What Matters Most: Completing the Journey

Pastor Nat’s message out of Hebrews 3 today was a great unpacking of the second warning found in the letter to the Hebrews.

In the message, Nat reminded us that the goal of the writer of Hebrews is to exhort us to complete the race of faith. Yes, the beginning of our journey is crucial. But so is the ending. And for that matter, everything in-between!

The Hebrews challenge is to not only embrace our salvation (which comes through faith), but also to take serious our sanctification (which is powered by the same faith).

As Nat shared his thoughts about the warning/exhortation of Hebrews 3, my mind went to a personal story from about 8 years ago:

In July of 2012, at the urging of my son-in-law, I entered a local sprint triathlon (http://www.haydentri.com/) that took place just minutes from our house in the Hayden Lake neighborhood. The course covered a half-mile swim, 12 mile bike ride and a 5k run.

For about 4 months prior to the event. I spent a lot of time preparing by running, swimming and biking. Then, early on an overcast July morning, I rode my bike down to Hayden Lake in order to have someone scrawl a race number on my arm and learn my starting position for the swim.

Finally, at 7:30 a.m. my swim group dove into the water. And I began swimming furiously, just like all the other swimmers around me. Which kind of freaked me out. Okay, it really freaked me out. For months I had been training in a pool without other swimmers thrashing and bumping and kicking me.

Amazingly, after all the hours of preparation, I was within the first 3 minutes of the race seriously contemplating turning around and paddling back to shore. In fact, I stopped swimming for moment and looked back at the beach from which I had just departed. I spent about 15 seconds treading water while others swam by. The overwhelming thought was to swim back to the beach and call it a day.

(A side note: My daughter Lauren, who was serving as a lifeguard for the race, happened to be on a kayak at the moment of my indecision. She saw me stop and look back at the shore, but she interpreted it as me taking a few moments to soak in the glory of the day. Little did she know that I was seriously contemplating surrender.)

As I stared back at the beach, one thought flashed into my mind. I had reminded my son Aaron that I would see him at the finish line. Not only had I reminded him, I had promised him I would be there so he could give me a celebratory high-five.

This memory of conversing with Aaron caused me to turn around and point myself back in the direction of the lake. I would not give up! This wasn’t easy because I had already used up a lot of energy on my stress and fear. Even though I had made my decision, the swim didn’t get easier. I had to continually challenge myself physically and emotionally to keep pressing forward.

Finally, after what seemed eons, I paddled up to the lake shore to complete the swim portion of the race. Although I felt utterly spent, I still had two more race sections to complete. I couldn’t imagine hopping on the bike, let alonte running for just over 3 miles.

But I had a goal: I had to complete the race. Aaron was waiting for me at the finish line. And finish I did, although it was some 20 minutes slower than what I planned. As I turned the corner for the finish line, I got the high-five that had motivated me to keep going, even when I felt like giving up.

Starting a race is very important. But races are meant to be finished.

The Gospel message is not only about justification (what we might call the starting point), but also reconciliation and regeneration. It’s about an ongoing relationship with our Creator.

Out of our salvation, we embrace discipleship to Jesus, learning to live like He lived and love like he loved. It’s a call to embrace humility, service and mission.

The gospel is an invitation to come out of death and spiritual slavery and embrace life. Life in Christ.

The Christian life is designed to have a start, a middle and a finish.

Paul challenged the Corinthians in this way: “Don’t run aimlessly. Run in such a way as to win.”

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