Reduce the Pain or Reach for the Prize

One of my goals this year is to start running more or actually to enjoy running more.I have to run in the military but it has been a long time since I actually enjoyed running. One of my goals is to complete a half marathon and then work up to a full marathon.

I have friends who run marathons and we all believe that running distance is 90% mental and 10% physical.Of course you have to condition yourself but that is also 90% mental.

Once you start running a long distance there comes a point when you start to feel pain. For some it is on mile 4, others it is mile 10, for some mile 21 or maybe even mile number 1 for some of us!!You start to feel pain, pain in your side, pain in your chest, pain in your legs, it is at this point that you have to decide to quit and take it easy or push yourself past your current comfort zone.

This is when the mental aspect comes in.In your mind you may be saying “What are we running for?”“You could hurt yourself?”“Just fake a cramp and no one will notice” “Today is not my day to run hard.”

The choice here is to lower my goal, reduce my pain and leave my goal for another day.Or I could take the risk, deal with the pain and reach for my goal.

Each of us makes this choice everyday in our lives, in our marriage, in our jobs, in our finances and with our dreams.   The only question is which choice do you make?

“1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God”. Hebrews 12:1-2

Let us look closer at this verse…

There are many examples of “witnesses” Those who have gone before us and faced great overwhelming odds, followed God’s plan and were rewarded their goal.There are also many current examples of people with overwhelming odds, people with disabilities, people who should not have been able to accomplish something…but they did.They overcame their pain and reached for the goal.

“Let us throw off” This is not like eating at a restaurant and pushing the menu aside.This is like throwing the whole meal on the floor and saying “Get away from me!”

A radical determination to see this through.What do we throw aside?Everything that hinders another translation says “weight”

This is not necessarily sin.This could be good things that we hold wrongly.Money, authority, privilege.These things aren’t the problem, he didn’t say get rid of these things.He said enjoy these things, enjoy your family, enjoy your success but hold them in the right context with the Lord.

Notice it is not these things that hinder us but how we let these things affect us.Can a person be wealthy and use his wealth for good?Funding missions?Supporting Christian causes?Hosting fund raisers?   Sure.

Can that same person use wealth wrongly?Putting money before God?Spending time away from his family chasing money?Use money for sinful causes?Yes.

It is not the things but how these things affect or hinder us.That’s the problem.If it weighs us down, it is a problem.In cycling, people will spend thousands of dollars to take a few ounces off of their bike.This sounds crazy to us, but to cyclists it makes all the difference.It slows you down from getting the goal.

How these things affect our lives can weigh us down, make us lose our focus, you can’t respond the way God wants us to respond, you get tired, worn out, these weights just weigh us down day to day.

“Every sin that so easily entangles us” A sin is wrong because it is wrong, it is always wrong.Sins cause us to stumble on our race to the goal.The difference between a weight and a sin is that a weight weighs you down and slows us down; a sin causes us to stumble or fall.Some people stumble many times and they stumble over the same sin habitually.Some people stumble and fall and don’t get up.They stay fallen in the sin.

We all will sin until the day we die but we can’t play with sin, we have to deny it, we have to throw it off and run the race and we don’t know how long our race is.We don’t know the day our race will end.

When we look back over our race, we see lots of great moments, our wedding, our children being born, special moments we’ve spent.But, we also have lots of pain, moments where if we could have seen it coming, we would have avoided it, but we couldn’t so we had to go through it.Some of those are the dark, painful moments of our race and we often don’t like to think back on them but if we are truly honest with ourselves, those times were the best times when they finally ended.Not because they ended, but because we learned something and got something going through those painful times.We threw off the pain and ran on.

Pain will come and go, but we don’t have to let it stop us.A doctor once told me “There are two kinds of pain.Pain that is permanent and pain that is temporary.”If the pain you are experiencing is permanent than stop what you are doing, if it is temporary, it all depends on you?How much pain are you willing to endure to reach your goal?The funny thing is both feel the same, sometimes we think temporary pain is permanent; we try to tell ourselves that.

How much pain is our goal worth?This is not an earthly goal, it is an eternal goal.Eternity with God, what is that worth?How much pain are we willing to endure for that?

People tend to withdrawal from what is difficult, in this race of life, I have seen many people and have faced this myself, who when faced with difficulty back up and go the other way.You may feel a call to work in a certain area, we may want to follow one of your deepest dreams and passions, or we wish we could be more financially in control.But, when the pain comes, we go the other way.I know times I have done this, and this is what I have learned; if we live life running from difficulty, we are making a huge mistake.

We end relationships and marriages because of pain.We become a slave to our jobs and money because of pain.We don’t follow our dreams and passions because of the pain of change, possible failure, and criticism.We back up from the pain and go a different direction and then justify our decisions with excuses.

We cannot grow and avoid pain.There will be more pain in our race.If you let pain grab your attention, it will take your focus away from the goal.Some people have no tolerance to pain at all, as soon as pain comes, they say “I’m done” and sit on the couch and make no progress in that area until it feels comfortable again.These people also have a hundred excuses why they couldn’t do it but not one reason why they could do it.

Lance Armstrong who is not a Christian but has endured much physical pain and has overcome great odds, defeating cancer and then going on to win the Tour de France 7 times said this:

“The difference between winning and losing is not speed; it is who can endure pain longer.”

The people next to Lance hurt just as much as he does, yet they quit and he pushed on through the pain.There are all kinds of pain in the world but the only permanent kind is sin, the rest is temporary.

” Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”- 1 Corinthians 9: 24

Win your race, not my race.We each have to run and win our own race, whatever race God has given us.Live our lives to win the race and in the end we get the prize of spending eternity with God.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” - Ephesians 2:8-10

Some of us choose to run races.Some of us choose to master our finances.Some of us choose to exercise and live a healthy life.But God chose our race for us in advance.This is his personal race for us, we didn’t choose it, he did.He planned all the pain in our race for a reason, to help us grow to be worthy of the prize.

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”- Philippians 3:12-14

Do we have to press to read this?Press means there is some sort of resistance involved.We must press, reach and endure for the prize.

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” - Hebrews 12:2

What did Jesus do?He focused on the prize, he ran the race, he endured great pain and he won the award.He endured the cross for the joy of the goal, the prize.The prize is us, our sins and our eternity.Jesus is our example.

So how will we run our race?How will we deal with the pain?Will we raise our endurance?Will we reach the prize?Jesus set the example for us and not only did he set the example but Jesus runs the race with us, inside of us, he feels our every step, our every pain and he is there to encourage us and cheer for us.

Jehovah Shamah means “The God who is There” It doesn't say where he is, wherever you are, there he is.During the race, in times of joy and times of pain, he is there.

“I will never leave you, I will never forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

So we have a choice, you can reduce the pain and skip your prize or you can endure the pain and reach for the prize.Remember that most of the pain we endure is not permanent but the person God is shaping through this pain is. We all have to make this choice, we all have to decide our level of pain, and we all have our own races to run.

I choose to go for the prize.