By Judy Comstock
Steven wasn’t happy. Everyone in his classroom and everyone down the hall knew how very unhappy this 2 ½ year old was. For some reason I decided to use that finger play, “Here’s the church, here’s the steeple. Open the door see all the people.” This precocious toddler put his little hands over mine and chanted, “Here are da people. Close da door and wet’s go home.”
Can you relate to Steven? The course of this race we are in may be daunting. There may be days that you want to put your running shoes in your bag and go home. Do you feel like you’re running in circles, but someone keeps moving the finish line? You may be trying to win the ministry race by thinking like this: God doesn’t have limits, therefore neither should I.
– The harder I try, the more God loves me.
– People value me only if everything is perfect.
– My sacrifice causes my team to keep helping.
These ideas can be sharp rocks on our running path. Here are some strategies that will help us enjoy the race:
1. Races are about time. How you fill your time makes a difference. You may have seen that object lesson that challenges us to plan our day. If these are the things I need to do today and this container represents 24-hours it appears that I may be on overload unless I work wisely. By putting the big pieces in first, it just might work! I have to take care of my quiet time, time to plan my day, and major family responsibilities. I then add the next issues of my day, like personal exercise time and committee meetings and the other details that are important for my success. If I work like this, I will have time for the little details like volunteering at a school for a fund raiser, shopping for new clothes, or handling unexpected phone calls. By working like this, not only do we have time for all of the important things, but there’s time for the surprising blessings that God wants to pour into our lives.
Moses had a problem with too much to do and too little time. In Exodus 18, Moses describes the pressure of time. The people stood by him from morning to night seeking his advice. Do you have people crowding around you with needs and demands on your time from morning until night? Moses was trying to do a big job all by himself. Moses reduced his time crunch by delegating authority. Delegation not only lightens your load, but it can multiply the benefits of what you do.
2. Race winners are healthy. We have to train year-round to build endurance. In the 6th chapter of I Corinthians we are reminded that our body is the Holy Spirit.” We are confronted with information about personal health and fitness every time we open a newspaper, turn on the radio or watch television. Everyone knows a little about health these day, but knowing and doing are two different things, aren’t they? By increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables we consume, by adding more water to our daily diet and by including exercise in our daily routine we can actually keep fatigue under control. Waking is the time each day when I let my brain breath. Walking renews my energy!
Another important health component is sleep. According to a University of Texas study, most of us requires 7-9 hours of sleep each night. How are you doing with that? I Matthew 11, we find a promise of rest for the weary. When we are rested, we can confront our problems with a sense of hope and power.
3. Winning runners have a vision. As you consider your ministry course, don’t expect everyone to understand your calling. Think about what you value. Picture yourself having fun in this race. Recognize your abilities and your limitations. Focus on your spiritual well-being. If you are trained properly and barring any unforeseen problems, nothing should stop you from achieving your goals of finishing the race. Where do you go to think, plan and renew?
4. Winning runners pace themselves. Running an even pace is the most effective way to run the fastest time. It’s easy to start too fast, but you risk running out of energy. You want to keep moving forward. What ever you do, keep moving, even if you need to adjust your pace. In Hebrews 11:7, we are encouraged to condemn opposition by finishing the course. Focus your energies on one step at a time. Find the pace that keeps you moving forward.
In ministry we will hear about the newest fad or curriculum or trend. Don’t let these issues distract you from what goal God has put into your heart. Control interruptions! There is an art to knowing what to overlook. Use your calendar, your voice mail, your door to insure that you have time for the next lap. Notice the things that bring you joy. Learn to say “no”. Say, “Let me think about that and I’ll get back to you.” If someone presses you for an immediate answer, immediately answer no. You can change your mind later. Or, compromise, “I can’t do that, but I can do this.”
5. Endure hardship; like a good soldier of the cross. Don’t trip on your own shoe laces. Consider the spiritual impact of your work. Keep a record of how God is working in your life. Be conscious of His presence in your life. When conditions are bad, it’s better to run with other people. Hang out with encouragers; people who share your joy for serving God. Don’t look back to see where someone else is. I love the words from Philippians 3, “Forgetting what is behind, I press on toward the goal, to the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will.
When you’re trudging seems all uphill.
When the funds are low and debts are high,
When you want to smile, but you have to sigh.
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but please don’t quit.
Life is strange with its twists and turns,
As everyone of us sometimes learns.
Many a failure turns about.
We might have won had we stuck it out.
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow.
We are in a race with a worthy goal. Don’t quit!