How Do You Run Your Race?

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“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.” –1 Corinthians 9:24; Ecclesiastes 9:11

I am trying to shed some pounds, so I decided to head to my office’s gym. The thread mill is a challenge to me since I have a poor stamina, so every minute is a test of strength and endurance. Notwithstanding, I challenge myself for 30 minutes, and begin slowly with a paced speed. Halfway through, I really want to give up as I am panting profusely. But the motivation of shedding the pounds get me going. However, eventually I still cannot overcome my physical lethargy.

Meanwhile, a verse from Hebrews 12:1, dawned upon me, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” At that instant I receive a vision: Jesus waiting at the end of the red line, cheering me to persevere. There are many runners already run past me and ahead of me. At the back of my mind I am wondering, “Oh dear, will I be the last? Will the crowd jeer at me?”

Through this vision, I begin to ponder if I am running my own race for the applause of men or for the glory of self… Since I am already in the race, it will be a shame to give up. When I catch a glimpse of Jesus cheering me on at the end of the red line, I decided to fix my eyes on Him. (A song then played back in my head, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”, by Micheal W. smith)

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus

Look full, in his wonderful face

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of his glory and grace”

As I desire to run into the embrace of Jesus at the end of the line and to hear Him affirming me, “Well done!” follow by a pat on my shoulder, I reckon it is better to go slow and steady to complete the race than going fast and run out of breathe later. So I pray to the Lord to help me finish this race, no matter how daunting, I will not give up. Eventually, I manage to persevere and finish the race.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” – 2 Timothy 4:7

I care not how fast I have completed the run, God cares more about my shape. Hang on, the word “shape”, refers not to my body, but my character. So is the word “race”, which denotes my journey and my destiny. To sum it up, God is not concerned about how well I have started, nor how fast and how far I can go, He is more concerned on how strong I can grow.

Some of us may be ahead (the runners running ahead in my vision); some of us are still behind; some of us are discouraged that the “crowd” (in my vision, it represents the people around you. It also corresponds with “a great cloud of witness” in Hebrews 12:1) do not appreciate your effort, or have condemned you thinking that you cannot make it; some of us really want to give up this long-drawn race since strength is sapped…

The crux is:

Do you run with your own strength and focus on the wrong things in life, and thrown off-track?

Or, will you run in partnership with the Spirit and set your heart on things above and not on earthly things, and stay on track?

“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” – Acts 20:24

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Critical Spirit. The Little Things. Relational Injuries.

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Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way. – Romans 14:13

 

At times we don’t feel respected.

At times we don’t feel being cared for.

At times we stepped on the other person’s feelings.

At time we brushed each other the wrong way.

At times unkind words lashed out heedlessly hurtful and regretted later.

At times we get disappointed.

 

Crowded schedules. Money pressures. Communication problems. Midlife crises. Emotionally inaccessiblity. Insecurities. Fears.

And there’s never time to talk. Disconnected.

When you do talk, frustrations stirred instead.

Our own share of human frailties in one way or another irritate the other. All those little things sank your heart like the Titanic.

Difficulties in relationships arise out of unresolved relational hurts, whether intentionally or unintentionally, and when they are not dealt with, those little things become issues themselves. Eventually, they grow to become relational injuries.

 

The 7-key checklist of relational injuries:

1. Acceptance in love or expectation?

(a) What is your expectation of the other person whom you are relating to?

(b) Has your expectations get too much in the way?

(c) When he/ she failed to meet your expectations, do you withdraw?

 

All of us are made different, and grow differently as well, the first step is learning to discover “What do you want?” When you let your expectations get too much in the way, it may pave the way to idolatry in your heart. When you truly love someone, you accept the person as who he/she is, not what you think he/she has to be. Remember, no one is perfect, including yourself. Even God loves and accept the way you are but, He is not done with our flaws yet. Acceptance comes with true love.

“Accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory” (Romans 15:7 NLT, second edition).

 

2. Responding in love or rejection?

(a) Have you been sensitive with your words and actions?

(b) How do you responded to someone even when you feel lousy?

(c) What is your language of love?

As a picture says a thousand words, so do your words and actions painted that as much. It is often contradictory why you can be patient, gentle, kind and understanding to the people who are not close or dear to your heart, but you often the “ugly split-personality” when you are with your loved ones- you are not so patient, you get angry and upset, you often lashed out unkind words, you get frustrated easily and you feel unappreciative towards them and they often get your cold shoulders. Have you ever paused for a moment the emotional injuries you have done? Consider why your dear ones have been a “punching sandbag” than a “hugging pillow” to you, it makes a whole world of difference when you spend time to share what is bothering you than to throw them around like cold turkeys. Just as you thought the other person is disconnected, chances are you, yourself probably haven’t been emotionally accessible either!

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. – Ephesians 4:2

 

3. Finger-pointing to edify or tear down?

(a) Do you always point out the other person’s faults more than you readily label your own?

(b) Have you first seek to understand the whole situation and put yourself in the other person’s shoes?

(c) Do you demand changes from the other person?

The attitude of “That’s your problem, not mine!” is deceptive- don’t you have a part to play too? Put yourself in a scenario in a court room where you stand in as a prosecution witness in a difficult case. During cross-examinations by the Defence Attorney (DA), he will try all ways and means to pull you down by finger-arrowing your credibility and character flaws, the more you tried to defend yourself, the heavier the onslaught of verbal abuses. And you left wounded by his hurtful insinuations and unjustified judgement. Are you one who is such a Defensive Accuser (DA)?

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:1) Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)

 

4. Giving up your rights or demanding your rights?

(a) “Why should I?”

(b) “I expect you to be… …”

(c) “I have the final say!”

If you struggle with this area, you may have problems with pride. When one is full of himself or herself, he/ she always think himself/ herself is better than the other, thus it is hard to relinquish his/ her own rights. They usually struggled in accepting people who give them problems and who are weaker than them spiritually and emotionally. This category of people are very protective of their rights cos they always think they are right. Their expectations fall in line to what they think it should be and how he/ she should be, they are never understanding nor apathetic to consider how the other person feels or where he/ she is coming from. In any relationships, we are taught to be humble and submit to one another in reverence.

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:!0) And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21 NLT)

 

5. Shallow understanding or mutual understanding?

(a) Have you been communicating?

(b) How understanding have you been?

(c) Do you understand how a person’s background has some way influenced the way how he/ she think, feel and act?

How well do you understand yourself and the other person? Understanding is a crucial fundamental in all relationships to work, and it is paramount to foster better understanding through daily communication. In times of silence, there is tacit understanding too. Understanding the background of the person whom you are relating to, can give you a better and clearer picture how certain thoughts, feelings and actions can be triggered. For him/ her to understand you better, be honest about how you feel and what you think, instead of trying to do something to get his/ her attention. All of us think and feel differently, be open to share so that in each other you will learn something and know each other better to deal with the differences. All you need is a heart to listen.

I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another. – Romans 15:14

 

6. Pain and gain or close and strain?

(a) What is God teaching you through the other person?

(b) Did you apply what you have learn that God is teaching you?

(c) Are you avoiding the issues?

What is your approach- do you avoid pain or confront and gain? When you close in to a relationship, you strain it even more, the wounds may fester. And anytime when the same situations happen, it will playback the old scores. Unfortunately, the way to learn is often through unpleasantries. Pain is God’s Refining Fire.

I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. – 1 Corinthians 1:10

 

7. Praying with an open heart or clenched fists?

(a) Have you been praying for a breakthrough?

(b) Have you pray for God’s ultimate control and His way in your relationships?

(c) Have you try praying together?

Prayers open door to miracles, for our God is a God of Transformation. Go to Him with all your emotions, surrender your rights and expectations at the feet of His throne. Look to Him first as He will lift you up in due time. He always leave the door open for those who are weary and wounded. He has a special place for them. He is always there in assurance. And He hears you and trust that He will do something. His love never fails.

Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything. With thankful hearts offer up your prayers and requests to God. Then, because you belong to Christ Jesus, God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel. – Philippians 4:6-7 CEV

 

All relationships goes a long way, but take heart, all is not lost yet. Give each other space, take time to do your own reflections, pray about the issues, be honest with yourself, take time to share your thoughts and your feelings openly to the other person, confessed to each other your vulnerability and mistakes, discuss with each other how to overcome barriers so as to solve those nagging issues, last but not least, be committed to making healthy changes and mean it. It takes time and courage.

There may be someone in your midst who is hurting. It is always worthwhile to confront it than to take a passive stand, even though you have prayed and trust God would do something about it, but that does not mean we should be doing nothing! How can you reap the fruit when you never bother to sow the seed? God moves as you move, you never know till you try however difficult it can be but God will supply His Strength, Grace and Mercy to keep you through.

Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. – Hebrews 3:13

Keep at it, those little things CAN and WILL GO AWAY. Remember, forgiveness is a precious gift too. Don’t give up.

Standing Firm Under Testings

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Recently, I have been hearing many friends fall away from faith due to disappointments with God for unanswered prayers that leave them with anger and bitterness… It was sad just because we cannot have the things we want, we lost the belief of God’s existence or we simply dismissed that God is not true to His claims of who He says He is. How often when God blesses us (so many times), we forgot to give thanks or praise Him, but how quickly or easily we get bitter when we get disappointed or during times of silence fm God.

How can we guard ourselves and stand firm under testings?

1. Recognise that life on earth do not consist happy times everyday nor be smooth sailing

When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other. – Ecclesiastes 7:14

2. Do not forget God’s everlasting mercies and overlook His intentions

… do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?- Romans 2:4

3. Take joy in testings because they are opportunities to better your character

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. – James 1:2-4

4. Emulate Job that he did not blame God for the bad things happening in his life and God rewards his righteousness

“… Shall we accept good fm God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said. – Job 2:10b

5. Take heart that God bless those who endure and crown them with life

God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. – James 1:12

6. Remember God works things out in the end

The Lord works out everything to its proper end– even the wicked for a day of disaster. – Proverbs 16:4

Therefore……

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. – Rom12:12

Stand firm, and you will win life. – Luke21:19

Take home point: Stand firm against the devil schemes, persevere in prayers, patient in Hope, endure testings, trusting and believing God beyond circumstances and the weaknesses of our flesh.