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Rule #4 - He who endures shall receive a crown

The beginning of a proper response to frustrating circumstances is a clear recognition of who's in charge.

On the final training run, one of the coaches read a quote describing what separates regular runners from marathoners. It read, "If you just want to win a race, you run the 100 meter dash; but if you want an experience, you run a marathon." A marathon is an endurance race. At this time in my life, God had me training for a marathon, helping me to learn the importance of endurance. It took serious discipline to get up every Saturday, sacrifice my time and continue my own individual maintenance runs. I'd played team sports and run in events that required me to be agile and quick, but preparing for a marathon was totally different. The analogy here was simple - each and every day is a test of endurance. To endure means to carry on through; to tolerate, to bear. The Christian life is not always easy. There are times when we have to tolerate, to bear. But thankfully we serve a God that is willing and able to carry our load and help us endure. We must submit to His authority.

In preparation for the marathon we gradually increased our runs to 26.2 miles. But we didn't start off running that far on our first day. Likewise, the process of growing in the Lord, or sanctification, is gradual. In addition, slow recovery runs allow our bodies to recover quickly and are less likely to result in injury. How many times have we tried to rush into a blessing or something out of God's order, only to find ourselves "injured" or in a mess? Psalm 127 reminds us that "unless the Lord builds it" our work is in vain. We must move according to His plan. Our walk with Christ is not a sprint and we cannot depend on our own speed. Our growth and learning is a lifelong process.

The training program has a proven methodology for running marathons based on a run/walk approach. At certain intervals throughout the run we would take mini-walk breaks. The walk breaks were a valuable tool in building endurance. They allowed our legs to stay fresh longer, enabling us to increase the distance of the runs each weekend with less fatigue. To regulate the ratio, each group had a pace group leader. The leader bore the watch signaling the run/walk ratio and would tell us when it was time to stop and walk and when to resume running. It seemed as if just when I felt ready to speed up the leader would tells us it was time for a break; or when I felt like I needed a break we continued to run for what seemed like an eternity. Aren't there times when we think we need to be going "faster" than we are in life and others when we're not where we think we should be? And what about the times we feel as if we need a break but God is telling us to keep on moving? God, our ultimate pace group leader, knows when we need a break and when we need to push ourselves.

An example from Numbers 9:15-23 reveals that we aren't the first to question our "pace setter." As the Israelites were being led through the wilderness, they were to watch a special cloud in the sky, to break camp when they could begin moving and follow it wherever it led, and to camp again when the cloud stopped. The point of the narrative was simple. When the cloud moved, the Israelites were to move. When the cloud stopped, they were to stop. With the mass of people whose pace was directed by that cloud, there must have been at least a few who felt insensitively treated. The way God arranges things sometimes seems uniquely designed to frustrate us. A tire goes flat on the way to the hospital, the sink backs up an hour before overnight company arrives, a friend lets you down during a time when you most need support, you suddenly develop laryngitis the day of your presentation to important buyers. In times of frustration, our High Priest sometimes seems more callous to our needs than sympathetic.

The beginning of a proper response to frustrating circumstances is a clear recognition of who's in charge. To handle frustration by reminding our self how much God loves us is a good second step, but not the first one we should take. We must take our place as a creature before our Creator and then explore the wonder of our Creator's loving character. The passage in Numbers repeats one theme again and again: When the cloud moves, you move; when the cloud stops, you stop. I wonder if God is saying something like this, 'I know My ways will seem to ignore your concerns at times. I want you to trust Me when you feel unusually tired and call on you to get up. I want you to trust Me when you're eager to serve and I put you on hold. But you will never learn to trust Me until you come to terms with My authority. Trust will never emerge from a demanding spirit. Let's start with a clear understanding, I give the orders. You do what you're told. With that as a beginning, you will eventually taste My goodness and the richness of fellowship with Me and come to trust Me deeply.'" 1

To finish this race, it is not necessary to be the fastest or the strongest. To finish this race, you must be able to trust in God and endure until the end.

1. Excerpt taken from Inside Out, Dr. Larry Crabb, pgs. 134-136.

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Rule #1 - You don't have to "look" like a runner
Rule #2 - It's not a competition
Rule #3- Find a good pace group
Rule #4 - He who endures shall receive a crown
Rule #5- Don't look back
Rule #6- Drink water, drink water, drink water
Rule #7- Beware of the wall
Final Thoughts

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