A Common Goal
Heb 12:1 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,
Heb 12:2 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.
It was obstacle course racing weekend this past weekend and again, many lessons or parallels to be drawn; even more so once I sifted through all the photos I took and some of the videos we captured of the day’s action. If you would bear with me a little, I’d like to share it here with you.
This race was on a local Ostrich farm here in Cape Town South Africa, and as everyone knows, with the local drought, the conditions were rather extreme. Part of the beauty of obstacle course racing is the fact that the venues always change, so the natural elements are never the same, even if there are similar elements such as water, mud, sand, forest etc. it is still never exactly the same.
For the running part of the race the sand was very thick, think dune running… the dust was everywhere especially with obstacles such as the tire push and pull. No wind, so this dead weight of heat and dryness, and a relentless unforgiving sun – and yet, when we look at the photos and videos, all we see is laughter, good humor and loads of support.
As I posted the various small albums to social media I hear the Lord speak to my spirit and my eyes started to be enlightened concerning our walk of faith and the church of God.
As gathered from the above scripture passage, we all see that we have a race to run, we all enter on it by faith the day we give our lives over to Jesus, and start this journey. It is not a race for the swift, as in all truth there is NO competition! Yes, you read right, in this walk of faith, there is no competition. It is not about who podiums first as we all podium, it is not about who’s the fastest, but who completed every obstacle and did it obeying the rules and guidelines set out for how it is to be conquered. This race is for those who endure and never give up no matter how many times over they have to do an obstacle in order to move on to the next – and everyone battles the elements.
Now looking at our faith walk, firstly – we each have to exercise our own faith in order to not just face, but overcome our own individual obstacles, we cannot rely on the faith of someone else to do it, as they can’t do it for us, we have to scale that wall, swim that crossing, balance on that beam or slack line and so on. They can cheer us on, they can give us advise and hints on how to do it, they can even show us how it’s done, but it is still up t us whether or not we take the advice, follow the instruction and whether we take that step and tackle that obstacle and keep at it till its overcome.
OCR is not a respecter of persons, just as faith is not a respecter of persons, every athlete has to do the work, has to stir up their courage, has to sweat and battle and bleed and finish with their band intact. We all have to exercise our faith, we all have to act on that moment faith is stirred in our hearts to do something new, we all have to continue to obey and walk by faith.
Secondly – we all face the same elements. Here in CT at this moment we all face the water crisis, and all of us have to obey the guidelines set out in order for all of the citizens to benefit from the water we do have left. We all have to trust the Lord that He will send rain, we all have to repent and change our way of life and operation for God to bless our country again. Word wide we all face economic struggles, political struggles, educational struggles, violence, chaos and mayhem and we all have to turn our hearts and minds to the Living God so that we can walk in accordance with His will and stimulate our faith in the unseen and keep at it until it manifests in the natural. We can move from country to country if we want to, but if we don’t get our thinking and perspective right we will face the same frustration wherever we go as these frustrations are real, worldwide. In this same way, even in an OCR race, if your band is cut because you couldn’t do the obstacle exactly as stipulated or if you just couldn’t overcome it this time, you go back to the training field in the weeks to the next race, and then you tackle it again, and this time you overcome. With the Lord it’s the same, we face a test or trial of our faith, we might not get everything right, but if at the end of that trial or test we still believe in the Lord Jesus and we still serve Him while heartedly and confess His name, then we have come through with flying colors. We stay in the Word of God, we continue going to church and we continue walking in obedience, when the next test or trial comes we will overcome the things we couldn’t previously and God will get all the glory once more.
Thirdly – we need each other. Those who are stronger and finish “first” need to come back and carry those who are weak, and help them, encourage them, build them up and help them through until they too are strong and can help others.
Th 5:14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.
Romans 15v1 We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves
In the races I have often, actually every time, noticed how the elite finishers will either re do the entire course with a friend, or because a fellow athlete is struggling somewhere on the course, and then they will walk and talk them through the obstacles all the way to the finish line, or to where the friend or fellow athlete can continue on their own – this reminds me of the work of the Holy Spirit, He is the teacher and voice who talks to us and helps us on our journey through life, without Him we can do nothing. And even during their own race, elites will encourage each other, sometimes even wait for one another at an obstacle and then continue. There’s no miserable meanness and derogatory comments – they each have a thorough understanding of the toughness of it all and what it takes emotionally and physically and mentally to conquer each obstacle and move on to the next. So yes, they do go into the race to make podium, after all that is why God created sport –
1Co 9:22 To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
1Co 9:23 And this I do for the gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.
1Co 9:24 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.
1Co 9:25 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.
1Co 9:26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:
1Co 9:27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
But, as the Apostle Paul writes here, they do know how to be what others need so they too can make it through.
Now looking at these few basic pointers, is this not what church is? Or is supposed to be? No competition, we all enter in on this race by faith, believing the great and precious promises of Jesus. There’s no late starter and first finisher – yes someone goes first but because we all have to take part and we all have to finish, God does not distinguish the way that we do. Someone goes first so the rest of us can see what it is and how to do it, but we all still have to do it. One person’s faith isn’t better than the others. Ones walk is not more difficult than the others as we are all dealt a measure of faith and we all have to use that measure to face what we have to face. (Rom.12) We as men rate it, because in our minds we can’t do what our neighbor does, yet, he feels the same about us, so in the end, the pressure I went through to trust God to overcome a ‘rope climb’ which for someone else is nothing, for them scaling the wall takes the same effort and faith as it took me to climb the rope, even if I find scaling the wall easy – there are also certain sufferings we are called to which others aren’t, and so we fill up in each other that which is lacking. How beautiful. Then there are obstacles that we don’t all face as we are taking part in different divisions. So some will have to scale the wall, others will scale it being permitted assistance and others will not have to scale it at all – it’s the same with the different worlds we orbit in – for someone in fulltime ministry will face obstacle someone in business or sport won’t need to, those in business and sport face things those in ministry won’t have to, the artists have things they face others don’t have to and so it goes, yet we all have to use one thing that is the same, faith! We all have to do it by faith, so we might as well encourage each other and build each other up, because at the end of the day, what pleases God is faith, not accolades, not being there first or being the best, but faith.
Love, pleases God even more, doing it all in love, for love is the principle thing, so even if we did use our faith, if we did not love our brother along the way, if we did not sacrifice some comfort to love a brother along the way, if we did not love the unlovable by accessing Gods love by His Holy Spirit, then well, even our faith meant nothing. (Rom.5v5 and 1Cor.13)
This is why I love OCR so much because I see it all happen there, even if none of them see it, that doesn’t matter, to the pure all things are pure, and God can teach us from anything, as long as we are willing to hear His voice, and see what He wants to show and reveal.
It is a privilege to be part of a sporting community that operates like this, even if I’m only the photographer, it is still a privilege.
It’s a privilege to see your own child become part of a community like this, so he gets to experience it in church and outside thereof.
We need church; we need it because firstly it connects us even more closely to the Head, Jesus. (Eph.1v22-23 and 4v11-16) If we are not part of a church we are like an amputated limb lying somewhere rotting, because a limb can have no life of its own unless it is connected to the source – the body- and it has the myriad of sinews, muscles, tissues, blood vessels, veins, skin and so much more in working order. The blood circulates and brings life, healing and health to the limbs. The Head, Jesus directs the body and its limbs on where and how to move and do things. In the church our focus is Christ, we all have to hear Him speak to us individually as well as corporately. And yes we suffer hurt in the body of Christ, have you never poked your finger in your own eye, or when jogging kicked your own ankle, or bit your cheek or tongue, or pulled your own hair… come on, be honest, we have all harmed our own body either by being silly, or by accident or deliberately – why are we so surprised when it happens in church? We are all human after all.
The church is also a family and even in a family husband and wife can offend each other, children can bicker and argue over useless nonsense and take offence – is it that much different in church? Don’t we all have to learn to put others first, not be doormats, walk with a sane estimation of self, exercise our faith, overcome things and receive healing and so the list can go on. So why do we run from it? Why do we harbor our offences so much? Why do we expect a tap on the shoulder every time we do something?
A specific scripture struck me this past week – Luke 17v7 – 10, it sounds very unfair, but just think on it a bit….
Is it really unfair of Jesus to expect a mature form of life and thinking and behaving from us?
So back to OCR – this is what I see there, race after race and training session after training session – maybe it’s just that we are blessed to be added to a group of people who display these characteristics of Christ, but nonetheless, it is still a wonderful constant reminder of how we ought to live our lives of faith in Christ and in the church – support, encourage build, warn and walk an extra mile with a fellow believer or brother in Christ… even with those not yet part of this family, walk patiently till they come in.