In this encouraging piece by Anthony Luxton we are challenged to consider what it takes to persevere through challenging seasons; how focusing on God rather than our circumstances can make all the difference, and why Trypraying provides a conversation starter with a difference.
Written by Anthony Luxton, Pastor at Dunfermline West Baptist Church
‘Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us’ (Hebrews 12:1)
As a keen adventure athlete I have been fortunate enough to finish many races of different distances and difficulties. I have learnt that the longer and harder the race the more I wish I had prepared better. For example, in “the Heb” Adventure race, a multi discipline two day adventure race around the Hebridean Islands, my lack of cycling training caught up with me on the second day as I experienced deep pain in my knee which led me very close to dropping out. Last year, after completing the Ultra Trail Snowdonia race, a gruelling 50km mountain run with over 3,100m of elevation, despite being pleased with finishing, I felt I could have run harder and faster if I had trained better for the distance. Over the years, I have experienced the disappointment of dropping out of races due to overtraining and getting injuries or not finishing as well as I would have liked due to lack of training. I have learnt that the finish line is only as enjoyable as the work you put into racing well.
As I contemplate the upcoming months, and the general overbearing feeling of fatigue and uncertainty, it raises the question: what does it take to stay in the race that we as Christ’s disciples are called on? How can we run our race in such a way that we can say with the apostle Paul: ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.’ (2 Timothy 4:7)
Sadly many begin their race well, full of enthusiasm and good intentions, but finish poorly. As we move though times of conflict and adversity it is easy to feel disconnected from the energy and excitement that fuelled us in the beginning. This is no different in our race as followers of Christ. We must learn to run the race with perseverance and joy through the varied seasons of life.
The writer of Hebrews outlines that the key to running the race well is:
‘Looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2)’
If we wish to finish our race well, and to persevere today, than we must remain firmly focussed on Jesus rather than the circumstances. It is often our everyday habits that reveal where our desires lay. In practice our desire for God grows as we try to live according to his desires. David Ford writes that ‘The taste for God often grows by living, almost without realising it, in ways that please him.’ In this life God has called each of us on a journey that is sustained by His faithfulness and hope.
As we enter into the Lent season we are particularly reminded of hope filled perserverance as Jesus’ hunger is set against his desire to be the Son of God, in whom God is well pleased (Matthew 3:17). Jesus was tested with the world’s strongest desires for ‘physical satisfaction and comfort, for power and influence, for reputation and success without the cost that gives them substance.’ Ford goes on to say that Jesus’ ‘obedience is in recognising that he himself is God’s desire and that everything else in his life should be in tune with the desires of God.’ As Jesus embodied what it truly means to desire God we can learn from his example and make the space to get closer to God.
Recently I have been involved in the trypraying mission (trypraying.org) which invites people to begin their journey in real and meaningful relationship with God. It is an helpful conversation starter that is rooted in the depth of the gospel message. It recognises that prayer is a journey where we can meet with God and grow in him. Trypraying offers a 7-day guide that helps seekers get started on their journey of faith.
At Dunfermline West Baptist Church we will be engaging in the trypraying “Use it and Lose it” campaign where, on the 3rd April, churches will be encouraging the fellowship to engage in a week of praying and then sharing their journey (and the booklet) with a friend. During the Lent season we will also be following the 40 days “Catching the wave” resource (https://thereishope.co.uk/40-days/) to encourage and nurture prayerful habits in our lives. There are many resources like these which lay a great foundation in developing lasting habits that allow us, today, to focus on the goal of Christ with perseverance:
Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.