Let us hear the word of the Lord.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one. So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified.
This is the word of the Lord.
Inspired by Running
The image of running always inspires me. I mean, running is not unnecessarily a fun activity for everyone to enjoy. It can be boring because you repeat the same monotonous movement for two, three hours. Marathons are longer than that, so it’s not really a fun activity, but for those who love to run, they seem to enjoy it so much. Every moment of it. I heard that something comes out of your body, a hormone or whatever, when you run. Running inspires me because it is associated with sweating, perseverance, discipline, hard work, and being active.
So whenever I think about running, I think about a lot of inspiring movies about running like the old movie Chariots of Fire and also in Forrest Gump, he continuously runs and runs and runs, and also people like Terry Fox. In spite of his physical illness and even though he was crippled, he did not give up. He ran and he inspires so many people. He still remains as an inspiration because he would not give up.
Run Your best
I guess I’m not the only one who is inspired by running. Our St. Paul seems to be also a inspired by running. He used the image of running to explain our spiritual life. He said run in such a way that you may win it. I don’t think he meant competitiveness. Winning is not the only goal. I think what he meant was do your best. Don’t just run, run hard, run as fast as you can. To win a prize you have to run your best.
When I look at the Olympics, I’m glued to the TV, especially with running, because they really run their best. They want to be faster than others by a fraction of a second, and they run and run and run, and that really inspires me.
Life is like running hard. Life is like running as best as you can. Don’t sit around, get up and run, because that’s what life is supposed to be.
Running Requires Discipline
We all know that running is not easy. It requires discipline. St. Paul said, athletes exercise self control in all things. He also said, I punish my body and enslave it. He didn’t mean literally punishing his body, but disciplining his body. Training his body, so that he’s able to run fast and run well. Running also requires a clear sense of direction. You can’t run aimlessly, you have to have a clear focus of what you’re running for. St. Paul said, “so I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air.” So you have to think, you can’t just run around. When you look at the Olympics, they choose the shortest course and they think about themselves. “Okay, up to that distance. I have to use this much energy and after that distance I have to save this much energy.” They always think about that, they ration themselves very well. They always think so that they can run a successful race. You have to think to know what to do.
Wayne Gretzky said, “A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.” You have to think if you’re going to be a good athlete. You have to be smart to be a good athlete, good athletes don’t just have physical ability. They are very smart in knowing exactly what to do in each situation. So when you look at really good athletes, they are very, very smart. That’s why we call them geniuses. If you’re not smart, you cannot be a good athlete. When you know exactly what to do, you know how to use your body to get the maximum result. You have to always think to do so. In the same way. You have to be smart to live a good life. You have to know what to do in given situations so that we don’t live aimlessly beating the empty air.
The Defeated Mentality
All these things are involved in running but I was thinking, why don’t people live like they’re running? What is one cause for people not to run? I was meditating on this, what is that cause? I realized, it’s discouragement. People get discouraged. That’s why they don’t run. It’s not that they don’t know how to run. It’s not that they don’t know what is required in running. They get discouraged. They cannot get themselves up to run. As we deal with challenges in life, problems in life, somewhere along the way, unfortunately, you shouldn’t do it, but we develop a defeated mentality. That’s really sad. We live with a lot of encouragement but, at one point we adopted this defeated mentality from the discouragement of life. We get tired, we get discouraged and we compromise with what we have. We stop in the middle of our journey. There’s still a journey left for us to walk and run, but we just stop. We don’t run anymore. We don’t take the journey anymore because we are discouraged. We have developed this defeated mentality.
Humans’ Higher Calling
We human beings have a higher calling. We cannot just compromise with what we have. St. Paul said, I press on towards achieving the goal, the higher calling that God calls us from heaven, and then at one point we see ourselves. We get satisfied with the security and comfort that we have created and we say to ourselves, this is good enough. And we don’t think about anything else in that very moment, your life is dead. At that moment, we lose aspiration for life. We lose our goal. We don’t even have what we truly want from life anymore. When we were young, didn’t we all have something that we wanted to achieve?I want to be like this. I want to have this, this is what I want to do with my life. And then at one point we don’t even have that.
We just coast along without much passion and aspiration. And the sad thing is we comfort ourselves, saying life is good. Wow. My life is good. What do you have? Comfort and security, that’s all. What do you do? Nothing much, but life is good. We comfort ourselves saying that life is good. To me. That is defeated mentality. You’re just comforting yourself saying that life is good. Just because you say life is good doesn’t mean that life is good. When you live for a higher calling, you cannot call that a good life. When you live just for security and comfort, you cannot say that your life is good, because we human beings are not created to live like that. If you don’t have a higher purpose to live for, I wonder whether we can say life is good. Having enough money for security and comfort itself cannot be enough of a condition for a good life. A good life is more than that. For animals, yes, they can say it’s a good life. If they have food, if they have a security and comfort, yes, animals will say it is a good life, but not for human beings. Human beings are given intelligence to know better than that. Not to be satisfied just with what we have.
We human beings live with a higher calling, for a noble purpose. We always strive for meaning and purpose. That’s what human beings are. When lions hunt, they have intensity. You see their eyes burning, their eyes are sharp. They are passionate. When they follow their prey, they run fast, they’re fierce, they’re so focused. But once they have food, all they do is sleep. So if you want to see a lion hunting, you can hardly see it. Even if you go to Kenya, all you see is sleeping lions, because as soon as they have food all they do is sleep because they don’t have the intelligence to do so. They’re just satisfied.
Humans Go Further
But we human beings are given intelligence to go for more than that. People who are satisfied with security and comfort, it doesn’t matter how much money they make, I don’t call them intelligent. I don’t call them smart. They’re dumb!
Even if we have enough food, we run for purpose and meaning. Yes, many times we get discouraged, but that does not paralyze us. We stand up again and challenge ourselves and challenge our limits. We push our limits to be able to run, to overcome our discouragement. We need faith. We need spirituality.
We need faith in God who strengthens me. Let us not live with a defeated mentality. You are better than that. You’re stronger than that. Don’t be fooled saying that life is good. We need faith to overcome our discouragement. We need faith to go beyond where we are.
Isaiah gave us good advice on spirituality. He said, “why do you say o Jacob and speak o Israel, my way is hidden from the Lord and my right is disregarded by my God.” Of course, that somebody is very discouraged and God doesn’t want them to develop a defeated mentality. Why do you say that? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He’s smart. God is smart. He gives power to the faint and strengthens the powerless. Even youth will faint and be weary and the young will fall exhausted, but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint.
Be a Smart Person
Be a smart person. Don’t be dumb. Don’t be stupid. Saying that I have security and comfort, that’s saying you’re stupid. That’s what you just said. You fool, you say to yourself, “oh, I have enough to eat in my barn” and all that. You fool. Tonight, your soul will be demanded. Jesus called that foolishness. God gave us the intelligence to take care of the earth, to live out for higher calling.
St. Paul confidently said “in God who strengthens me, I can do all things in life that push us to our limits to achieve God’s noble purpose that is a life worth living.” Let us not live life that runs aimlessly. Let us not be a boxer that beats the empty air. Let us trust God and run with faith. God will renew our strength and that’s what I’d like to see with our congregation. God built this congregation. Let us run together to build this congregation so that this congregation may be the light for the world.