On most Sunday evenings, I make a trip to the beach here in Pensacola Beach, FL. In those moments I sit and reflect on the week and gather thoughts for the next week. The sunset is a magical moment. I call it the ‘golden hour’ because everyone stops what they are doing to just look in amazement of its beauty. This is a picture that reminds of God’s grace and power. It is so amazing that all you can do is just sit and be in complete ‘awe’ of his Glory. Today, I sit here with that same mindset of gratefulness for what God has done in 2018. Similar to last year’s review, here is a review of 2018 to express how grateful I am and for all of you. Please realize that this blog is for you and a way for me to express hope. I write to share insights and point to hope especially in moments of hopelessness. We all need hope because it gives breath to our lungs, strength to our muscles, and courage in our spirit. Even more important we need to know the source of our hope.
As I think back on this year. I want to discuss the marathon I ran and the preparation it took. I found that training for a marathon did teach me a lot but more about God. It was in that process that God spoke to me so much. How much I need to rely on His strength to finish and not my own. God constantly encouraged me with signs from the clock. There were times I would walk at work and the clock would say ‘10:36’. That time was consistent over the course of the next several days and weeks. Each time I saw that time it seemed like time froze and it gave me several moments to reflect and think. What came to me was Hebrews 10:36:
“Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.” Hebrews 10:36 NLT
I love the amplified version with the addition of ‘to bear up under difficult circumstances without compromising.’ I knew God was constantly encouraging me because He is the God of courage. He is whatever you need at that moment of what you are going through. I believe this message is what everyone needs to here with the transition into another new year. We all need patient endurance to bear up under difficult circumstances, but we are not alone, and we are capable to overcome.
Life is a Marathon
We all hear the phrase that “life is a marathon.” This mindset is to believe life is an endurance race and should maintain a steady pace to win the race. Then at the end you can hold the prize. This is true. Life is a marathon, but there is more to it that than just running steadily till the finish line.
There are many phases of a marathon that we do not realize. First, life is not just one marathon but many marathons. Life can be a sprint, 5k, ultra, or strength focus when this is a need to move some weight in your life. The first phase of a marathon is plan. You must have a plan before you begin. A training plan, nutrition plan, recovery plan, and so on. The goal in the plan phase is to write your goals (specific time to finish) and the mile marks you will have to hit. When you plan and write you can see what you need to accomplish to achieve. This applies to any area in life specially to building a new behavior.
The second phase of marathon is preparation. Once you establish a plan you must prepare. This is getting any and all resources ready such as shoes, specific routes, routine of when to run, food and other nutritional prep, and of course hydration. It is true if you fail to prepare then you are preparing to fail. I forgot who quoted that but it's true. Prepare prior to the battle you face. The preparation phase builds your motivation. That is why you get internally excitement when you get new running shoes, a watch, or other items.
The third phase of a marathon is perseverance. There will be days you do not want to run. Trust me, majority of my runs were on days I did not feel like it, but afterwards the sense of accomplishment was well worth it. The fact is your consistency builds your resiliency. When you commit to it you will be able to grit through it. We can persevere over a negative and fearful mindset. We can persevere over idleness and passivity. This process trains you to persevere during the run to not quit but grit. I love how the bible in certain translations goes between perseverance and steadfastness. We must be steady and fast (quality pace), so we see that there is a forward direction of progress. The word also says press on towards the goal that is already yours which is the finish line and prize. More particular the heavenly prize. This is the longest phase, but it is easier to persevere when you write a plan to commit to and prepare ahead of time.
Even when you plan, prepare, and persevere there will be times of difficulty and challenge. There came a moment in the race when I began to lose my pace. Breathing began to get heavy and thoughts of walking began to creep in my head. My perseverant mindset was shaken. In that moment, a pacer with a sign ran just in front of me. Then I made the decision to keep pace with the pacer. Throughout the whole race there were different pacers for certain times you wanted to finish. Then it hit me. Jesus is our Pacer. He knows exactly at what speed we need to keep up with in life because everyone has a different race to run at their own pace. It is easy to fall into comparison game when other people run at a faster pace, but maybe that’s the pace Jesus has set out for them. Either way, we all have a pace we need to run to remain steadfast. Though, we are not alone. God sets out the race before us while Jesus helps set our own individual pace and is right there alongside you.
The final phase of a marathon is one that is attached to the three prior phases. Prayer. When you plan make sure to pray about it. When you prepare make sure to pray during it. Pray creates a focus of attention. Prayer brings us present. Prayer is giving it to God in this process. When you are in the persevering phase prayer becomes the center. Prayer allows you to persevere. Humanly thinking we want to give in and quit early. I know for me on long run days around mile six I would mentally quit, but then pray and praise God in the process. The result of this brings energy, new clean breath, stamina to increase endurance.
Finally, shift your focus from your physical suffering to someone who has endured way more suffering. Jesus our Savior has gone through all our human weaknesses yet did not sin. He endured temptation and tests while never compromising his moral character because of His relationship with the Father.
“Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.” Hebrews 2:18 NLT
Jesus has gone through way worse suffering than we ever will. One, he endured forty days and nights in the desert all relying on the Holy Spirit. Jesus was flogged forty times without making a sound (when I get whipped by a jump rope I scream). Jesus was nailed to a cross and hung there for hours. Jesus had to be separated from God to pay the punishment of sin.
When we put our focus on Him. We become stronger because Jesus was triumphant over all those! Yes, He suffered in the moment but became our champion. When we focus on Jesus during our running. Devoting ourselves to Him becomes a sign of worship. We place our focus out of us and have the capacity to keep going resulting us to finish strong. Then we will receive the Heavenly prize that is ours at the end. This is thinking of His P.O.V (point of victory)
“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. And let us run with endurance the race of God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.” Hebrews 12:1-3 NLT
Life is hectic and rushed. One day we feel that we are in a good cruise control. The next way out of control and wish time would slow down. Either way time goes by and we need to find our specific pace. Refer to the “Embrace Grace” post about pace. If you desire to find balance in your life and to feel steady as life continues to get uneasy. You must look to a source that is steady, never changing, and always by your side. This is Jesus Christ. He teaches you how to handle life but also how to pace it particularly to your individual personal life. Everyone has different agendas and timing. God has a specific path for your life and Jesus is the source of life to help guide you and pace you along your daily life! Then you will have more energy and the ability to self-regulate as you go. The center of your day to day pace. Jesus Christ, your center and pacer.
Recap: life is the marathon. Not the race itself. Plan out your life. Write down what you want to accomplish. Prepare by reading and learning. Persevere when it gets difficult. Pray constantly and focus on Jesus, he is your Pacer. Focus on what Jesus endured for you, so you can be a conqueror.
-Plan, Prepare, Persevere
-Pray prior and in between
-Believe what you pray and say
-Perspective: Shift your focus on what He endured to help you endure