Scripture

Hebrews 12:1b-2a …let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith…

The recent XXII Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia drew the world together to celebrate international competition, competitors, and the myriad of countries and cultures. The games also featured the host country Russia—its heritage, history, and geography. As we focused in on the games themselves we were enamored with the ages and races, the shapes and sizes of the contestants, and their interesting personalities. Thanks for the media and network coverage, we were able to catch glimpse of individual journeys and stories. It was a great delight and treat to be part of this history making event, complete with the beauty, the ingenuity, and the pageantry of the opening and closing ceremonies.

Downhill skiers, skaters, shooters, long distance racers, jumpers and sliders performed on the grand stage to showcase their heroics and superhuman feats. We witnessed their artistry and athleticism, their finesse and power. We saw the unbelievable aerials—twirls, spins, tumbles. We beheld their laser like accuracy, sheer speed, and intricate choreography, athletes pushing the limits of their bodies and their wills. We cheered and experienced with them the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. We marveled at those who competed in multiple Olympics, multiple events, and won multiple medals.

At times, we may entertain fantasies about being an Olympic athlete on the grand stage. Every once in a while I would wish that I was gifted with these extraordinary physical abilities, competing at such a high level, being in the best shape of my life, and being so focused. Yet to reach this level one has to sacrifice a lot, endure hours of hard training, and even struggle through injuries and surgeries. After completing their events, some

athletes said when interviewed, “I’m glad it’s over–the long days of training, the beating up my body, and all the pressure..” Well, maybe being a star athlete it’s not so glamorous as people make it out to be. So perhaps, we wouldn’t want to be a star athlete.

According to Hebrews 12, we are all athletes, spiritual athletes. Our faith requires training, practice, and of course a living out of God’s calling. Lent can be like a time of spiritual boot camp. In our day-to-day quest to complete our courses, manage our demanding schedules, and fulfill our obligations, we encounter challenges and hardships. We go through rough patches, we engage in tough battles, and we dig deep to endure, persevere, and overcome. Each day we face variations on the path, speeding through slippery slopes. We take leaps of faith, glide through some smooth sections, but then hit some bone jarring moguls and unpredictable terrain. Unlike the Olympic Games, the practice of our faith and our Christian journey doesn’t end. We keep on training, learning, and practicing. We keep on running the race, until we cross over the finish line into life eternal.

Prayer

God of all seasons, we find ourselves on the fast track of life, pushing through the obstacles of uncertainty and unpredictability. At times we find ourselves racing against the clock, or competing against others, or simply struggling to finish. We do our best to prepare, we embrace the challenge, and hope for enough energy to endure. Help us to draw on your Spirit to boost us when we are climbing, to have the faith to stabilize us when we are freefalling, and the consistency and pace to grind through the tough sledding. Make us ready to face what is around the corner, to be able to react in sudden twists and turns, and to emerge victorious, through Christ our Savior. Amen.

—Pastor Bob L. Isip


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