In 2006, I ran the Austin marathon. I had a cheering section of family & friends stationed along the race course for encouragement and I had prepared for this race. As the race began, I was energized and I found someone to run with me for the first 18 miles. However, I was running a faster pace those first 18 miles than what I trained for. My body was not happy with this new pace even though my mind thought I could handle it. The conditions were also terrible with wet, cold weather for the entire length of the race. Discouragement set in as I realized I was not running “my race,” but I kept my feet moving. I thought of the finish line and began quoting scripture to myself like, Philippians 3:13-14 “Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call in Christ Jesus.” I saw my personal cheering section around mile 22 and they gave me an added jolt of energy to keep going. I did complete that race, even though my planning and strength failed at times, the conditions were challenging, and my stamina wavered.
“You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus…” ~2 Timothy 2:1
To be strong in the grace that is in Christ means we are to trust completely in the unmerited favor of the Gospel. “For by grace we have been saved through faith. And this is not our own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works so that no one may boast” (paraphrase mine Ephesians 2:8,9). Do you ever try to live for Christ out of your own strength? Have you ever manipulated circumstances or tried to impress someone by your good works? I know I have many times and the result is usually fatigue and disappointment. I’m thankful for Paul’s reminder to Timothy that his strength comes from Christ alone. We must never forget this simple yet powerful truth.
Paul also tells Timothy that trials will come. False teachers and culture will surround him. Foolish arguments will be tempting to engage in. Paul encourages Timothy to focus on Christ and the Gospel and to read and know God’s Word.
“Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, an offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the Word of God is not bound!” ~1 Timothy 2:7-9
We must build our lives on God’s Word and build His Word into our lives. Only through the consistent reading, study, and application of the truth of the Bible, will we be able to accurately and effectively teach others about Jesus. God promises us understanding if we will come to His Word (2 Tim 2:7). He may not give us the answers we desire, but He promises to be with us and never to forsake us. He asks us to keep “showing up,” to keep reading His Word, even when we don’t feel like it. His Word will give us the stamina we need for our journey.
Paul is nearing the end of his race as a disciple of Christ and imparting wisdom to Timothy about the strength and stamina required to live the Christian life. He instructs Timothy:
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” ~2 Timothy 2:15
Where are you in your “marathon” of the Christian faith? I have not run a marathon in years, but I am in the midst of parenting young ones. I recently came out of a season of discouragement being overwhelmed by loneliness and the mundane. God was gracious to remind me of my need to depend on Christ alone for my strength and to seek the truth from God’s Word for stamina to keep the long-range goals in sight.
Wherever you are in your journey as a Christian, you have been given the strength (in the grace in Jesus Christ) and the stamina (found in God’s Word) you need to finish the race. Will you join me and choose to remember the Gospel & be faithful to reading God’s Word?