What challenges you to push ahead with patient
resolve and steadfastness?
The October weather was cool and clear, perfect for running the Chicago Marathon. The early morning sun reflected off the city’s skyscrapers, and 40,000 marathoners converged on a park next to Lake Michigan.
I waded into the crowd and waited for the starting gun to go off, wearing a T-shirt from an organization called “25:40” which assists children who have been orphaned by the AIDS epidemic in Africa. 25:40 is a reference to the passage in Matthew in which Jesus says that we serve him when we serve one of the least of his brothers and sisters. James predicts that “the coming of the Lord is near” — sometimes very near (James 5:8)!
The gun went off and I moved slowly forward, breaking into a run at the starting line. The course was lined with frenzied fans, screaming encouragement to everyone in the race, and musical groups appeared every few blocks, playing everything from hip-hop to salsa to “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The enthusiasm of fans along the route was contagious.
As the miles dropped behind me, I thought of the many pledges that FPC members had made to 25:40 in connection with my run. Your pledges of a dollar or two a mile kept me going, because I knew that my steps would be translated into lifesaving assistance for the children of Africa. Sure, I was running with endurance, but not the kind of endurance shown by people fighting AIDS every day.
By mile 16, I was starting to feel leg pain and popped a couple of Tylenols. By mile 20, real fatigue was setting in, and this was where images of the children in Africa really began to help me. Whenever I felt like giving up, I thought of their perseverance. Whenever I was about to quit, I thought of what they have to endure. In the end, I ran across the finish line at mile 26.2 ... thinking of the children.
No world records were broken by me that day. In fact, I came in number 10,851 out of 33,125 finishers. My time of 4:01 was almost two hours after the top male finisher! But still, I tried to “honor those who have practiced endurance” (verse 11) by running with perseverance.
I found that the key to endurance was to look outside myself for inspiration and guidance. “Brothers and sisters,” says James, “take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord as an example of patient resolve and steadfastness” (verse 10), or look to “the endurance of Job” (verse 11).
When I thought of the generosity of church members and the needs of African children, I was able to practice endurance. I finished the race for the children and for Jesus, the one who always appears in the least of his brothers and sisters.
God of endurance, help me to run my race with perseverance, always looking to your Son Jesus. Amen.