Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Last Great Race on Earth

Thursday, March 19, 2015
 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Philippians 3:14 (NLT)

There was a story in yesterday’s New York Times about the Iditarod, that 1,000-mile dogsled “mush” across Alaska; it is billed as The Last Great Race on Earth[2] because of the challenging and often brutal weather conditions.  It is not an adventure for the faint of heart!
And neither is following Jesus Christ if you seriously intend to finish the race.
In writing to the church at Philippi the apostle Paul used the imagery of running the race as a metaphor for the life in Christ.  Unlike most “races” where there is only one winner, the course for believers is a lifetime event where all who believe may “win”.  It is somewhat like the Iditarod in that respect; many start but not all finish.  Some drop out when the mushing gets dicey!  And that is sad for the church and the Kingdom of God.
Did you notice how Paul detailed his goal?  First and pre-eminently Paul wanted to press on to reach the end of the race…For Paul that meant planting churches, encouraging the churches he’d started, and giving his life’s wisdom and purpose into the lives of young church leaders like Timothy, so they would be equipped to carry on the work.
As a young pastor I had some “Pauls” in my life.  One of them was a member of my first church after seminary.  Pat was a retired minister with knowledge of God and a passion for people – particularly young pastors. 
He also had a great sense of humor. 
Whenever I preached what he and I both knew was a “less than Sermon-on-the-Mount” kind of sermon, my dear friend would come alongside me, place his hand on my shoulder, and whisper out of the side of his mouth, “something stinks in here”.  Pat could help me be a little less serious about myself, which always helped me be in better focus and balance as a person and as a preacher. 
When I preached Pat’s funeral we carried him around the little lake to the church graveyard, and when we were all in place there was one flash of lightning and a crack of thunder, followed by the worst “frog-strangling” downpour we’d seen in five years.  I knew as we ran for cover Pat didn’t want any more “stinkers” – especially over his tombstone. 
Still makes me smile.
And that is part of this Iditarod of a Christ-follower’s race.  It’s much longer than a thousand miles; this race reaches from cradle to grave, through time and space, all the way to eternity.
For each of us it is literally the last great race on earth.
And we need all the “Pats” who will come alongside us in the long, icy, hard trails across our pilgrim pathway. 

For You Today

Maybe you’ve got a “Pat” in your life.  That’s great!
Now, isn’t it time for you to be a “Pat” in somebody else’s life?

[1] Title Image: By Frank Kovalchek from USA, via Wikimedia Commons
[2] ©New York Times, Enduring the Iditarod as Equals Katie Orlinsky, March 13, 2015

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