The farther I run away from the place where God dwells, the less I am able to hear the voice that calls me the Beloved, and the less I hear that voice, the more entangled I become in the manipulations and power games of the world. —Henri J. M. Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son
Can you imagine showing up to run a marathon and being told it’s a free-for-all? You just run in whatever direction you choose, and after 26 miles you’re done. I don’t imagine many people would finish.
One of the requirements for a race is that someone must go out before the runners and mark the course. Whether it’s a 5K or a 100K, someone maps the route.
Repeatedly, New Testament authors describe the Christian life as a race. In this race God maps the course, so we want to make sure we’re running the right one.
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1b)
The Greek word for “perseverance” is agone. We get our word “agony” from agone, which gives us a hint as to how hard the race can be. Life in Christ can be agonizing, but it doesn’t have to be.
This week we want to know: Can we enjoy this life of faith?
Everything feels great when we start—we’re full of energy and excitement. But as we turn the first corner, the path splits into two options: the Pleasing God Trail or the Trusting God Trail. Which route is the one mapped by God?
The Pleasing God Trail is all uphill. This route will take effort and be agonizing at times, as we have to muster our own strength. We can circumvent the entire globe on the Pleasing God Trail, only to end up back in the same spot, exhausted and spent. Why? The million ways we try to please God are not part of the race God has marked for us. The Christian life is about trusting, not trying.
If we’re in Christ, then we will finish the race. The question isn’t “Will we make it?” but “Will we enjoy it?” If we run the Trusting God Trail, I believe we will.