July 23, 2017
READ: 2 Cor. 11:16-12:10
I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm (11:27).
In 1983, a sixty-one year old potato farmer named Cliff Young showed up for a gruelling, weeklong ultramarathon from Sydney to Melbourne—in overalls and work boots. He shuffled off the starting line as the much younger and athletic runners sprinted ahead. Soon he was miles behind. Spectators feared for his health. But that night, as the other runners slept, Cliff took a quick nap and kept going. Five days and five nights later he came in first—ten hours ahead of his closest competitor!
The apostle Paul also wasn’t the most orthodox champion. He wasn’t the best speaker and he sometimes lacked the gracious spirit expected from a church leader (Acts 15:37-40; Galatians 2:11). He confessed he was the worst of sinners and suffered from a humbling “thorn in [his] flesh” (1 Timothy 1:15; 2 Corinthians 12:7). His enemies added to his struggles, beating him with whips and stones (11:25).
But Paul chose to boast in his weakness “so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (12:9-10).
Do you sometimes wonder if you’re falling behind in the race of life? Do you feel unappreciated, even scorned for living for Jesus? Do some people scoff at your commitment to Him?
Continue to winsomely show love to the spectators—the ones who are watching you. Remember the steady pace of Cliff Young and the apostle Paul as you run your race. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, so “let us run with endurance the race God has set before us . . . keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
365-day plan: Luke 9:28-45
Read 1 Corinthians 9:19-27 to learn how we are to run the race God has called us to run.
Where do you feel like giving up? What do you need to believe, hope for and love in order to stay in the race?