well were able to press on through the wind, the fatigue, and the little voice in their head that screamed at them -- “Stop!”

There are a couple of other similarities shared by those who did well. First, I noticed that while others were running, many of the kids were wearing different clothing than they had on when they stood on the starting line waiting for the starter’s gun to sound. Before their race the kids were wearing street shoes or flip-flops. They wore sweat pants or sweat shirts. Some of them were even listening to CD players or Walkmans to pass the time.

When the announcer came over the loud speaker announcing “First Call” for their race they began to shed any unnecessary clothing that might slow them down, they traded their favorite pair of street shoes for racing spikes, and they turned their CD players off and put them in their bags.

Secondly, those who had been lying around talking to their friends or listening to music suddenly got their game face on. They began stretching their muscles and jogging up and down the infield so they could loosen up before their event.

Last of all, I noticed that those who did well in their race shared a common focus point as they ran their race. While they ran they kept their eyes fixed on the finish line. They didn’t look at those who were beside them. They paid no attention to their appearance. They didn’t gaze into the stands at their mom or dad or wave at their friends as they ran by the grandstands. They were on a mission and they had their eyes fixed on the finish line.

You may be wondering to yourself this morning, “Why is Mike telling us all of this? I thought I was going to church to learn about the Lord? I don’t need to know about all of this track ‘stuff’ – I need to know how I can grow in my relationship to the Lord -- how I can live my life so that it glorifies God.” Oh, my friend you are so right about what you and I need, but what you may fail to recognize is that the discipline, training, endurance, and faith of those young people I watched on Monday afternoon may possibly have more to do with you and me living lives of obedience and faithfulness than most of what is offered to us in the typical church.

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