Open When You Want to Give Up
IT’S NOT EASY
They say it’s an addiction. The moment you cross the finish line, get your hand raised, or stand at the top of the podium, you’re officially an addict. But what exactly is the addiction to? Is it the glory? The fifteen minutes of fame? The chance to hear your name in association with victory? Personally, I believe it is the sense of accomplishment that comes with the completion of the race; because only you know what it took to get you there. Only you can testify to the thousands of hours of training, the pools of sweat that built up by your feet, and even the tears cried in spite of those who told you you couldn’t. It takes this realization that victory is the sum total of the work put in to fully understand why Paul equated a life of following Christ to a race. “And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us” – Hebrews 12:1. While finishing the race is where we are to focus our eyes and what will ultimately motivate us through the journey, each step that carries us is not always easy. So what does it take to keep moving? To keep stepping? Paul, in the same verse addresses this very issue. He wrote: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.” You see, the key to finishing the race is in the work (the stripping off of sin) it takes to cross the finish line. And, let it be known, that it is in fact, work.
Practically, what does this look like? What does it take not to give up? To not stop striding? There are a few key concepts I believe could help if you are struggling to stay in the race.
THE KEYS TO THE PRIZE
KNOW YOUR OPPONENT
If you asked any athlete who their biggest competition is, I’m sure the most common answer would easily be “myself.” Mentality is often the hardest part of the race, because we tend to set limitations on ourselves based on our judgements of who we are and how far we can be pushed. And make no mistake that the enemy knows that if he can get us to focus on evaluating ourselves instead of on the race at hand, it will be him standing firmly with the victory. Paul gave some wise advice when it comes the matter of judging oneself: “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord” (1 Corinthians 4:3-4). In other words, your race is your race! So take solace in the fact that the most righteous judge is the only one who can set your limitations and evaluate your walk. Therefore, stride confidently, but be aware that your opponent wishes to avert your attention from the race.
KNOW YOU ARE NOT ALONE
Although every athlete is ultimately responsible for his or her own race, their performance is often times facilitated by a team. Having people to cheer you on when you grow weary or run along-side you when the next footstep seems impossibly heavy can make all the difference. The fact is, faith is hard and at times, it gets too hard for us to continue by ourselves. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 states, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.” Know that when you stumble, or even if you are stumbling right now, there are pastors, leaders, and friends strong enough to help carry you along. In addition, I urge you to never forget that you have the world’s greatest teammate matching your every step: God! I don’t think I could put this truth in words any more beautifully that Exodus 14:14- “The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” I encourage you, run in peace with the knowledge that help sweats, and stumbles, and pushes through right along side you.
For an athlete, it takes the choice to wake up every morning and put in hard work to improve performance. For you and I, it takes the same. To be an athlete in this race God has commissioned us to run, it takes hard choices, followed by hard work. You must make the choice to pick God each and everyday despite your circumstances and feelings. Proverbs 3:5-6 states, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Always continue to further your relationship with the Lord and soon you will realize that giving up is not an option. Why? Because your prize, getting to know and love the Lord, is in all honesty, addicting.