A Marathon not a Sprint (20-04-20)
A Bible Reading: Philippians 3:12 - 14
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
During the past few weeks, we have seen various big sporting events cancelled or postponed. These have included the London Marathon and the Olympic Games. In fact, the marathon was one of the original Olympic events included in the first modern games in 1896, and nowadays over 800 marathons would normally be held around the world each year.
By now, with the lockdown in place for at least another three weeks and probably much longer, we are all beginning to realise that self-isolation and social distancing are going to be here for a while. We are in a marathon not a sprint, and marathons require careful planning, self-discipline and determination.
St Paul had quite a bit to say about athletes. He points out that we need training to build up stamina and we are not to run aimlessly. The runners always have one eye on the finishing line, and they pace themselves accordingly. Nowadays the winners will get the main prizes, but all the other marathon runners will get a medal just for completing the race and they may well raise money for charity at the same time.
What about our current marathon? No matter how fed up we are of self-isolation and social distancing, we need to keep our eyes on the finishing line: we are saving lives by not spreading infection, we are helping the NHS by pacing the pressure on Intensive Care beds, and the end goal is to see Coronavirus brought under control right around the world. This too will take self-discipline and determination on our part.
The writer to the Hebrews tells us to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross…Consider him, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1-3)
When I keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, it gets my eyes off myself and helps me to be more grateful for all the blessings I have even within Covid-19 restrictions; it calms my fears and lifts my spirits; it gives me courage to continue with renewed determination; and it builds faith for the future.
Heavenly Father, help us to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and to persevere even when we find the going tough, that we may share in his holiness. Strengthen our feeble arms and weak knees, so that we will not grow weary or lose heart. May we produce a harvest of righteousness and peace that will be a blessing to others.