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January 10, 2021 | Doug Sauder
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“Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.”—Philippians 3:13 (NASB)
I bet you’ve heard the expression, “There’s light at the end of the tunnel.” And I bet you count on it sometimes, too! It means that no matter what struggle or darkness we might be in, a way out emerges. Within this moment of seeing the light, new strength, hope, and perseverance push us onward.
But today and for this year, I’d like to offer another perspective. A step back, if you will, from seeing the light. Back to the bend in the road, the hill, the valley–the place where the light isn’t clearly seen. It’s something any endurance athlete can identify with as miles drag on and strength gives out. Tommy Rivers Puzey, an ultra-marathon runner, puts it this way: “The bravest ones are those who keep pushing even when the end is not in sight.” He is referring to those agonizing miles before the finish line. It’s upon those miles where runners tap into their true potential.
Paul seems to be eluding to the light at the end of the tunnel in today’s verse. He makes note that he hasn’t “laid hold of it yet.” To know what “it” is, just scan back a few lines where Paul avows to know Jesus fully. He resolves to share in His sufferings, withstanding and persevering in the power of Jesus, even in his death. Paul lived for the resurrection to come, maintaining he hadn’t laid hold of that yet, but he was reaching for it. Past sin did not overshadow him, nor did he rest in his accomplishments. He ran the race set before him with his eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1–2).
It’s been said the Christian life is more like a marathon than a sprint. Much like a runner’s muscles, our spiritual muscles adapt to injury, fatigue, stress, and strain—always digging in and pushing through. Just remember, in this marathon of life, it’s not always how we’re doing but what Jesus did. Fully grasp that He has already achieved the victory for us, and it’s through His power we run with perseverance.
The events that shaped the past year for us may continue. We may still be at the bend of the road. But we must bravely look forward and multiply strength upon strength. We must strive for the glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Like Paul, we envision the finish line; and though we may suffer, we do so with the mind and strength of the One who is the Light.
PAUSE: How has this past year affected you? Are you weary? Revitalized? Frustrated? Determined? Crazy? Confused? Entrust those feelings to God and ask Him to help you persevere in your faith.
PRACTICE: Do you see others who are losing strength? Given our past series on generous giving, what can you offer to someone struggling in his or her spiritual walk?
PRAY: Lord, we often want to see results, to see the end of something. Help us to realize, Lord, that often the end game is already realized in the present work You are doing in our lives. The word “race,” Lord, seems rushed. Help us to slow down. Give us teachable spirits, Lord, to see Your will and purpose and cause us to run the race so that what we win is to Your glory. Amen.