Iíve been running a race for 11 years now. Itís pretty much all uphill. Thereís lots of hurdles, my legs have buckled, my feet are sore, Iím winded.
What I view as spiritual failures stare me in the eyes, a monkey that wonít get off my back. Can God use those failures? Yes, but why? I canít see it. The glasses I looked out of at one time are cracked and hard to see out of.
Hate mail still pours in; people are still caught up in their traditions versus what the Bible says; men are still in teaching positions and church leadership positions that donít meet the Biblical standard. Homosexuality has run rampant; anarchy is on the rise; atheism is the new ďinĒ; fornication, moral degradation, and sexual filth are at all time highs; false religions are gaining ground; speaking Godís truth is now labeled as hate; and abominable and vulgar speech, books, and movies are normal for most church goers.
I want to sit on a church pew every so often and just fit in so I can still get pats on the back by others in the church like me, those scared to create a wave in the water, and also to be admired by the world for my tolerance. No worries, no hate, just parrot that I believe and then do nothing to truly take a stand so I can live peacefully with all men. Isnít that the goal? So what if Jesus said He came not to bring peace, but a sword?
Eleven years has got to count for something. Itís a long time. I jumped in quick, studied hard, learned fast, and professed and proclaimed with no fear at all. Learned about false religions and organizations and exposed them. Delved into apologetics even more and combated so-called contradictions in the Bible. I spoke truth about traditions versus Scripture with things like salvation, Christmas, Easter, Halloween, judging, and more. Eleven years is a long time when most wonít even fight on the spiritual frontlines for a month. Itís gotta count for something. Time to pass the baton.
In case you havenít gotten it by now, Iím tired. The past two years for me spiritually have been a rough time. The internet part of my ministry had files corrupted; now going on the third time. Losing work on both my computer as well as where it should have been safely stored on the web. Emails thought to be going out, they have not been. Havenít figured that one out either. So, like a batter striking out several times, the failures around me, I have allowed to overwhelm me. So much so, that I reached the bottom of a valley pretty hard, like, no brakes on the way down. Physical, emotional, and spiritual bumps that slowly weighted me down, dragging me under. So yes, I thought, what the Lord chose to use me for earlier on must have accounted for something, and it does, but the hardest part of the race isnít somewhere in the middle, itís getting to the end. Itís not how you start the race, itís not how you handle the in-between; itís how you finish. Finishing means everything.
As I was ready to go into idle Christian mode, and I let the thought start consuming me, I realized that God sometimes lets a low, or very low, come about you to send a message or get your attention. Sometimes it is just to show you that you need Him, that what you are doing, though sometimes you feel alone, you arenít; and also, that in the end, you need His help and not your own strength to do what He wants you to do. For the most part, we will never know or understand why God allows us to go through things that we do, but two things hold true to that. The first is, He doesnít owe us an explanation. The second is, the circumstances we are dealt, donít change who He is.
So often, followers of Christ forget those two truths when we go through the lows, questioning God as to why it is happening. From the very onset of the Bible, the third chapter, we see where sin entered the world, and the curse is death. So when death comes around, (no it is never a good time, no matter the age of the person), but we know already, in this lifeÖ there is death. It is going to happen. And it is not because of what God did, but what man did. And the valleys and lows, the hurt, the pain, the suffering, the injustices, the trials, the tribulations, the bad times, the hatred, the lost jobs, the lack of money, the friends and family that turn their backs on us, the people in churches that back-bite and cause rifts, and anything else adverse you can name? Well, Jesus said the servant is no better than the master, if He suffered so will we. Look back through that list again, and think of Jesus and His life here when you read each one. So it smacked me in the face:
3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
4 Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.
The struggle is not over; you have not suffered enough, until you have passed on. Period. Itís what Jesus did. Why should I think I am any better? Should I go through life unscathed? What if EVERYTHING harmful or painful to me was let come through the shield of protection He gives? Why do I have a right to complain about the things that do? When He has already plainly shown in scripture that things that will hurt and harm us WILL happen in this life? He put warning labels out there for me, but I forgot about the labels. I forgot what I had read. I let the instructions slip out of my hand and almost let following men into idleness rule over following Jesus.
When I have watched long distance runners doing a marathon, along the way, there are check-points where they receive water or Gatorade to replenish their energy and cool them off, because they are getting tired. But they continue on. Why? Well, what they did up to there doesnít matter. The crowd and cameras are at the finish line, because itís how you FINISH the race. The in-between accomplishments only matter if you finish the race. A runner never strives to stay as good as they were when they first started running, but to improve and get better along the way, and to finish that race. Such is our life with Christ. So I reached a check point. Iím drinking some Gatorade and pouring a bottle of cold water over my head, and keeping on running. Eleven years really isnít very long. I have no clue how much longer I have in this life, I have no clue when I might need another check point, I just know I canít stop running, no matter the cost. Iím human, just like anyone else, and maybe in sharing some of the things I have gone through, where people have looked at me as having it all together; they will see we are all going through life with the same struggles, and hardships in one form or another. Nobody is immune, so the Church needs to be off the bench and in the race, running for the kingdom of God.
1 Corinthians 9:24-25
24 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.
25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.
1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
In His Grace,
Mike Harris Jr.
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