Lent Devotion: March 28th
1Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.
Many years ago, I joined the cross country team at my high school in upstate New York. It was no picnic! Training was grueling, and we competed on all kinds of terrain and in all forms of weather. Cross country was an unpretentious sport compared with football or soccer, and not many came to watch. Yet the faithful few would always stand at the sidelines and cheer us on. And most importantly, our coach would move around to various points along the course, offering lots of advice and encouragement.
Many races were held in frigid conditions, often in rain or snow. Yet we still had to dispense with the warm clothes we used for training so that they would not wear us down. (When it was especially cold, we used warming cream on our arms and legs.) When many teams ran simultaneously, we learned to constantly focus on the next bend in the course and strategize how we could move ahead of the pack so that it would not slow us down while turning. In addition, cross country races actually required teamwork: only the first five runners on a team would score points, according to their positions at the finish line, in an effort to achieve the lowest team score. But the sixth and seventh runners (often including me) could still help by getting ahead of runners from other teams, forcing their team scores higher.
Each of these features is an important illustration for today’s passage. We must not be complacent regarding Christian discipleship. It requires perseverance, repentance, teamwork, and encouragement from others. But most of all, we must never lose sight of the goal: our Lord Jesus Christ, who endured a far more difficult race, and who now stands at the finish line to welcome us home.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, as we near the end of our Lenten journey, may our vision of the crucified and risen Lord come into ever sharper focus. Give us new strength for the lifelong journey still ahead. We pray through him who has paved the way. Amen.
Peter Ford has been an RCA missionary for 35 years, focusing on helping Christians better understand Islam and develop positive, Christ-honoring relationships with Muslims. He is currently serving in Beirut, Lebanon, with his wife, Patty, teaching at the Near East School of Theology.