Thursday August 13, 2020
Run the Race: Breathing
Hebrews 12:1-2 (CEB)
So then, with endurance, let’s also run the race that is laid out in front of us, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us. Let’s throw off any extra baggage, get rid of the sin that trips us up, 2 and fix our eyes on Jesus, faith’s pioneer and perfecter. He endured the cross, ignoring the shame, for the sake of the joy that was laid out in front of him, and sat down at the right side of God’s throne.
I assume you’ve heard the old adage that too much of anything can be a bad thing. It’s meant to suggest that anything, even good things if they are consumed in surplus—in a way they weren’t meant to be consumed—can produce harm. It’s not the thing that is the problem. It’s what we do with the thing that can be destructive or even deadly.
Now, you may be asking, what does this have to do with racing, breathing, or us running our life’s race well? Let me begin to respond to that question with another question. What is breathing? Breathing is simply the process of inspiration and expiration. We take air into our bodies, and we breathe air out. In our early science and health classes, as children, we learn that we take in oxygen, and we expel carbon dioxide. In this respiratory process in the human body, we take in what is meant to be life-giving, and somehow or another, we produce something in our bodies that can be life diminishing. Moreover, our response is to expel what will be harmful to us. This problem is magnified in a race. When we run, we have to be more diligent about dispelling the carbon dioxide that builds up faster and greater in our bodies. “Strenuous activities such as running,” according to ushealth.com, “cause your muscles and respiratory system to work harder than normal. You require more oxygen and must remove carbon dioxide build-up.”
But this isn’t only a depiction of the respiratory cycle. This, far too often, describes the struggle we have with sin. We take in something that is meant to be life-giving to us—love, pleasure, food, rest, etc.—and, at times, we do something with these beautiful goods and make something that diminishes our lives. The author of Hebrews reminds us that in the Christian life, as we run this race, we’ve got to take in what animates the Spirit and eliminate what suffocates the Spirit. We take in Christ, and expel any extra build-up that we might produce; we get rid of the sin that trips us up. When our process of “breathing” is more deficient in our expiration than it is with our inspiration, it causes us to grow fatigued. We become incapable of running to our maximum potential. In a race, breathing really matters.
In the above text, the word translated as “baggage” refers to a mass so great that it bends and bulges because of the incredible load. In this life, we pick up and carry “extra baggage” that hold us back. They keep us from running our race well. If you can’t figure out what is holding you back, think through the definition of sin from Susana Wesley (the mother of John and Charles Wesley). She says that sin is “whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes away your relish for spiritual things.”
As I close this series, let me offer you this bit of encouragement today from our three themes of alignment, core strength, and breathing. First, let me acknowledge a simple truth. Running this Christian race is hard. Like all running, we get tired and winded in this life. Faith is hard. By faith, we trust an unseeable God against what we can see. We devote ourselves to this God, and we relinquish control of our lives to do this life in partnership with God. That’s not always an easy task. Secondly, you know as well as I, there is just simply nothing greater than a life well-lived in communion with God. We are made for it. Our lives cry out for this relationship, and we need God like we need the air to breathe. There is just none greater.
Lastly, and most importantly, now is the time for hope—maybe now more than ever. But the hope we need is built upon a foundation of faith, and that faith is grounded in Christ. When you find yourselves desperate to find your footing in a world that feels like a free-fall, grab ahold of Christ. Let your rugged, unrelenting, white-knuckled trust in Christ give you the strength you need to find hope. Let it help you run this race well. It doesn’t matter if those around you think the way you choose to run your race doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t matter if others don’t understand. It doesn’t even matter if you don’t fully understand. But I implore you, today, now, choose faith. Align your life with Christ and rid yourself of the things that limit your ability to run with endurance. Choose to run this race well.
- What have you learned from this series?
- How will you improve your performance in this race?
- How can you help others run well as well?
Prayer for Today
God, today, I thank you for giving me the strength and the capacity to run my race well. I thank you that even when I falter, you are there with me. I thank you that you are committed to me and concerned about how I will run. I ask that you grow my faith, that I may trust you better, draw near to me that I may see you better, and help me to root out all of the ways that I would self-sabotage in this race that I may run with endurance and run well. My greatest hope is that when my race is over, I will hear “Well done from you.” In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen!
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