RUN GOD’S RACE
Anxiety Source: The rat race of life
Solution: Run God’s race
Arnie once had a rat named Stan. It was in middle school, which seems ages ago. Stan was technically a hamster, and his home was a small plastic box. A tiny exercise wheel was his one source of recreation. Stan would climb onto the wheel and spin it around. He stopped when exhausted. The next day he would start all over again. Poor Stan never got anywhere, but he sure worked hard at it. Arnie sometimes feels like Stan, stuck in the rat race of life. Arnie does his daily work schedule. Then he scurries to the grocery store, to the ballfield for his son, and then back to the store. Arnie keeps the wheel spinning at home with dishes and laundry. It’s an endless cycle with no end in sight. No wonder he’s so exhausted.
Hebrews 12:1-2, “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, let us fix our eyes on Jesus.”
Arnie realizes this rat race mentality is a source of his anxiety. The solution is to run God’s race, not the rat race. Do you ever feel like Arnie, like you are running the rat race of life? Do you keep the wheel spinning around, with no end in sight? If so, maybe it’s contributing to your anxiety.
This passage in Hebrews reminds us that life is a race. God never intended us to run the rat race of life. We are to run the race of faith instead. It’s a life that pleases God, a life that has eternity in mind, not just surviving the day. It’s a life that builds God’s kingdom, not ours. It’s full of meaning, not emptiness. We cannot avoid responsibilities at work, home, or church. However, the goal is to live each day by faith, trusting God, not running ragged like a weary rat. Get off the wheel. Run God’s race, not the rat race. Fix your eyes on Christ, not cheese!
Think: Am I focused more on the rat race or God’s race? How is this affecting my stress and anxiety? What will it take to run the right race?
Pray: “Lord, it’s so easy to fall into the rat race mentality. Help me run the race of faith instead. Show me what’s holding me back. Keep my focus on Jesus.”
Do: Eliminate something from your schedule contributing to your rat race mentality.
An excerpt from Truths for the Anxious Christian
My dad died 10 years ago today, on July 20. 2008. It’s hard to believe it has been that long. It some ways, it seems like it just happened. It also feels like an eternity ago. It especially seems like an eternity since this cheesy family picture was taken! What precious memories. I will never forget the times I spent with my dad: Hunting, fishing, working, worshiping. I will never forget his strong love for God and our family either. What is ironic is I am preaching a funeral today. It seems that I cannot escape the reality of death. But the reality of death makes life all the more precious. Treasure the gift of today. You never know when it will be your last. You never know when your dad, mom, or spouse will pass. Hug them today. Kiss them. Tell them you love them.
Ten years ago, on July 20, 2008, my dad died from cancer. It is hard to believe he has been gone that long. He was not just my dad. He was my hero and friend. The longer I go without my dad, the more I realize how blessed I was. My father was a man who truly loved God and his family. He never harmed me in any way, other than the spankings I deserved. I remember one time I had a spanking coming, and I put encyclopedias in my shorts to cushion the pain!
Some of you were blessed to have a father like mine. If so, make sure you thank God for it. It is rare to have a good and godly dad. Many of you weren’t blessed with a “good” dad. Maybe your father abandoned your mom. Maybe he abandoned you or even harmed you. Maybe he never left but was anything but a loving example. Some of you might not even know who your father is and/or have never met him.
When you became a Christian, you were adopted into the family of God. Now you have a Heavenly Father. Regardless of who your earthly father is, you have an awesome Dad. As Psalm 68:5 reminds us, God “is a father to the fatherless.” God cares for you. God loves you. God never does harm to you. God never leaves or forsakes you. Turn to your Heavenly Father now and embrace His love. Even though my dad was spectacular, he cannot compare to the great love and care of my Father in Heaven.
Suicide has dominated the headlines of late with Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. Suicide is a sensitive subject but I feel I must write about it because:
- I understand the torment of depression accompanied by many
- I have helped people struggling with suicidal tendencies
- Close friends of mine have been affected by it
The deaths of these two successful individuals remind us that you can seem to have everything in the world but be empty. Also, you can pretend that all is well, yet be hurting deeply. What does Vacation Bible School have to do with this? These two deaths happened the very same week my church had our annual VBS. The lessons pointed to the truth that Jesus gives us everything we need. One lesson was on Lazarus, the one Jesus called out of the tomb and resurrected from the dead. It is a reminder that Jesus has power over all things. Because Jesus is alive, there is always reason for hope.
If you are struggling with depression, or contemplating suicide, don’t lose hope. Jesus is alive. He has the power to deliver you from your torments. He can give you what you need: Hope, joy, worth and value, something to believe in, and deep, unconditional love. If you are depressed or discouraged, tell someone. Get help. Ask God to get you through another day. If you know someone struggling, don’t be judgmental. Respond to them with the love of Christ. No one has a perfect life. Let’s not pretend that all is great. Let’s be real, honest, and open. Let’s hold one another up in this often difficult journey called life.
I went to Wal-Mart with marshmallow on my face. I had a spoonful of marshmallow crème recently, and a small piece invaded my beard. I didn’t realize it until I got home from shopping! I laughed as I thought, “O goodness, I was walking around the store and everyone saw it.” I am sure you have never had marshmallow in your beard, but you have had stains on your shirt. You bite into a hamburger and ketchup or mustard lands on you. Someone might say, “You have something on your shirt.” Otherwise, you go the rest of the day unaware. The same thing happens spiritually. We walk around with stains on our character and never realize it. For example:
- We are arrogant
- We lose our temper
- We habitually interrupt conversations
- We come across as bossy
We do this and are often unaware of it, even though everyone else sees it. Do you know someone like that? They have a flaw in their character and everyone knows it but them? Honestly, we probably all have flaws everyone detects but us. We all have marshmallow in our beards. We need a better sense of self-awareness, understanding who we really are and how we really act. Pray for wisdom and ask God to increase your self-awareness.
Yesterday, right before it was time to preach, the lights in the church went out. It was pitch black. Someone gave me a flashlight, and I preached a message on revival, from Psalm 85. To be honest, it made everything better. People had to focus in the dark. Not only that, it was easier to preach with boldness. It was just me, a flashlight, the Bible, and the power of God. It is a service I will never forget. The lights came back on as soon as church dismissed. It was surely a God thing and a good thing. Sometimes things don’t go as planned. Just go with it and trust God. It might turn out even better than you expected.
Parenting is not for the faint of heart. I love my children. They are such a blessing, but parenting is not easy. I thought about a beloved verse on parenting, Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, when he is old he will not depart from it.” What’s the first word: Train. Have you ever trained for something. It’s not a cake walk. I’ve ran several marathons. Each marathon requires 3-4 months of training. At the height of the training, I run 20+ miles on my long days, usually Saturdays. I once trained for a marathon in July. Have you ever ran 20 miles in the Summer? In Louisiana? Wow, it’s miserable! I had to run at 4am to finish before sunrise. Training for a marathon is not always fun, but I keep the end in mind, crossing the finish line. When you get frustrated and overwhelmed in parenting, keep the end in mind. The goal is for our children to follow the ways of the Lord. It’s worth the blood, sweat, and tears.
I love Amazon Prime. You hit a button and two days later a package arrives. Yesterday my front door was stacked to the hilt with Amazon boxes. I was excited to receive a hat, a book, some candy, and shoes for the girls, to name a few. Wouldn’t it be nice if prayer were like Amazon Prime? You ask God for exactly what you want. Two days later you get it. You want wisdom. It shows up at your door on Wednesday. Your sick and want to get well. You pray and two days later you are back to normal. You want a problem to go away. Ask God. It will disappear before the weekend!
It sounds great, but that’s not how prayer is meant to be. We learn wisdom, for instance, after years of instruction and maturation. For a current problem to end in two days would mean forgoing an opportunity to grow closer to God. Yes, it would be nice to be healed in two days, but God usually doesn’t operate that way.
Amazon Prime doesn’t always work. My wife wanted the girls to have new shoes for Easter. They had to be in Thursday before the girls went to the grandparents. The package came in Thursday, but was at the post office rather than my house. I went to the post office, but they couldn’t give it to me. They had to process it first. We got it the next day. One day too late. At least I can return them! God never delivers at the wrong time. You never need a return policy with God either. His ways are not our ways. His thoughts not our thoughts. Keep praying. Keep being patient. Keep trusting God. He is far superior to Amazon Prime.
Do you carry an idol in your pocket? You don’t have a literal carving of a god, or a statue, but you might have a false god with you. It is easy for your smart phone to become an idol. It is ever present, in your pocket or by your side. It is ever knowing, just Google it. It is all powerful too, always calling out to us, demanding a response, demanding our worship. A phone is not intrinsically bad, but we can become more attached to our phone than to God. When you lose your phone, or it’s damaged, how do you feel? You feel lost, anxious, and helpless. Something is not quite right. That is how we should feel about God, not our phone.
Siri and Google are not the ultimate source of information. God is. Social media cannot fill your relationship void. God will. You-Tube will not satisfy your soul. Only God can. Maybe consider fasting from your phone for a while. Stop checking Facebook. Seek His face. Don’t turn to Google. Turn to God. Listen to Yahweh, not You-tube. Get off Snapchat and chat with God!
Everyone is going through something. That statement was recently penned by Kevin Love, a professional basketball player. Love publicly acknowledged his struggle with panic attacks. It was difficult for him to recognize and admit. Love is wealthy and healthy. What does he have to worry about? Kevin Love is human just like all of us. He has his own problems, worries, and fears. If you are going through a tough time, you are in good company. Everyone has tough times. I remember openly sharing my struggles with depression. People thought, “You are a pastor, a man of faith. You have no reason to be depressed.” Pastors are human too. So are pro athletes. So too are stay-at-home moms, plumbers, and engineers. If you are not struggling right now, be mindful of others. You might interact with someone today who is anxious, depressed, or weary. Have patience. Have compassion. Have some sympathy too. Life is not easy. Just know, in Christ, there is always reason for hope. Keep pressing on!
I encourage you to read Love’s article here: Kevin Love Article