“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV)
Imagine for a second with me. The fight is on. Theres a good guy. And of course a force for evil. The struggle begins. Theres is a crash and a flash. Thunder claps and lightening strikes. Death is coming and between it and us is life. It’s gonna take a will. But more than will, it’s gonna take a struggle. A fight! It’s gonna take all our energy and endurance. There’s a superhero and a villain. The fight has come for you. Nothing could be done to avoid it. The struggle has been put in place and now it’s time to struggle—For life itself.
What inspires you?
I ask because I don’t think we’re inspired by what we think we are. Not always. We often look to sports heroes, talent, and real heroes for our inspiration. I could tell you of men consciously and literally giving their last breaths on purpose for a purpose on the battle field. I could tell you about athletes who’ve done things we almost couldn’t imagine. I could tell you about singers who could bring tears to your eyes with a single note. And I could say that they’re all inspiring individuals. And I’d be right in a way. But it’s not the person who’s inspiring. It’s what they do that’s inspiriting isn’t it? If Adele never sang a note you’d never even know her name. If Michael Jordan never picked up a basketball you wouldn’t recognize him on the street. And if Jeanne refused to go to war, that little peasant girl would have never been known as the heroine we know her as now and you would have never heard the name Jeanne D’Arc, Joan of Arc.
It’s not skill, looks, or position that inspire us. It’s almost always effort. I’ve heard jockey’s say that there’s nothing like coming down to the end of a race, when they ask their mount for effort and the animal responds with all they have. I’m inspired by that, because I don’t know if I’ve ever done anything with all I have. It’s hard to give all we have. Because we don’t have to. For most of us, there’s no lion chasing us. We’re not continually threatened. At least not that we see. But when sickness comes we rush people to the emergency room. And we expect every effort on behalf of the people we love. Every once in a while we encounter real effort. And it’s inspiring.
It’s effort, more than anything, that is inspirational. We don’t think of it, because it’s usually invisible to us. How many songs did our favorite singers have to sing to reach the point to where their voices finally reached around the world to meet our ears. The athletes that inspire us have to continually sacrifice their comforts and desires in order to give their bodies the ability to do the things that we call inspirational. For any warrior to gain any sort of notoriety, they must first be willing to fight to the death. And how much would you practice your skill if you knew that your skill would determine your life or death?
There’s a reason the Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 1:21 “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Because his life was lived at full effort for Christ and for the people who needed Christ, including you and me. He lived as though life was a race to reach people with the Gospel. He struggled through threats and promises of death and torture. Through it all he remained faithful to his mission. Not forsaking but partaking in the immortal struggle between life and death, so that so many could see the face of the greatest warrior. Because of Paul so many have seen a glimpse into the struggle of Christ. Who willingly stepped into the space between death and His people. With a strong arm and a deadly instrument He went to war against the devil himself. Sometimes we don’t recognize it because His effort is veiled in humility. He is stronger than any, but His chosen weapon to save us is a cross. We see it as a simple wooden construct, constructed by men intending to torture another to death. But to the power of Christ it becomes the literal sward in the stone of Golgotha. Only He is able to wield it in battle against the powers of evil and darkness. It is His weapon of light for those who would trust in Him. For three days He removed Himself from view. Fighting for life where we could not see. But on the third day He rose victorious and calling all of us to follow in the safety of His wake of victory.
Nothing inspires like the victory of Christ. Through it He calls us to take up our crosses too. Because what else could we do, when nothing less than life is at stake. Paul felt that urge as much as any man in history. He saw and described the Christian life as a race, saying, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” – 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
In all of creation there’s nothing more inspiring than full effort. Because it’s what we were created for and it’s the example God Himself gives. Every piece of creation was created to, like Him, give full effort. Plants that do not continually reach for life giving nutrients wither and die. Animals who do not continually struggle for their food will surely starve eventually. And people who do not…
What if we gave our full effort?
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up 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 loved His appearing. – Paul – 2 Timothy 3:6-8