Strength To Finish The Race

Taking his place on the starting line at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, Derek Redmond was brimming with confidence. The British record holder in the 400 meter run, Redmond had battled through injuries and had finally positioned himself to win a medal. After posting the fastest overall time in the first round and winning the second round, he now lined up for the semi-final.

As the gunned sounded, Redmond began sprinting around the track. He looked fast enough to qualify for the medal round, perhaps even win a medal.

But halfway through the race, his hamstring snapped. He came to a screeching halt and then fell to the ground, wincing in pain.

Derek Redmond, however, was determined to finish the race. Rising to his feet, he began hobbling to the finish line. Race officials ran to help him, but he waved them off. Then a man jumped the bleachers toward the injured runner.

It was his father.

Security guards tried to remove him from the race, but Derek’s father refused to leave. Then the 65,000 spectators rose to their feet to cheer Redmond on.

Together, arm-in-arm, the two finished the race.

About this time into 2010, I can imagine you may have grown weary in reading through the Bible this year. Perhaps you bit off more than you could chew (which is probably the case for me!). You might even be questioning whether you should continue. What you need is encouragement to finish the race.

Which is why today’s reading it so timely.

TODAY’S READING

Genesis 46:1-47:31
Matthew 15:1-28
Psalm 19:1-14
Proverbs 4:14-19

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INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Genesis 46:1. Jacob grew up in Beersheba, so this was an opportunity to make his final  pilgrimage home before leaving for Egypt.

Genesis 46:31-33. Joseph was quite unlike his passive grandfather Isaac. Instead of letting the chips fall wherever they may, he instructed his family about what to say to Pharaoh, which worked brilliantly.

Genesis 46:34. The Bible Background Commentary explains the reasoning behind Joseph’s instructions: “It is unlikely that native Egyptian herdsmen would be detested by other Egyptians. Joseph’s advice to his father is both a warning about Egyptian attitudes toward strangers and a piece of diplomacy in that they would claim independent status (they had their own herds to support them) and show they were not an ambitious group who wished to rise above their occupation as shepherds.”

Genesis 47:21-25. The New Bible Dictionary adds a different perspective on slavery in Old Testament times: “Slavery in OT times was very different from the harsh exploitation that was involved in the Atlantic slave trade of more recent centuries. OT slavery at its best meant a job for life with a benevolent employer.” Job security!

Matthew 15:1-20. This is an extremely convicting passage of Scripture. Basically, Jesus is saying that the state of the heart is more important than our actions.

Matthew 15:2. Nowhere does the Law say that people must wash their hands before eating—although I’d like to add that I think it’s a good idea!

Matthew 15:12. I love this verse! After Jesus challenged the Pharisees, the disciples pulled Jesus aside and asked him, “Did you know that you just offended the Pharisees?”

Psalm 19:1-6. This psalm is so rich, it’s hard to know what to say and what not to say. The first six verses point to nature as evidence of God’s existence. “Look around you,” David seems to be saying. “All of nature declares the magnificence of God.” Theologians refer to this as “General Revelation.” This means God’s existence, character, and moral law can be known through his creation.

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

Look at Psalm 19:7-11. Most Christians detest the word “law” in reference to Scripture. They think of it as a list of dead rules, but that isn’t how David and the other psalmists viewed it.

To them, the Law is dripping with life. It gives life. Practically all of Psalm 119 extols the virtues of the Law. The beginning of each stanza in Psalm 19:7-11 refers to the Law (even the phrase “fear of the Lord” in this context). In this passage, David describes four benefits from soaking in the Law—God’s word:

  1. The Law revives the soul. When you’re feeling burned out or spiritually empty, it slakes the deep thirst within.
  2. The Law gives wisdom. It provides wisdom for making decisions. Even people without a lot of common sense can become wise by meditating on it.
  3. The Law brings joy to the heart. When a morsel of God’s word becomes real in our lives, it brings us joy.
  4. The Law gives light to the eyes. It gives us God’s perspective into everyday living.

Let me add another twist to this: The law, the word, has become flesh—and his name is Jesus. By spending time in the word, you’re creating space for Jesus to speak to your heart. Actually, you’re spending time with Jesus.

So if you’re already feeling worn down from the new year, be encouraged. Investing your time in the living Word will give you the wisdom and strength you need to follow Jesus throughout 2010.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. In what ways do people nullify the word of God by their traditions (Matthew 15:6)?
  3. In what ways do you nullify the word of God by your traditions?
  4. Describe a time when God used Scripture to breathe new life into you.

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Strength To Finish The Race

  1. There have been many times that a passage of scripture really spoken to me. One time that stands out is back in college taking a class about the gospels for a “grade”, and coming out completely changed. The professor was reading through a passage where Jesus was being condemned by the Pharisees for healing the sick on the the sabbath. Because He was betraying the Law by healing the sick on the sabbath they were up in arms about it. I was soooo moved by Jesus’ deep love and compassion for the sick, His desire to heal and serve and His desire to do the will of His Father. It was about heart and loving people, not being caught up in the rules and how things look to others. It can be easy to get caught up in the rules, and lose what Jesus really has to show us and how He wants to use us to love and minister.

  2. Mike

    I want to respond to burning out on our daily journey. Being retired makes it far easier for me. There is always this battle between the urgent and the necessary. Often the urgent thing wins because it is – urgent. The necessary thing is left undone (like getting organized) because there are so many urgent (unscheduled events). I see it better in others than in myself! I have decided to make this daily reading a necessary event for each day and it is a great blessing.

  3. Deb

    Does anyone know why in today’s reading “Israel” and “Jacob” were used so much? It seems to me when Abram’s name was changed to Abraham, that is what he was called the rest of the time. Same for the disciples. Just curious….
    Daily reading, I hope, is becoming a habit. I’ve noticed I have to read first thing in the morning with my coffee. If I do anything else first it is a struggle to get the reading in. Currently being unemployed it makes it easier in the morning, we’ll see how it is once I get a new job.
    Thanks, Michael, for your insights and encouragement!

    • Deb, I noticed the same thing about Israel and Jacob. Sometimes the names are used interchangeably in successive sentences. But I’m not sure why.
      Thanks for the encouraging words about the blog. Like you, I need to do it first thing in the morning or my day gets away from me. Hopefully it’s helping to give you perspective as you look for work.

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