As a young man I was a runner. I didn’t do it for the health benefits or to win races, I did it because I enjoyed running. Running was a way of venting the frustrations of my adolescence, it was very important to me. When I entered Junior High I begged our High School Cross-country coach to let us form a team so I started running competitively at the age of 13. I was a dedicated but not a gifted runner, but I loved to compete and knew that if I applied myself diligently I could become competitive. So I ran Cross Country and Track during my 2 years in Junior High (even briefly holding a school record).
When I was a freshman in High School (1985) I finally got to run with the big boys. I was 14 and some of them were 17 and 18, a couple could outpace me at a moderate jog. Overall though I managed to make the top 12 on our fairly large team and earn my first Varsity letter in Cross-Country that year. That season, an event occurred that has stuck with me ever since.
We were at a big invitational held at a local college where there was at least a dozen teams in attendance. After walking the course in order to orient ourselves my team arrived back at the race start and began warming up. Due to the cold we generally stayed in our warm-up suits until it was actually time to race and strip to our shorts and tops. The race organizers were laying out the lane assignments calling each team to their place along the start line. With this many teams on this particular course on the top 3 from each school would have a place in the line and the rest would file in behind them. They called out each school and the starting line was filling out while we waited patiently behind the start line waiting for them to call us.
The starting gun! We stood there in shock, some of us still on the ground stretching, others bouncing around to stay warm. We froze. The race had started and we weren’t running. Nobody on our team did. We weren’t prepared mentally or physically to run. We expected them to stop the race and restart, we expected them to restart. I looked in shock at my team captain, my coach, my dad, the other parents who had come to see their children run. They just stared back. It was like being punched in the stomach.
It felt so awful I vowed not to let that happen again. I would pay attention, I would keep a closer eye on the official, I wouldn’t count on another person to tell me when the contest had started. I was going to be responsible for myself. That I would never be standing on the sidelines on a race I was supposed to be IN. I made that vow before I ever became a believer:
Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
Last post I mentioned how the enemy want’s to distract us, Satan wants to convince us there is no race. He wants to cause us to miss our lane assignment, to not understand our place in God’s plan. He want’s to distract us and cause us not to be ready to run. He wants us on the sidelines, not running, certainly not obtaining the prize. Satan doesn’t want the son’s to understand that God has a work for them. Look what he said to Jesus, the firstborn:
And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.
(You’re not really the Son. You don’t really think your a Son do you? Prove it to me an yourself.) Jesus got back on point:
But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
Jesus used the Scripture to say: “Sons live by the Spirit.” (Romans 8:14)
Satan only really had the one technique though:
And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.
And Jesus refuted him again:
Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.
“I don’t have to prove my Sonship to you Satan.”
And Satan goes back to his one-trick pony:
And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.
(Satan thinks so little of the heir that he is going to attempt to bribe Jesus with His own inheritance! He offers the prize of the race without the running.)
Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
Jesus: “Do you think I’m stupid?”
Here is the thing though, if we are going to be God’s son’s and suffer like Jesus suffered we are going to be tested IN THIS EXACT way. Satan is trying to disqualify us, to keep us out of the race, to sideline us, to cast doubt on God’s plan for our lives.
Satan is going to be screaming: “PROVE IT! PROVE IT! PROVE IT!” to distract us. We don’t have to. He’s going to offer us the PRIZE without running the race. He’s going to try and bribe us to the sidelines (running is hard, and besides Jesus has already won the race for you).
All I need to do is be obedient to God. I need to press into the Holy Spirit and He will work in me to complete the work He started. If I don’t disqualify myself, or step to the sidelines I will finish the course that God has laid out before me and I will receive the prize that God has for me. By no other means will I obtain.
Notice the “PROVE IT!” here:
Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly. Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one.
We will be son’s if we hear His voice. His voice is calling us to the starting line, back to the course He has set before us. Will we run it or forfeit the prize?
(No that wasn’t the same race.)