Tag Archives: Marathon

Facing the Giants

At that time Joshua went and destroyed the Anakites from the hill country: from Hebron, Debir and Anab, from all the hill country of Judah, and from all the hill country of Israel. Joshua totally destroyed them and their towns.
Joshua 11:21 (NIV)

I sometimes marvel at the fact that Wendy and I are such sports fans. Neither one of us was an athlete. It’s not like we love sports for the sake of sports. You’ll never find us listening to sports podcasts or watching Sportscenter on ESPN. It’s more like we’re the fan of certain teams. We tend to follow our teams, and we only follow the sport as it relates to our team. I know. We’re quirky.

The interesting thing is that when I consider the teams we cheer for there is a certain underdog theme to our choices. Our teams tend to be the ones who rarely, if ever, have won the big one. Our teams tend to have perennial rivalries with teams who are perennial winners and almost always (at least it feels that way) beat our team. This means that winning the big game is a rare treat. But man, oh man, does it feel good when that day finally comes and our team faces the giant and wins.

Today’s chapter marks the end of Joshua’s seven-year conquest of the land of Canaan. The last enemy he and the army face are the Anakites. The Anakim were legendary people rumored to be giants in size. It’s fascinating to note that today’s chapter mentions that there were still Anakim living in the Gath region after the conquest. About 300 years later, a young shepherd boy named David would fight a giant warrior named Goliath, who was from Gath.

It’s also important to remember that 40 years before the events of today’s chapter, Moses and the Hebrew Tribes were camped on the other side of the River Jordan. Twelve spies were sent out to get a look at the land and the people living there. Joshua and his colleague Caleb were the only spies who believed that the Hebrews could take the land. Ten of the spies were afraid to do so because the Anakites lived there. They were afraid to face the giants.

The events of today’s chapter are a victorious vindication for Joshua and Caleb. It took 40 years, but they finally faced the giants and were victorious.

In the quiet this morning, I find myself thinking about the “giants” I have faced and continue to face in my own spiritual journey. When I think about giants, I find myself considering:

  • Sins and fears to overcome
  • Broken relationships to heal
  • Callings to faithfully follow
  • Trials to endure
  • Disciplines to instill and develop
  • Enemies to love, bless and forgive

The author of Hebrews said that our lives and spiritual journeys are like a marathon. My friends who have trained and run marathons tell me that throughout the 26-mile course one might “hit the wall” multiple times and consider quitting. I thought of this as I contemplated the “giants” I have faced along my journey and the ones I face today. There’s always another wall to hit or another giant to face. I guess that’s why the author of Hebrews encourages his readers to “run with perseverance” this marathon of life we’re on.

Joshua and Caleb finally faced the Anakites and won. The conquest was ended. Now for the challenges of dividing and maintaining the land. I’m not sure Joshua had any idea how giant those challenges were going to be.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Hitting the Wall; Pressing On

photo by Josiah Mackenzie via Flickr

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Galatians 6:9 (NIV)

This past weekend I had the opportunity to hang out with some old friends from high school. They all ran together on the cross country team back in the day. Running was never my sport. I  tried it one year, but it wasn’t my thing. Nevertheless, I learned a lot from hanging out with runners. Once in a while, the guys would attempt a marathon. When they would talk about their experience with the marathon they would talk about “hitting the wall.” It’s the point at which they would fatigue mentally and physically to the point of wanting to give up. If they could gut it out and continue on they would get a surge of energy and  a dose of “runner’s high” to carry them on, but they often would hit the wall and bail out.

I’ll be honest. This morning as I read the words “Let us not become weary” my heart said, “Too late.” I am feeling weary. I am hitting the wall. Don’t worry; I am not weary to the point of giving up as Paul admonished, but I have come to realize along the way that there are certain stretches of the faith journey in which weariness sets in. It is inevitable. In a marathon, everyone hits the wall at some point.

It was in worship yesterday morning that I truly realized it. The tears started and wouldn’t stop. It was a good thing. It’s one of the things that worship is meant to accomplish. We need moments to pour it all out so that God has room to re-fill us. For me it is not one major thing burdening me but a host of little things that, en masse, have worn on me. It is what it is. I’ve been here before. I will be here again. When you run a marathon you’re going to hit the wall at different points along the way. You push through.

Today, as I start a new week, I am hitting the wall and pressing on.

Chapter-a-Day Isaiah 61

The journey continues. The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me because God anointed me.
He sent me to preach good news to the poor, heal the heartbroken,
Announce freedom to all captives, pardon all prisoners.
God sent me to announce the year of his grace— a celebration of God's destruction of our enemies— and to comfort all who mourn
…. Isaiah 61:1-2 (MSG)

My friend, Kevin, and I have been reading a chapter a day together for several years. If my memory serves me correctly, it's been since the summer of 2003 or 2004. I've been blogging this chapter-a-day journey for over four years now, ever since April 4, 2006 when I posted about Mark 8. Along with the day-to-day thoughts about each chapter, I've also picked up some overarching thoughts and observations. For example, I have to confess that books like Isaiah sometimes feel like they take for ever to wade through. The incessant doom, gloom, and judgment gets a little depressing about twenty chapters in. Then you realize you have forty some chapters to go. Ugh. If you've been following along this whole time, I applaud you. Seriously, if it weren't for my commitment and desire to walk through every chapter of God's Message, I would likely have long since abandoned it for some easier reading in the New Testament.

That leads me to another observation, however. If I had abandoned Isaiah a third of the way in, I would have missed out on some of the most amazing passages of God's Message I've ever read. A journey through the entire Bible is, I must imagine, a lot like running a marathon. Friends who are runners will tell me about stretches of the race in which you "hit the wall" and feel like you can't go on. If you press on through these you find a "runner's high" in which you feel renewed and energized. I think reading's God's message is a lot like that. There are always oasis treasures to be found in midst of the dryest parts.

I also find that the chapter-a-day marathon has given me a renewed appreciation for the incredible story that the whole of God's Message tells. I read this morning's chapter and immediately think of Luke 4, when Jesus uses this very text for his semon in the hometown synagogue. Isaiah is full of amazing prophecies about Jesus. You don't appreciate the prophecy unless you've read the Books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. You don't have a full appreciation for the story of Jesus until you've read the prophecies of Isaiah. They all fit together.

A special thank you to Kevin and to those who've followed along on all or parts of this journey like Wendy, Cindy, Laurie, Jen, Mom and Dad, and Matthew. That's another lesson I've learned, and the final one I'll share this morning. It's great to have companions along the way. It makes the trip far more worthwhile.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and Jamelah

Chapter-a-Day Micah 7

But me, I'm not giving up. I'm sticking around to see what God will do.
I'm waiting for God to make things right. I'm counting on God to listen to me
.
Micah 7:7 (MSG)

I read Micah's opening line: "I'm overwhelmed with sorrow! sunk in a swamp of despair!" and I totally get it. A couple of months ago I entered a stretch of the journey in which my faith was worn incredibly thin. Stretched to the point of breaking, I felt like a marathon runner who "hits the wall" in the middle of the course. When you experience those moments you feel like pulling off the road and calling it quits. The idea of continuing seems ludicrous and  pointless. Doubt pushes faith away. Disappointment negates what little drive you have left. Pain overshadows purpose to the point that it disappears from view. 

But, I also get Micah's determination. Clinging to the tattered shreds of trust, you press on to find that faith untested is of little consequence. Depth of faith is proportionate to the endurance required to push through the trial set before you. Maturity emerges out of perseverance.