I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. Acts 20:23-24
In the book of Acts, the Apostle Paul described his life as a race to be run or an obstacle course to be completed. Indeed the events in his ministry show that his life was one wild adventure! Paul understood that God had set out a path for him to travel (literally and figuratively) to proclaim the gospel, bringing thousands into a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. His life had a singular purpose—and his goal was to complete his task with all the energy and vigor his body could muster.
Yesterday, a wonderfully talented writer and blogger finished her own race as the Lord called her home. Sara (Gitzen Girl) was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease many years ago. As her condition progressed, the everyday freedoms we enjoy and often take for granted were denied her. Sara’s mobility decreased until her debilitating and painful illness left her housebound. Despite her daily struggles, she focused on Christ and his promise to sustain her. Sara’s blog, Choose Joy gave her the opportunity of witnessing to thousands as she described her daily dependence on the Lord. Her day-to-day testimony showed what following Jesus is all about. A button on her blog reads “No moment from my God is a rock of burden—it’s just a rock waiting to be broken apart into stepping stones.” Sara chose joy instead of wallowing in the circumstances of her physical limitations and in doing so, she gave perspective and hope to countless others.
A similar story of faithfulness, despite a long road of hardship, is seen in the life of Joni Earekson Tada, who became paralyzed after a diving accident. For Corrie ten Boom, and Louie Zamperini, God’s provision during times of imprisonment and persecution became the basis for their powerful testimonies. In the lives of still other believers like Billy Graham, and Dr. J Vernon McGee, their days were marked by dedicated and faithful service to the Lord. Although these examples are quite well known, most believers are not called into public ministry. For the typical Christian, the sphere of their influence is limited to the people they know and the people who know them. Does that mean that public figures have a more important testimony to share? Not at all. If you take a good look at the lives of believers, you’ll find that each one of us is running a different race. No two tracks are exactly alike. God gives to each of us our own path to run on. Some routes have great lengths of level ground in cool weather, while others appear fraught with inclines—all uphill, in hot and humid climates.
Now on casual reflection, we might say, “Well, that’s not fair. Why should she have it so easy while I have to suffer with….” You fill in the blank. I know I have. And when I do, Jesus gently reminds me, “What I am doing in her life, is between me and her—not you, me and her.” Part of trusting God is accepting that the individual circumstances of our lives are allowed for reasons known only to him—and that the course he maps out for each of us to run, will be specifically designed to draw us closer to him and to reflect our relationship with him to others. Our testimony is not just what we say, it’s how we live during the good times and the bad times—it’s how we treat other people and it’s how we respond to situations that frustrate us or cause us grief. Our road is unlike anyone else’s road, and how we travel it, says who we are in Christ. When our way is dark and our path unsteady, the book of Hebrews offers this advice:
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. 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. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Heb 12:1-3
These verses offer a treasure trove of encouragement. First, we are admonished to keep a sharp eye out for things that would slow us down or make us fall. Second, we are reminded that our specific path is marked out for us, so we shouldn’t waste time complaining or worrying about how our path differs from that of our neighbor. Third, we are told that Jesus has already run this race, so he is our example to follow. He will give us whatever strength we need to endure until the end.
Ultimately, the race is about our legacy—our life’s testimony. Did we finish well? What did we value? What did we pursue? What did we fight for? To whom did we run?
In a song called Legacy, Nichole Nordeman sings, “How will they remember me? Did I choose to love? Did I point to you enough to make a mark on things? I want to leave an offering—a child of mercy and grace who blessed your name unapologetically.”
Jesus calls us to make a mark—that points to him—in all that we say, in all that we do, in all that we are.
Our lives on this planet are so brief when compared to eternity, and we have precious little time to make a difference. Sara used her life to make eternal investments in the lives of others. And yesterday, she ran across the only finish line that matters, to the glorious words of her Savior, “Welcome home!”
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Tim 4:7
Linking up at SomeGirlsWebsite for Thought Provoking Thursday.
On the journey toward Home,