Yesterday I reached the half way point of my July 2014 Gold Coast Marathon training program. Nine weeks and 900 kilometres from day one to now. The first half culminated with the running of the Perth 32km Race, organised by the Western Australian Marathon Club. It’s a testing distance, and is used by many athletes as preparation for their next – or in my case, first, – marathon. I nailed it. 32km in 2 hours 17 minutes at 4:15km, about 10 seconds per km above my prediction at the start of the program. Very happy with the result and here I am standing with a good Christian mate of mine, Jarrod – a younger faster version of me with hair!
Oh, and a bloody nipple. That’s what 2 hours of sweat, a polyester singlet and ever so slight, barely noticeable chafing will do over 32km. Band-Aids are the way to go for anything over 12km.
But I digress. This morning, less than 24 hours after finishing the race I was up and running in the rain. Day one of the second half of the program has begun. I rolled out of bed, pulled on wet weather gear, laced up shoes, drove to the running track, set my Garmin and got on with it. Why? Because half way is no way. Imagine if I decided after yesterday to rest on my laurels. I can run at 4:15 minutes per km for a long time. Let’s just take it easy. Besides I am sick of these early mornings, sore legs, and lonely intervals sessions. I deserve a break. What do you think would happen? Well, let’s put it this way, I wouldn’t be standing smiling getting a picture of me at the end of the race, that’s for sure.
If you look below the BT Run Club logo on the singlets in that photo you will see the words “run with endurance”. They are words from Hebrews 12. Those words are there deliberately; placed there by the head of the club, Simon, a fellow church planter and our running coach. It’s often a great introductory line – a lot of newbies ask about it, and it can lead to great conversations about Jesus.
But it’s also a exhortation and warning that half way is no way. In the letter of the Hebrews the Christians are thinking of giving up on Jesus, not right at the outset, but half way. They’ve been through some tough times, had their property confiscated, put up with abuse, suffered and seen God work. In other words they’ve done the 32km race at the end of week nine. It’s been a tough program. But now? Now they are tempted to give up half way. And the writer to the Hebrews sets about to remind them – using the example of the Israelites in the desert in the Old Testament – that half way is no way. Just prior to chapter 12 he lists a whole bunch of people who did make it all the way – those who very lives witness to the Hebrews that they should keep going too. Here’s the passage in full:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Half way is no way. Yet the older I get, sadly, I see so many tempted to think that week nine of the 18 week program is a good place to stop. Whether it is specific sin, the promise of happiness somewhere other than Jesus, disappointment with God, coldness of heart, the lure of wealth,general busyness or, as in the case of the audience of Hebrews, a neglectful drift away from Jesus (Heb 2:1-3), the growing trend of middle aged people who abandon Jesus is sobering. We often assume – and often make a point of assuming – that the lure of the world gets its teeth into young people and they are most at risk of leaving Jesus behind. Wrong. When are we most at risk of leaving Jesus behind? Whilst we live in this mortal body. Anytime. All the time. Half way is no way. Yet I’ve met enough people who’ve decided otherwise and it’s heart-breaking. Saints persevere: Aints don’t. There is no other conclusion to come to.
The solution is, as Hebrews says – as our running singlets say – running with endurance. To be honest, yesterday was no breeze. But I had trained for it. I had worked hard for it. With three kilometres to go I knew I had nailed it. I couldn’t stop smiling. I even gave the thumbs up to my mate’ iPhone camera as I ran for the line, trying to dodge a group of walkers who had somehow clogged the kilometre before the finish line.
If an earthly race with a fading wreath (hey, where was my wreath? – Ed) puts a smile on your face, how much more the smile on our face when we run towards the one who is our joy, Jesus, when the finish line of our lives is in sight.
Half Way is No Way: All the Way is the Only Way.