Mud, Slobber, and Snot

This is Joel’s third year of cross-country. We’ve enjoyed his many meets and the culture of distance running. There’s much to admire about the typical cross-country kid. He generally doesn’t have an ego—there are few fans. He generally isn’t the greatest athlete—the skillset required is that you can run. He generally isn’t too mindful of his opponent—the course, the clock, and his PR (personal record) more his combatant than other runners. The 5k race (3.1 miles) is run in all kinds of weather over all kinds of courses; which often means rocks, holes, puddles, and mud are adversaries. And let’s be honest, most runners cross the line a mess—mud and slobber and snot all over the place. You really should go sometime.

If I broadly categorized the hundreds of runners I have observed, I would do so this way. There are some who pace themselves well and clock a good time. Their mile splits are similar; their first mile time similar to their second and third. They get out quick, maintain their pace as much as possible, and then grind out the last mile still having just a little kick left at the finish line and cross the line exhausted.

And then there are those who run the race much differently. It appears they run with fear. Not wanting to hurt too much, they run reserved and cautious; sadly, they never realize their best time. They are easy to identify. They give themselves away at the finish line. With about 100 yards remaining, they take off like a cheetah running down game. The reason they have so much left at the end (more so than runners who finish several minutes before them) is that they didn’t push themselves earlier in the race. Arms flailing and head bobbing, they run the last bit of the race as if a bear was after them. They ran the first three miles, however, trying to get away from a turtle.

All this to ask you a question, which kind of runner are you when it comes to living your Christian faith? In other words, when your race ends and God calls you home, are you crossing into heaven exhausted? Having spent all you could all your life, entering to the applause of Heaven with “Well done, good and faithful servant…enter into the joy or your Master” (Matthew 25:21)? Or when your race is through, your pace and gate so cautious and reserved, your Christian life more a leisurely stroll then a race?

The Apostle Paul uses the imagery of spiritual life as a race four different times (Acts 20:23-24, 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Philippians 2:16, and 2 Timothy 4:7). In 1 Corinthians 9:26 he says “I do not run aimlessly”. The writer of Hebrews adds a fifth allusion to faith as a race: “Let us…lay aside every weight…and run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).

Repetition in Scripture is emphasis. I propose all of us enter heaven exhausted, not because we strained to earn our salvation—an impossibility to run that fast—but exhausted because we ran a focused and joyful life of faith. That is how Jesus ran His race (Hebrews 12:2). Entering heaven with a little more mud, slobber, and snot may be indicative of a race well run.

Pastor Rich Hamlin

October 18, 2013

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