I don’t have a ton of memories from when I was a young kid, so when I do remember something I figure it made a significant impact on me. Today while I was running and getting toward the end of my route, I heard the strong voice of my dad shouting “Kick it in!” echoing in my head from yesteryear.
When I was in grammar school I used to run track, and one particular race that I was in I remember rounding the corner toward the finish line and hearing the sound of the crowd–my family and friends–yelling and cheering me on. But above all the crowd noise I remember the voice of my dad soaring over the others and urging me to “Kick it in!”. This phrase, for those of you who don’t know track lingo, essentially means: run faster, finish well. And I remember his shout was effective, I pushed harder and dug deep.
The life of faith is not easy, and the name-of-the-game is enduring with relentless focus on Jesus
To be honest, I don’t recall whether I finished first or second, or seventh for that matter, but I do remember his cry from the sidelines of the track and how it propelled me to run faster toward the finish line. This cry often arrives when I am exercising, usually toward the end between heavy breaths and a sticky shirt, and I don’t typically think of the glory days of track or even the need to finish my jog. Instead I think of the fight and race of faith, my marriage and family, the future, and the necessity for endurance and perseverance. Many times running has become a means of grace where I preach to myself the need to keep going–to love and trust Jesus–day in and day out no matter what comes, what sin I’ve committed, sins have been committed against me, or tragedy has struck.
The common New Testament metaphor for the Christian life is a race, and in Hebrews 12:1-2 the author calls us “lay aside” every sin and every encumberance that would weigh us down and keep us from running well. All of us at different points in the Christian life get tired of running. Maybe its a love for a particular sin? Maybe its having been a Christian for so long and the desire to just coast and not move forward any longer sets in–put the life of faith on cruise-control so-to-speak–because of all the time you’ve put in? It could have been a tragedy like a death of loved one? Possibly its hurts from people inside the church which have been inflicted upon you by those in the highest levels of church leadership or having been in leadership and experienced the heartbreak of seeing people fail over and over giving up on marriages or Jesus altogether. Regardless of the size of the sins or the seemingly overwhelming encumbrances and burdens you’ve faced– in Christ you have been called to lay it—whatever it may be—aside today.
The writer to the Hebrews encourages Christians to recognize that the race of faith is a certain kind of race. It’s an endurance race, not a sprint. A marathon not a 100 yard dash. It will, at times, feel unbelievably long and terribly arduous. Therefore believers are urged to run “with endurance”–to keep going and after that keep running, throbbing sideache and all, heading toward the finish line saturated in sweat, laps filled with tears, and sometimes even blood.
In light of this, I want to urge you today to “Kick it in!” To turn from that pet sin, and fix your eyes on Jesus your sin-bearer. To forgive that person that wounded you, and look to Jesus bloodied and crucified by sinners. To not let that tradgedy control you, but consider Jesus weeping at the tomb of Lazarus and see him on the cross handing the care of his mother over to his best friend John because his earthly dad had probably died too young–and then see him kill death by dying and rise again. To not coast and consider quitting because you’ve put in your time and didn’t get much of anything tangible in return, but fixate on Jesus who “for the joy set before him endured the cross” because he knew triumph would come. The life of faith is not easy, and the name-of-the-game is enduring with relentless focus on Jesus.
You have been called to run a race. Your Christian identity is akin to a marathon runner. Now suit up, train, be disciplined, run, and look to Jesus with every stride. I implore you: don’t quit. In fact, run even faster.
As my dad would say, “Kick it in!”