What enables you to trust and follow God?
On my 40th birthday, I was challenged by a friend to run the Marine Corps Marathon. I had no experience as a runner, so I thought he was crazy. But I needed a midlife challenge, so I started to run and walk several days a week. Over several weeks, my running increased and my walking decreased until I could run for an hour. And then I ran two hours.
“If you can run two hours, you can run four hours,” my friend said. “If you can run four hours, you can do a marathon.” He was right. Six months after beginning my training, I finished the marathon in a respectable four hours and 12 minutes. I felt as if I had been through boot camp, but my wobbly elation at the finish line made the pain worthwhile.
The Bible doesn’t record it, but Abram may have thought that God was a bit crazy when he issued the challenge, “Leave your land, your family, and your father’s household for the land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1). The Lord was calling Abram to do more than a mere 26.2-mile marathon. God was laying an ultramarathon in front of Abram, one that would take him from Haran in North Mesopotamia to the land of Canaan, about 500 miles.
You need ultramarathon faith to embark on such a journey. This is faith that cannot see the finish line, but trusts that a blessing is waiting at the end. This is faith that cannot anticipate every obstacle, but believes that God is offering guidance along the way. This is faith that cannot always see the big picture, but focuses instead on the path that lies ahead.
Abram couldn’t see the land of Canaan, but he believed that something good was waiting for him there. “I will make of you a great nation and will bless you,” said the Lord. “I will make your name respected, and you will be a blessing” (verse 2). A great nation and a respected name — both are enticing prizes for the one who completes the ultramarathon. But the Lord doesn’t offer these awards so that Abram will feel a burst of pride at the finish line. No, God intends to bless Abram so that he will be a blessing.
This is why we run the race of faith, trusting and following God every step of the way. “I will bless those who bless you,” promises God; “all the families of the earth will be blessed because of you” (verse 3). Blessings are never meant to be grasped tightly and selfishly guarded, but are to be shared with others in a spirit of joy and gratitude and generosity.
The promise of ultramarathon faith is that the Lord will guide us and keep us on the right path, if we trust God to bless us in the long run. This is true whether we start running at age 40, or if we, like Abram, are 75 years old when we begin our journey to a new and better place.
Guide me, Lord, as I run the race of life, trusting you to bless me and make me a blessing. Amen.