The Race

by Sheri Schofield

Dogsled racers from all over the United States have headed to the snowy, ice-packed mountain slopes here in Montana. When they all come together, the dogs go wild with excitement. They know it’s time to race! Many dogs jump straight up into the air, barking, eager to race. One by one, the teams approach the starting point. Only the voice of their own master counts to the dogs, for each team begins separately down the icy trail. Finally, their master shouts, “Hike!” They’re off on the 350-mile Race to the Sky, a pre-qualifying race for the famous Iditarod in Alaska. The crowd cheers and waves.

Temperatures hovering around zero degrees – or lower . . .camps set up in the snow . . . running until they are exhausted . . . Yes. But the dogs are full of excitement! They have been training for this race for months. They have learned endurance.

The Apostle Paul compares the Christian life to a race.Therefore, 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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:1-3, NIV).

What is the “everything that hinders” that we are supposed to throw off? It’s a very personal thing. I recently identified something that needed to go for me: my local newspaper! The political gossip was pulling me down and distracting me way too much, pulling my thoughts in a direction that was not profitable for my ministry. Though I would miss the cartoons, I cancelled my subscription, so that I could focus on my writing and teaching, for I am training a group of young leaders at church who need my attention.

I haven’t seen a newspaper in weeks now, and guess what? My focus has improved! My writing and teaching are better. My stride in the Christian race upward is stronger. For I have thrown off the weight that was holding me back.

That was an easy fix. But not all solutions are so easy. What happens when the weight is a relationship? A person? More thought must go into that, for we have to ask, “Has God put this person into my life as part of my training or my endurance development? Did God assign this person to my team? Am I supposed to make adjustments in order to work better with him? Or is this person simply draining the life out of me and holding me back from serving God?”

It is not easy to know that answer! Relationships are complicated. Only God can tell us what to do, and our own bias can influence our spiritual hearing.  Somehow, we need to find both truth and love in our answer. Even when we do, others might not agree with our decision. That’s why it is so important to keep our eyes on Jesus, our ears tuned to his voice, our own will surrendered to His will . . . no matter what the cost. When the Master calls “Hike”, we must throw off the weight and hit the trail. There’s a race to win!

 But this one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13,14, NIV

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The Race – thoughts on #FollowingGod from Sheri Schofield on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

sheri schofieldAbout the author: Sheri Schofield is an award-winning children’s author-illustrator and children’s ministry veteran of 40 years. Sheri was named Writer of the Year in 2018 at the Colorado Christian Writers’ Conference for her work in effectively sharing the gospel of Jesus. Her ministry, Faithwind 4 Kids, can be followed on her blog at her website, http://www.sherischofield.com. Questions welcomed!

Read Sheri and her husband’s amazing story in One Step Ahead of the Devil: A Powerful Love Story. Thrust into national politics because of her husband’s work, Lissa McCloud struggles to save the life of the man she loves from those who are bent on his destruction. Based on true events, the reader is taken deep into the heart of national politics –all the way to Congress and the President of the United States.

Join the Conversation: What is God prompting you to throw off?

 

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Keeping Focus

By Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

You may have heard of Eric Liddell, whose story was portrayed in Chariots of Fire. But there was a second runner in the film, Harold Abrahams, who was no slouch athlete either. He broke a world record in the hundred-meter dash and won both gold and silver medals in the 1924 Olympics.

Early on, Abrahams learned an important lesson. While out front in a race, he had made the mistake of glancing back at the other runners, costing him precious tenths of a second. He vowed to never do it again. On the day of his gold medal run, he kept a short reminder in his pocket written by his coach. It read: “Only think of two things, the report of the pistol and the tape. When you hear the one, just run like hell until you break the other.”

There are plenty of things to look at when you are headed down the track. Abrahams looked back at the other runners. Other racers might focus on the track itself, noting its imperfections and possible difficulties. Still others might look back at the distance already covered. But to run most efficiently, a runner must focus on one thing: the finish line. A runner’s focus makes all the difference.

We, too, are in a race of sorts. As we run, we also benefit from where we train our gaze. My tendency is to look at my fellow runners. From the outside looking in, they always seem to have it together, at least more than I do. They are wiser and so much more spiritual than I can ever hope to be. They have such a large platform and have been published so many times. Comparing myself to them can be downright discouraging.

Sometimes I focus on the track. Where I am headed is uneven and contains hazards and pitfalls. I am fixating on the logistics of the race instead of the reason I am running.

Another misguided focal point is where we have already been. The runner who continually looks back on the distance he has covered is looking in the wrong direction. As he congratulates himself on his progress thus far, he loses sight of the remaining race yet to be run. It is a temptation for us to rest on past laurels rather than continuing to move forward.

Peter experienced the damage a lack of focus can have. When Jesus called him out of the safety of the boat to walk across the water to him, he quickly obeyed. Things went swimmingly well at first (forgive the pun) as Peter set out toward the Lord. However, when he began to be distracted by the howling wind and mounting waves, his steps began to falter. Peter began to sink, until the Lord reached out and saved him. Had Peter kept his focus on the One who had already calmed a storm, the One who created the water and waves to begin with, his trek would have ended much differently (Matthew 14:22-33).

Hebrews 12 urges us: “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith…” (NASB). Jesus stands at our finish line, having already run and completed the race before us. He alone provides perfect inspiration for the runner. He faced the same rough track with all its pitfalls and never lost sight of his end goal: the joy of crossing the finish line.

Keeping our focus where it belongs is a discipline to be learned and practiced. Harold Abrahams sliced off tenths of a second in mastering that skill, and it won him a gold medal. Our reward for doing the same is this: “Consider Him… so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim…  1 Corinthians 9:24-26 NASB

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Keeping Focus – In Life and In Faith – insight from @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the authorJulie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Her award-winning book, Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed through Jesus’ Conversations with Womenwas published in 2013 by Thomas Nelson. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

Join the conversation: What most often discourages you as you “run”?

Keep Running

by Karen Porter

We attend a lot of cross-country running events to support our grandsons and the local high school team. We often shout encouragement, “Go past that guy in front of you” because one of the ways the boys do well in a race is to concentrate on the runner in front of them. When they overtake that runner, then they focus on the next one. Soon they have moved up in the race enough to come in first.

Lately I’ve read several Bible verses that remind me of those cross-country races.

Paul wrote to his protégé Timothy, “This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you” (2 Timothy 1:6 NLT). Paul understood the great spiritual future available to the young Timothy. But he also knew that it wouldn’t happen unless the young man pursued every opportunity to grow in the knowledge of God and to develop the gift of God. When I discover and run after God’s plan, I am moving closer to His purpose for my life.

God wants us to go after Him like a runner running from behind. Chasing the target of becoming more like Jesus. How is that goal working out for me? Am I more like Him than I was ten years ago? In some ways, I am more like Him. I have developed some of His traits such as my desire for spiritual growth, and I’m better at reading the Bible and talking to others about my faith. And while I’ve grown in other areas too, I still need more patience and kindness along with other Christ-like traits such as being quick to forgive and thinking less of myself and more of others.

Are you running after the Lord like a runner in a race?  Paul encourages us from the sidelines, “press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us (Philippians 3:14 NLT). Pressing on means we don’t quit when we feel tired or discouraged. If you are like me, you wake up some mornings with no desire to run. It’s on those days that we should take deliberate steps to pursue him such as read His Word or listen to praise music.

And if I’m honest, I admit that I sometimes pursue God for the wrong reasons. Sometimes chasing Jesus for some elusive reward, as author Lori Roeleveld wrote, “we are not turning to God to be with God. We’re turning to God hoping for a big payout.” Chasing God means we want to be in His presence more than we want anything else.

And as we run, he runs along beside us saying, “You can do it! Keep moving!”

“Search for the Lord and for his strength; continually seek him.” Psalm 105:4

karen-porter-About the Author: Karen Porter is an author, speaker, coach and successful businesswoman. She coaches aspiring writers and speakers and is co-owner of Bold Vision Books. In her spare time, she pursues her life-long goal of finding the perfect purse.

 

Free Book Contest!  Arise Daily will use a random number generator to pick a winner from today’s comments. To enter our contest for Karen’s book,  Get Ready, Practical Ideas to Prepare You for Ministry,  please comment below.  By posting in our comments, you are giving us permission to share your name if you win!  If you have an outside the US mailing address, your prize could be substituted with an e-book of our choice.

 

Join the conversation: What opportunities has God given you that you have responded to with a “yes”?