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Finishing The Race

If you are reading this article on the Saturday morning that the Logan Herald Journal is printed, I am likely still on my bike riding in the Utah-Cache Grand Fondo. In case you are unfamiliar with this, it is a race and recreational ride through Cache Valley for distances ranging from 35-104 miles.

Depending on your conditioning, you could possibly complete the 35 mile ride without any training. However, the longer the ride, the more beneficial the training will be. My training has consisted of spin-classes over the past year and an increasing amount of time on my bike in the weeks ahead of today’s race. Both time and a certain level of discomfort and pain are necessary not only for training but to also push us on to the finish line.

Does “time and a certain level of discomfort and pain” describe your impression of what is required for you to successfully walk with God? If so, then you may be approaching your walk with God with the same apprehension that we might have in seeing Trenton hill on our ride. Why hadn’t I trained harder? But while training will help me on my ride, it isn’t what will get me over the finish line in my walk with God. Let me explain.

There are many false impressions on what is necessary to enable us to finish well in our walks with God. In doing a Google search for what would be helpful or necessary, one suggestion was, “We come to know God as we serve Him and keep His commandments.” Another said, “To walk with God you must read His Word every day. Walking with God also involves talking to Him.”

Serving God, keeping His commands, reading His Word and praying are certainly all good things, but they can misdirect our understanding when it is implied that they are “necessary”. We’ve started off on the wrong foot in understanding how we are saved and how we are to walk with God whenever our spiritual walk with God is reduced to a list of things that we are to do.

First, in Paul’s familiar words from Ephesians 2, “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” (8–9) Understanding that salvation is a gift to be received rather than something earned helps refocus our thinking.

In Paul’s letter to the Romans he describes the difference between the wage and the gift saying, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (6:23) The wage we have earned because of our sin is death, but the gift that Christ purchased for us is eternal life. Our default position before God is to receive the wage that we have earned, death. However, the good news is that through Christ we can choose to receive the gift of eternal life.

Consider this for a moment. Our pride can tell us that we deserve the gift because of our hard work, our training, our keeping the rules. Furthermore, experience tells us that “there are no free lunches” and even if there were, they certainly wouldn’t be as good as the one that we can buy with our own money! We train hard for the race, we’ve worked hard for what we have, it is only the weak that need this “free gift”, this handout. Or so we think.

The problem is that unless we see that we are weak and helpless, unable to save ourselves, we will not be able to finish the race. Why not? Because the hill we face is too great for us to conquer in our own strength. So, how are we to walk with God? “We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith… Think of all the hostility [Christ] endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.” (Hebrews 12:2–3)

The Psalmist reminds us, “His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.” (Psalm 147:10–11) To rest in the finished work of Christ is not only the way of salvation but it is also what enables us to finish the race.

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