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A Race Worth Running

Hurricanes have a way of reminding us about what is truly important. Cancer is a master teacher on the value of life and relationships. A near fatal car accident becomes our tutor in gratitude and grace. Colors become more vivid. Beauty takes on new meaning. Relationships grow richer. And heaven becomes more real.

What is your life purpose? In 1939 Christopher Morley wrote these words in his novel, Kitty Foyle: “Their own private life gets to be like a rat race.”

Here we are almost eighty years later, and the term “rat race” has evolved to describe the “hopeless pursuit of a good life always just out of reach—a treadmill upon which we can’t stop walking or we will fall off” (Patrick Morley, Man in the Mirror, 14).

Is your life a rat race, or is it more like a rat in a maze? Simon and Garfunkel once sang the haunting line, “Like a rat in a maze, the path before me lies. And the pattern never alters, until the rat dies” (ibid., 22).

Whether you’re on a treadmill or in a maze, being a rat is never a good thing. Chasing after more of what this world offers only leaves us tired and empty. And then along comes a hurricane . . . or cancer . . . or a near fatal accident, and we are re-awakened. We gain perspective. We understand more clearly how “[we] are like a breath of air; [our] days are like a passing shadow” (Psalm 144:4, NLT).

I once sat in the home of an elderly man who was quite wealthy. He had it all . . . according to the world’s definition. But his grown children were estranged, his wife was dead, and his faith was but a flicker. He sat in his comfortable recliner and confessed his confusion and emptiness.

If you’re in a race, make sure it’s a race worth running. Near the end of his life, the Apostle Paul wrote, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7, ESV).

If you’re in a maze, make sure you have the right Guide. Jesus once said, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13, ESV).Take a moment right now to think about what is most important in your life. Give thanks for the hope of heaven, the depth of love, the beauty of friendship, and the grace of God. And when the hurricanes come, know that nothing in this world can separate you from what truly matters.

“No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39, NLT).

Is your courage cancer-free?

I am convinced that small acts of courage change the course of history. Queen Esther courageously approached the king and said, “If I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16). Nehemiah boldly asked, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers' graves, that I may rebuild it” (Nehemiah 2:5). Three Jewish friends courageously faced Nebuchadnezzar and said, “We will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3:18). Peter and the apostles declared, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

Esther saved the Jews. Nehemiah rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem. The three Jewish friends were promoted to high positions of political power in Babylon. The Roman world heard the Gospel because the apostles would not be silent.

So when have I acted courageously? How about you? Our courage might not be tested by the threat of execution, death by fire, or imprisonment. Rather, our courage might be tested by fear of rejection, humiliation, or ridicule. What will people think of me if I pray before a meal at a restaurant? What will my neighbor say if I invite him to church? Sometimes our courage wanes at the first hint of being uncomfortable.

I call them “courage cancers”—abnormal growth of fears that eat away at our spiritual cells of fortitude and determination. Will I be rejected? Will I be considered “weird”? I’ll just go along with the crowd. These, and other thoughts like them, grow like tumors in our souls, destroying our spiritual confidence to live out our faith in the public arena.

I know, because I’ve had these malignancies all my life. I’ve hesitated in speaking out against something I know is wrong, because I didn’t want to offend. I’ve missed opportunities to share my faith, because I didn’t want to come across as a “right-wing religious nut.” The danger in this is that if we don’t treat these malignancies, they will continue to grow. Our spiritual zeal and courage deflates as our fears increase and take over more territory in our souls.

Courage doesn’t always come naturally in our broken shells of humanity. We can’t always muster up the strength to face the spiritual battles, especially when those courage cancers have weakened us. According to the Apostle Paul, when we reach that point of spiritual incapacity, we open ourselves up to Christ’s capacity. When we are weak, He is strong (1 Corinthians 12:10b). Jesus said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (1 Corinthians 12:9).

Jesus is the healing power for our courage cancers. “Perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18), and Jesus is the perfect manifestation of that perfect love. Stop trying to heal yourself and turn to the Healer. You can’t pull yourself up by your bootstraps, because your sins weigh you down. The only remedy is complete spiritual chemotherapy and radiation. We put our trust in Jesus Christ who kills our malignancies and radiates our fears with His love. He makes us a new creation (2 Corinthians 4:17), courage-cancer free. Then we can walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16) and produce the small acts of courage that change the course of history.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

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