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bp dobbs march 2017

Running the Race

Bishop Julian M. Dobbs

While on one of my training runs in the fall of 2016, I damaged the Iliotibial band on my right leg, a common injury for runners. After some significant physical therapy, a reduced training schedule and a gentle ‘talking-to’ by The Rev. Deacon Barbara Jansma (nurse practitioner in the Division of Pulmonary Medicine and co-coordinator of the Cystic Fibrosis Center at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia) I very slowly began to experience some progress and healing.

To regain my regular running routine, I am following a disciplined recovery routine which, by the grace of God, will take me across the finish line in the New York Marathon later this year.

For many disciples of Jesus, regular spiritual disciplines assist us in our Christian journey by providing a framework for Spiritual growth and godliness. The apostle Paul writes about pressing on and straining forward in his letter to the Philippians, chapter 3.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14.

Paul knows the Christian life is no spectator sport. It is one for active participation by everybody who names the name of Jesus Christ.

Three insights to consider from these verses:

1. Know Who You Are. Verses 12 and 13, Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead. Paul begins with the way he views himself. Literally, I do not regard myself to have obtained.

What athlete is ever satisfied with their performance?

Here is the apostle Paul who had accomplished so much in his Christian journey, and yet he is somewhat dissatisfied. “I’m not there yet,” so much more to be done and to be accomplished in the grace of God for the glory of God.

2. Be Forward Looking. Resist the temptation to look back. Verse 13, ...Forgetting what lies behind.

I take this to mean that you should trace, face and replace anything in our background which hinders our pursuit of God. Do not live life looking over your shoulder. No athlete runs like that! The easiest way to waste your life is to spend it hung up on what has happened in the past. Certainly, we are to remember God’s mercy in the battles that are won but we only look back for the sake of pressing forward. Do not let your past define who you are today.

3. Be Deeply Motivated. Aim At The Spiritual Goal. Verse 13 and 14. Straining forward [vs.13] pressing on [vs.14]... for the finish line.

We are all in the marathon race of life and there is a finish line ahead of us. In relative terms, this is a short race, too short to coast, too short to drift, too short to look at everyone around you. Being a disciple of Jesus Christ is about straining forward, pressing on and becoming more and more like Him each day.

The 19th century hymn writer John Monsell wrote:

Run the straight race Thro' God's good grace;

Lift up thine eyes and seek His face.

Life with its way before us lies;

Christ is the Path and Christ the Prize.

May Almighty God grant each of his generous grace to run the race before us, daily taking up our cross and following Christ.

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