Pastoral Reflections for April 2018
Therefore…and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Last Saturday morning, I was running my usual route. In front of me was a gentleman about my age, and he was running rather slowly. Overtaking him with my usual pace, I thought I’d left him behind. Then, I heard footsteps right behind me; he was trying to overtake me and had increased his pace.
I must confess that, at that point, the competitive self in me was provoked and I increased my pace too. Lo and behold, a few hundred metres further down, he stopped about a hundred metres ahead of me. It was then I realised that he was dashing for his last kilometre of his run.
When I finished running, I checked the statistics on my watch. I had run faster than my usual time and clocked a higher than my usual Average Heart Rate (AHR) as well.
In Christian discipleship, every believer is in a race, not against one another. Instead, each of us has our own race to run, at our own pace. To run the race well, we need to stay focussed on the finishing line, looking to the rest and reward our Lord Jesus has for us.
Towards the end of his life, the apostle Paul writes:
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7–8)
The anonymous author of Hebrews urges his readers:
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)
Both Jesus and the apostle Paul have shown us the need to stay focussed and not be side-tracked!
How do we lose our focus? In my case, I was not running my race – a race that should be motivated by faith; instead, I was running a race that was motivated by fear – the fear of losing! Fears and anxieties have a way of making us lose our focus – i.e. fixing our eyes on Jesus!
Remember the episode in the Gospels where Jesus came in the middle of the night, walking on water towards the disciples, who were on a fishing boat? The disciples were afraid, thinking they had encountered a ghost! As usual, Peter, the loudmouth among them, asked Jesus to enable him to walk on the water towards Him. Jesus invited Peter and he did. Here is the record of what happened subsequently:
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:19–21)
Notice that Jesus rebuked Peter for his doubt. Is doubt a lack of faith? No, Peter was doing fine until he shifted his focus from Jesus to the gusty winds over him and the raving waves under him! Doubt is not the absence of faith but when our focus is shifted to anyone or anything other than Jesus, resulting in unbelief overcoming belief! When that happens, we doubt and therefore, we become fearful and anxious!
So, when I shifted my focus on my own race to that of fearing that I might lose to the other guy, like Peter, I began to sink – overwhelmed by the winds and waves! I was distracted by the other fellow’s race, not fixing my eyes on Jesus as I run my race!
I’m also reminded of another episode in the Gospels. Jesus had just prophesied the kind of death that Peter would suffer for the sake of the God’s kingdom, gospel and glory! Jesus said to Peter, “Follow me!” Then, Peter saw John, the disciple whom Jesus loved. He asked Jesus, “What about him?”
Listen very carefully to Jesus’ reply to Peter: “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? YOU MUST FOLLOW ME.” (John 21:22) Similarly, Jesus is saying to us, MYOB, you run the race marked out for you!
Rev Peter Chan