This morning was a beautiful Spring morning in Texas. It was sunny and 69 degrees, a little windy, but you learn to live with that around here. It was perfect morning for a run outside. My neighborhood is quiet most morning, all the kids are in school, neighbors have all left for work or are in their homes getting their day started. The only other people out and about are other runners and walkers.
I pass runners all the time and give them a quick wave while mouthing “good morning.” I don’t say it out loud because I have my head phones in and I don’t want to be louder than I realize. The recipient of my quick greeting usually has their head phones in too and probably wouldn’t be able to hear me unless I did yell. Morning by morning I jog past people, giving my quick greeting. This morning was no different than any of the others until I was about ¾of the way through my run. As I was running I was quickly approaching a street where I would make a right turn and finish the last ¼of my workout. Another woman running with her beautiful chocolate brown lab was coming toward me. She made a left in front of me and a few seconds later began to make my right and we both continued our run in the same direction. Let’s stop right there for a moment….before I go any farther with this story I have to tell you something about myself.
I am pretty competitive by nature, I probably shouldn’t say pretty, I should be honest and say I am extremely competitive. I love to compete, the thrill of putting time and effort into something and coming out on top or better than before is something I love. I don’t just love to compete with other people or watch other people compete, I compete with myself too. Let’s take a simple task like washing dishes. If I wash dishes one way today you can bet that tomorrow when I start to wash dishes I will be doing my best to figure out a way to wash dishes more effectively and efficiently than I did before. This type of self-motivation, aka “competiveness”, is something that I apply to the most ridiculous and minor tasks as well as the most important. So now that you know that little bit of information about me let’s get back to my morning run.
Now I am running with a runner and her dog about 7 strides ahead of me and we are both headed in the same direction. I am trying to stay focused on what is coming through my earphones, which was a fantastic message by Pastor Robert Morris at Gateway Church, “More than Words—Bread.” Go listen, it was incredible! So, I am trying to stay focused but all I can see is the runner in front of me and her dog and my mind starts to gear up and my adrenaline starts to pump a little more. I start to think, I can’t let her beat me, I have to get in front of her. I start watching her strides and thinking about the most efficient way to pass her. She knows I am not far behind her, she could feel me gaining on her, so she politely moved to one side of the sidewalk, so I could move on past her. At this point I had gained on her where I was only about 3 strides behind her. A small push is all it would have taken, and I would have went right past her. But suddenly the question came to my head, “why do you need to beat her?” I knew the Holy Spirit was speaking to me. So, slowed down just a bit and began to have a conversation with the Lord as I finished my run.
As I responded to the question with the thought, “I don’t know?” Then this scripture came to mind, “Let us run with endurance the race set before us, focusing on Jesus, the initiator and perfector of our faith.” Hebrews 12:1. In that moment the Lord reminded me, that fellow runner was headed in the same direction. There was no need for me to “beat” her or move in front of her. We were both outside running for the same purpose…exercise.
The same is true with our purpose and faith. We are all headed in the same direction, our goal is to see Jesus face-to-face, and to take as many people with us as we can. Many people will have similar callings or purposes as I do. But the goal is not to beat them in the purpose God has given me, the goal is to glorify Christ in that purpose.
If I had not recognized the question that came to my mind as God trying to remind me of a simple lesson, I would have pushed on and passed this fellow runner. In the process I wouldn’t have won anything because we were not in actual race and I would have exhausted myself by not simply staying the pace I knew my body could handle. Hebrews doesn’t just say run the race set before you but it says to run it with endurance. Had I pushed forward this morning I would have wasted energy on something that was no necessary and would have lacked the endurance needed to finish my run.
When we heed the warnings, thoughts, questions, or promptings from God, He protects us from ourselves. I had to listen to the question that was being asked this morning, it kept me in check, and allowed me to run the course set before me. The same is true in our callings and purposes. God has created each of us with a calling, a purpose. But too often we get distracted by those that might have a similar calling or even by those who have a completely different calling. The only way we can live out our faith to its fullest is if we stay focused on Jesus. Hebrews 12:1 say to run the race with endurancefocusingon Jesus. When our focus is on Jesus then our faith begins to flourish and then we are propelled into our purpose.