Fake Stuff Can Kill

We should always prefer the real stuff—however it is presented—over the fake.

I have no doubt that quite a few of you who are reading this have heard about the multitude of studies linking the fake stuff we put in our food to all sorts of bad things. I am amazed at the wealth of information out there regarding some of the additives we place in food and deleterious effect on the human body. Before I go too far, here is my disclaimer: I’m not a nut! I don’t think everything ever made in a lab is necessarily bad for us. But I do know that there is good, solid, scientific evidence for some of the stuff that is in our food that can kill us. Or at least really injure us.

One of my sons can not have red food coloring. If he has this red food coloring—well, lets just say he looks like “Dash” in “The Incredibles”! He’ll run around like a crazy man. He’ll stand on his head on our couch. He jump off stuff. He’s a maniac when he has red food coloring. He can’t control himself. That can’t be good for his body. He gets in trouble. He doesn’t prosper. He becomes a real mess.

Just as one of my sons can’t have red food coloring and be normal, the church can’t expect to be prosperous if it settles for fake stuff. Let me explain.

I’ve seen some uncharismatic men in the pulpit. And their delivery was passionless (or at least appeared to be). They were dry, slow, and some would say boring. But they absolutely needed to be in the pulpit. They were gifted and people prospered under their teaching. I’ve seen very charismatic men in the pulpit. They have the winsome personality I would love to have. They meet people and quickly make them close friends (or so it seems). I’ve seen men like this—and the ones I’ve seen should NEVER be in the pulpit. (There is nothing wrong with being charismatic. But if charisma is all you have, then stay out of the pulpit)

I’ve sat at the feet of at some of the most gifted teachers in Christendom. I’ve learned from them many different things. Most of all I’ve learned about selfless service. These great men of God—Dr. Jim Mook, Dr. Thomas Edgar, Dr. Mark Meyer, Dr. Todd Beall, Dr. George Harton, Dr. Ken Quick, Dr. Dan Mitchell, Dr. Ed Hindson, and many more—taught me that serving in one’s giftedness is more important that simply serving somewhere. When a gifted person is plugged in where he/she is gifted, watch out! Now all my teachers are very different in their approach to teaching and their style. Some are not as charismatic as others. But each one is authentic. And the students who have studied under them have prospered.

You see it isn’t what we see with our eyes that matters. What matters is the heart.

God told Samuel not to look at outward appearances when choosing a King. God said He looks differently than man. Man looks at the outward appearance—how attractive, “king-like” a person appears. But God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).

When the church chooses fake stuff—whether that be a preacher who shouldn’t be preaching or a teacher who shouldn’t be teaching—because they are just sooooo cool and charismatic, the church is in trouble. When we choose the smooth style of Mr. Charisma over the authentic but perhaps charismatically challenged preacher/teacher, we’re in trouble. (This is not to say that every person who is charismatic is bad. Or that every person who is not charismatic is good. These are broad generalities)

We need to look as much as we can on the inside not the outside. Is the person I’m sitting under truly called of God to that position? Is he authentic? Does he really care?

Sometimes we can get the answers directly. If a man claims to be a teacher but has never submitted to a teacher, we should have great pause. In order to teach one needs to be taught. If a person is a self-trained person, that is reason to be cautious. Being self-trained isn’t necessarily bad, but it can be.

I truly believe that to be a Pastor today requires a seminary education. Yes, REQUIRES a seminary education. Why? The proliferation of false teachers and false teaching screams for those in the pulpit who have been tested and tried at the highest level. And a good, solid seminary will test a person before he becomes a Pastor. A Pastor needs to be able to address these false teachings and horrible interpretations of the Bible that false teachers spread. We need pastors who can pass on what was entrusted to them (2 Timothy 2).

Would we trust brain surgery to a self-trained medical doctor? Or how about someone who was trained in veterinary medicine? How about someone who graduated top of his/her class in gardening school? Would you want them messing around in your noggin? I wouldn’t. Well then, why would we allow an untrained man to perform soul surgery on us? Why do we allow an untrained man teach us truths that were written in a culture far removed from our own or  in languages far different than our own? I am convinced that Pastoral ministry is the only “profession” where an advanced degree is seen as a hindrance.

But this isn’t just about Pastors. It is about everyone. When we choose based on appearances we are rejecting God’s model of looking at the heart of a person. When we want our building to look “just so” or our music to be “just this” we are looking at the outward. When we want to program worship so that there is a specific response at a specific time we are trying to be the Holy Spirit. Whatever happened to God moving in the midst of His people? Why can’t God simply be God and we simply worship Him? Sure we’ll worship differently but so what! Some may raise their hands in worship. Others may close their eyes. Me? I usually close my eyes and sing while holding one of my children. And I imagine in my mind that my heavenly Father is doing the same to me.

How cool would it be if we left our preferences at the door of church each week and simply enjoyed the fellowship of the saints of the preaching of His word?

The church has far too often embraced the appearances rather than the true. I’d much rather sit under a charismatically-challenged person who is a selfless, heart-full, compassion-full, grace-filled man rather than the most eloquent, charismatic fraud. The ineloquent, charismatically-challenged authentic Christ-follower will always bring life, love, and liberty . The fake, while he may give a little “sugar (or red-food coloring) high” for a while, will always bring about death, division, and degradation.

Choose the true. Look at the heart. Live authentically. Serve God only.

Wet Feet, Deep Faith

While our life’s journeys take us to different places with varying degrees of difficulty, we need to always remember that God is always in control.

What is the fascination I have with water? I love listening to water running. I love to listen to water flow in a stream or river. I love waterfalls. I love the sound of water. I love the feel of water. I love being near water. And don’t get me started about the beach! The salt air, the waves beating against the beach, the salt air…ah, the beach! Flowing water has a calming effect on me.

But I’ve noticed something about water in all my time studying it. It can’t support my body. If I step into it, I sink. If I try to float on it, I sink. When I try to swim, you guessed it, I sink. I sink like a rock. I’m sure there is a mathematical equation that explains why I sink. I don’t really care about the scientific explanation; all I know is that I sink when I get in water. Oh, and by the way, I don’t have gills, I have lungs. I need gills to breathe under water…lungs don’t work well when filled with water. But I do like to get my feet wet. I do like to play in water. I just don’t like to sink.

Life can sometimes seem like the place we are and the place we need to be are separated by a wide gulf of deep water. Other times it seems like we are a little boat getting tossed around on an angry sea. Sometimes I wonder if I’m gonna sink…you see I can’t swim well and if I enter deep water, there is about a 100% chance I’ll sink. It seems though that God often calls me to get into water. Deep water. Have you ever felt this way?

How do we act when God calls us to believe Him to provide a way for us when there seems to be no way? Do we act on His call or look at our circumstances? Sometimes, I’m ashamed to say, I’ve focused on the raging waters around me instead of God’s voice calling me to the opposite shore. For all my bluster, I can be such a coward sometimes. But God works with this coward and glorifies Himself in and through my weakness.

Do you remember when God called Israel out of Egypt? He led them through the desert. He fed them, He protected them, He went before them and was an ever present God.As they were fleeing, the Red Sea was between them and their destination. God said you belong “over there”. Behind Israel was Pharaoh with his army of chariots pursuing them. In front of them, blocking their path forward was the Red Sea. Oh boy! There’s nowhere to go, nothing to do but die.

God decided that He would call Moses to do something that seemed odd.

“Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the sons of Israel to go forward. As for you, lift up your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, and the sons of Israel shall go through the midst of the sea on dry land.” Exodus 14:15-16 NASB

So God says to Moses, stretch out your staff over the deep water of the Red Sea and I’ll take of the rest. All of Israel will pass through on dry land. Now the text isn’t clear where Moses is standing but I think Moses was in the water a little bit because he needed to stretch out his staff “over the sea” not toward the sea. So, if I’m right, Moses got his feet wet while God parted the water.

Pharaoh was pursuing Israel and was pretty close to overtaking them. But God took care of that too.

“The angel of God, who had been going before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them. So it came between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel; and there was the cloud along with the darkness, yet it gave light at night. Thus the one did not come near the other all night.” Exodus 14:19-20

Right after this, Moses did as he was commanded, the waters parted, Israel passed through and Pharaoh pursued. But the waters didn’t stay open for the Egyptians. God closed them, drowned them and blessed Israel. God continued to lead Israel to the Promised Land. He continued to lead them where He had called them.

This journey, as you know, took a lot longer than previously expected. But after 40 years wandering in the desert, Israel came back to the Promised Land. Moses has died, Israel sent spies into the land to take a look, found Jericho, met Rahab and returned. The nation was at the Jordan River. At this time the Jordan was overflowing its banks. So here we go again. A deep, wide body of water separated Israel from the place where God called them. If I had been there the coward in me would be looking at the water, not my destination. I would hope that my faith would defeat the coward in me.

So what happened?

“Now the LORD said to Joshua, ‘This day I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you. You shall, moreover, command the priests who are carrying the Ark of the Covenant, saying, ‘When you come to the edge of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan.’” Joshua 3:7-8 NASB

So God tells Joshua He will demonstrate He is with Joshua the same as He was with Moses. He tells the priests to get their feet wet while carrying the Ark of the Covenant. Do you notice something? God said “get in the stinkin’ water!” Well, maybe I’m paraphrasing and interpreting things a bit. But I imagine God was pretty emphatic with His command to proceed, placing their faith in Him and Him alone.

“So when the people set out from their tents to cross the Jordan with the priests carrying the ark of the covenant before the people, and when those who carried the ark came into the Jordan, and the feet of the priests carrying the ark were dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks all the days of harvest), the waters which were flowing down from above stood and rose up in one heap, a great distance away at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan; and those which were flowing down toward the sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. So the people crossed opposite Jericho. And the priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan while all Israel crossed on dry ground, until all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan.” Joshua 3:14-17 NASB

So the priests dip their feet into the water. They begin to walk in, believing God would take care of things. God parted the waters, just like He did at the Red Sea. Israel went through on dry land. The overflowing river dried up. God did it. But the Priests and Israel placed their faith—and exercised their faith—in God. They got their feet wet.

But what about us? We can see how God acted towards Israel, but what about us? We are not Israel, we are the church. What about us?

“Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone. But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.’ Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.’ And He said, ‘Come!’ And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, ‘You are certainly God’s Son!’” Matthew 14:22-32 NASB

Do you see what happened here? The disciples are in the boat, a sea is buffeting them, and they see a ghost on the water. Jesus tells them not to worry it is He that they see. Peter calls out. He says “If you’re really Jesus, tell me to come to you.” Jesus says “Come on out, Peter.” So what does Peter do? He got out of the boat, and walked toward Jesus.

Don’t miss this: the wind is “contrary” and the boat is being “battered” by the sea. It wasn’t a glassy smooth surface. It wasn’t a nice, calm boat trip. Imagine a stormy sea. And yet Peter got out of the boat. He walked toward Jesus. When Peter began to focus on the effects of the storm, he began to sink. Immediately Peter called out to the only One who could save him. Jesus saved him and asked Peter what he doubted. They got into the boat, the wind and sea calmed down.

Peter got his feet wet. He acted on Jesus words, just as Israel acted on God’s words at the Red Sea and the Jordan River. In these three incidents both Israel and Peter were faced with some difficult if not impossible circumstances. God had called them to these circumstances. God had called them to these places. And God determined to glorify Himself through His people Israel and through Peter. You know what? God wants to glorify Himself through you.

We can have seemingly impossible circumstances confront us. Sometimes when God calls us to a new place of ministry, there is a wide gulf of water between us and our destination. When we stand on the shore facing our “promised land”, what are we to do? When we are in our boat getting blown about by the vicissitudes of life, and our boat is getting swamped by the waves of difficulty and the unknown, we must act on our belief in God. We see our Savior and He calls us to get out of our boat—our security “blanket”. What will we do?

Faith isn’t some theoretical thing. It isn’t something that is impractical. Faith is the verb of our belief. What we believe will show itself in the action of our faith. We must act on our beliefs or those beliefs really are not our beliefs.

Do we believe that God calls us to a destination to serve Him? Do we believe God will provide for us when circumstances oppose us? Are we pursued by the enemy of faith while facing deep waters ahead? Do we sometimes get afraid when we are faced with stormy seas?

While our life’s journeys take us to different places with varying degrees of difficulty, we need to always remember that God is always in control. When God calls us to a new place, we need to go without worrying about the circumstances. Yes the circumstances might cause fear to creep in. And that is OK. What we need to do when that happens is to have our faith defeat our fears, not the other way around. He has called us to this place for a reason. He will glorify Himself in our lives. We must be willing to act on our beliefs—to willingly choose to follow His call into the water no matter how scared of water we may be.

After all, waters never part until our feet get wet.

Dancing in the Desert

Finding joy in the desert—in the trials of life—is possible if I focus on the purpose of my trip through the desert of life.

When I was in the Marine Corps we used to have maneuvers in the Mojave Desert once a year or so. I don’t recall how often they were because getting chosen to “play” the war games was a hit-or-miss proposition. Once one could go, another time one could not go. It was uneven selection to say the least. We (the peons) gave these “games” a derisive title to demonstrate our displeasure. We chose that sarcastic term to note our displeasure with being in the desert. If selected for these war games, one could count on living with snakes, scorpions, and other creepy-crawlers as well as 100+ temperatures during the day and really chilly temps at night. The food—well, let’s just say the enemy didn’t always carry a rifle! One year I got to “volunteer” to participate. It was…well I was there.

During the games I had occasion to speak with some real whiners. I mean, these guys whined about everything. At one point I got so annoyed with the whining about everything that I asked them “Why did you enlist in the Marine Corps if you didn’t want to do stuff like this?” Their answer? “We didn’t have anything else to do so we joined. But we didn’t think they (the Marines) were really serious about the war stuff.” And yes, they were serious!

I looked at these guys and shared a bit of wisdom I had gleaned through my intense (but short) Marine Corps career: “Since you’re here and you’re not going anywhere else for the near future, why not make the best of your experience?” That fell on deaf ears since they kept whining. But the neat thing (for me) was that I out ranked them. So I got to tell them to go do the menial tasks that no one else wanted to do. That is what happens to whiners in the desert (or anywhere else). If one whines, one will be sent away again to an even more unpleasant place. This made their journey in the desert more distasteful. Instead of finding something positive in their desert experience—and there were some fun things that happened—they chose to look only at the negative. They chose to learn nothing, enjoy nothing, and really to take steps backwards in their respective careers. Isn’t that sad?

I’ve come to the conclusion that Christians sometimes do the same thing as these two Marines. Sometimes we whine in the desert of testing when we should be dancing in that desert. I know I have done this. Hopefully I’m learning to enjoy the time wandering, knowing that God is still leading me. But it can be tough.

When Israel was led out of Egypt, they wandered for forty years in the desert. Looking at a map one will discover that the Promised Land was not really that far from Egypt. So what happened? They decided not to trust God to give them the land that He had promised them. They were afraid of the inhabitants. So God said “Fine, out to the desert you go!” And they wandered. And wandered. And wandered. But they didn’t just wander. God fed them. He provided for them. Oh yeah, they whined about this too.

Now I know that wandering in the desert isn’t fun or really all that pleasant. But whining about it does not serve any purpose. God had taken them to the desert for a purpose. And He was going to achieve His purpose. So whining and complaining about it wasn’t going to shorten the journey, only lengthen it. So why did they complain and whine? More importantly, when God has taken me through these desert experiences, why have I complained and whined? Ouch! It always stings when things get personal!

The battle is with selfishness

I’ve come to the conclusion that one of my biggest battles—if not my biggest battles—is with selfishness. I want my way when I want it. God, being the heavenly parent that He is, decides when (and if) I should have something or go somewhere. I, on the other hand, am His whiny little brat wanting my way. Will complaining about the desert get me out of there quickly? Or, will learning my lesson and moving forward get me out of there quickly? Well, I think there is third, better option. And I’ve just learned this recently. Perhaps I’ve learned this lesson through just the amount of time I’ve spent in the desert of life. Maybe it just took longer to get through my thick skull. I don’t know why this lesson took so long to sink in, but it has finally sunk in. And it is a good one. At least I think it is a good. What’s the lesson you ask? What have I learned? I’ve learned not to whine in the desert. But that isn’t all there is.

Don’t just endure – EMBRACE! – the desert

I’ve also learned not to simply endure the desert. Sometimes when we don’t want to whine, we hunker down and simply endure what is happening. Simply enduring is a good, but not the best, attitude I should have. So what kind of attitude should I have now?

How about enjoying the desert experience? I mean, hey, I’m in the desert. It is hot, uncomfortable, and unpleasant. It is difficult to walk in sand. Why should I find joy in this?

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,  knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4 NASB

It seems so simple. The purpose of the desert is to perfect me. Why has this simple truth eluded me until now? It is because I’m a selfish person. I want my way when I want it and how I want it to happen. God has been burning that out of me all these years. Now it isn’t all gone and I’m not sure if it will ever be all gone in this life. But I’m less selfish now than I used to be. But I’m more selfish than I should be. But let’s return to finding joy in the middle of the desert.

The desert where I have existed really revolves around where I live and how I minister. I used to think that I needed to live in a “Red State” to be really happy. (a red state is considered more conservative politically) I live in a very “Blue State” (quite liberal politically and socially) But I’ve learned that living in a “Blue State” can be quite fulfilling. There are innumerable opportunities to share Christ and His gospel rather than the gospel of political conservatism. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m still a very conservative person politically, socially, economically, and theologically. But only one of those subjects is really important to me. Only one affects me for eternity. The rest are just temporary.

I also used to think that being a Pastor was the best thing for me. In fact, I felt it was the ONLY thing for me. Boy, was I wrong! Now I still think I fit as a Pastor. I still believe my gifts and abilities fit well with being a Pastor. But I don’t need the title. I’ve learned that the title is nice but not absolutely necessary for me to exercise my gifts. I’ve seen the destructive power of lusting and demanding a title in men I’ve known for years. It isn’t pretty. And I don’t want to be like that.

So finding joy in the desert—in the trials of life—is possible if I focus on the purpose of my trip through the desert of life. There are snakes, scorpions, and other creepy-crawlers in the desert. It is hot, difficult to get traction sometimes, lonely, and desolate. And an absolute joy to visit so that I may be more like my Savior.

Learning to enjoy the desert experience is difficult but oh so rewarding. It takes time to learn tis truth but once learned it is never forgotten.

I look forward to the desert now. I look forward to the difficulties. I look forward to the heat. Yeah, I enjoy the desert now. Not for the experience, but for the result. Instead of whining and complaining about the desert experiences of life, I’ve learned to dance in the desert.

I enjoy the desert now. Not for the experience, but for the result.

A Race Worth Running

Even with all the aches and pains that go along with running

this race, it is a race worth running.


Years ago I used to love to run. I didn’t like to run for speed but for distance. I always tried to run farther and farther each time I would run. I really didn’t care how long I took to run, I just enjoyed running. After a few knee surgeries, a broken ankle, and aches and pains that come with getting older, I began to make excuses. The pain I felt running outweighed the joy I got by running. To me running in a race against myself just wasn’t worth running anymore because of the pain it caused.

Have you ever felt this way about life? Have you come to a place where you are ready for the world to stop so you can get off? I’ve been there. I get tired of some of the junk of life and those who shovel it around. But each time I get discouraged, my mind is brought back to a particular passage of Scripture that encourages me. I hope this encourages oyou.

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2 NASB


Whenever we see a “therefore” in Scripture, we need to know what it is there for. In this passage the author of Hebrews had just penned the “Hall of Fame of Faith” in chapter 11. That forms the basis of this passage. The “therefore” in v. 1 makes us look back on chapter 11 and remember all these persons of faith. Were they perfect? Had they lived an easy life? Uh, the answer would be an emphatic “No”. In chapter eleven you had a liar (Abraham), a murderer (Moses), a harlot (Rahab), and an adulterer (David). Perfect? No. Easy livin’ folks? No. But all listed as ones who lived their life by faith. So how does this affect chapter 12? Let’s take a look.

“since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us…”

The author states in v. 1 that we have a “great cloud of witnesses surrounding us”. These witnesses must the ones listed in chapter 11. The “therefore” in v. 1 makes this so. So the author is saying because of these witnesses surrounding us, we should do some things.

Before we get to the things we should do, what are these witnesses doing? Well picture a stadium filled with these witnesses. Now picture you are running on the track below. The witnesses are so much cheering you on as much as they are inspiring you on. They are examples of those who ran their race by faith. This life run by faith should inspire us to look for the One in whom these folks placed their faith. I believe that all these lives, if properly understood, point not to themselves but to the One who perfected them.

“let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us…”

First we need to lay aside everything that encumbers us. This is clarified by the next phrase “and the sin that so easily entangles us…” Do you have something that is always tripping you up? Get rid of it! The idea is not that we are sinless or perfect. In fact the text makes clear that the runners have sin issues. If you want proof, just look back at chapter 11. The idea here is to strip off anything and everything that causes us to stumble. So if you have issues with things on the internet, get off the internet. The same goes for TV. No matter what it is that causes you problems, you must get rid of it. After all, isn’t your love of Christ greater than your love of whatever thrill received through a particular sin.

Now recognizing a sin and ridding oneself from that sin are different things. Recognizing sin should be pretty easy. At least I want to believe it should be easy. Sometimes sin can become so ingrained in us that it is hard to recognize it. Has that ever happened to you? Honestly it has happened to me. Sin is sin no matter what we call it. We can get a little too comfortable with sin, can’t we? Well the author says that we need to get rid of these encumbrances and the sin that “easily” entangles us. We have to make a decision to rid ourselves of THAT sin. And once we rid ourselves of THAT sin, we need to move on to the other sins that will invariably come to the forefront.

“let us run with endurance the race …”

We are to run with endurance that which has been laid before us. Look at this again: run with endurance. We are not to run quickly, crazily, or in spurts. We are to run with endurance. The Greek word for endurance here is hupomone. It means “to remain under”. The idea is to remain in the stressful situation and not to look for an escape. This is the essence of endurance. Staying under pressure until the pressure achieves its purpose. Does this hurt? Yeah. Would I rather not be under pressure? Honestly, no. I have learned to embrace the difficulties. I’ve learned that the pressure is meant to purify me. While the pressure is not so pleasant, I’ve learned that it is necessary if I am to mature as a believer.

Have you learned to embrace the difficulties of life? Perhaps you have a “Mr. Helper” like me. He (or she) is always looking to remind you of past failures, real or imagined. These folks are everywhere. They have no other reason to live other than to try to knock you off your stride. They want to discourage you. They want to stop you. When you have a Mr. Helper in your life, embrace the challenge. And rely on your family in Christ. We need to be about encouraging one another, especially when there is a Mr. Helper involved.

“that is set before us…”

So endure as you run your race set before you. Did you see that? You don’t choose your race course. It is set before you. Your race—the road you take in life—may be quite different than the race set before me. That is fine. Actually that is better than fine! God is sovereign and we need to recognize that fact. When we submit to His sovereignty, things that previously made no sense and discouraged us now become part (somehow) of God’s plan for us. I can rest in His sovereignty knowing that nothing surprises Him.

“fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, ”

But not only are we to put off sin and run with endurance, we are to fix our eyes on Christ. We are to place our gaze on Him—the One who authored our faith and the One who will make our faith complete. That is a “for sure” thing. So what is the bummer here? Through trials and tribulations our faith is perfected. We will one day be perfect. That day may not be today, but it will surely happen. It is guaranteed to happen.

“who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Jesus, who is the one who authored our faith and the One who will perfect it, is our example. Just like Jesus endured the cross with its shame because of the joy set before Him, we should all endure the temporary pain of running this race of life because of the joy that is set before us: we are being used by the creator of the universe in glorifying Him.

So, have you had a tough day? Week? Year? Are you finding the pressure of life getting to you? Do you have a Mr. Helper who just loves to ridicule you and harass you? Well, you’re in good company because if you don’t have struggles and difficulties, you need to examine if you are even on the race course. Those who are engaged in the race of life will have difficult times. We will struggle. We will be tested. And we will be refined. The refining process, while hot and pressure filled, is rewarding. So submit yourself to the sovereignty of God, stand up, live under the pressure with grace. And experience God perfecting the faith He has already given you.

Even with all the aches and pains that go along with running this race, it is a race worth running. Run your race well.