“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10
I’ve been watching a little television lately – American Ninja Warrior and Spartan. I wanted to watch them, because they appeared to be healthy shows about challenging strength and health that are high in action and low in game playing drama. Most of the time, I have found this to be true. I like these shows, because the contestants inspire me with their personal stories, their courage to train and compete, their strength, their endurance, and their belief in what they are competing for. Each competitor seems to be overcoming something – age, gender discrimination, height, weight, disease, self esteem, disability, addiction, societal prejudices, poverty, family tragedy, even the inability to sit still as a child. Each one has someone special cheering them on whether it is their team mates, family, friend, or coach. I enjoy human interest stories; so, I am drawn into each contestant and their team, and I am rooting for them to succeed. Their success isn’t really about winning the prize, but showing up to compete in the first place and giving it their best effort. I am on the edge of my seat a lot, cheering them on and encouraging them to push themselves as if the program were not prerecorded and my voice can cut through the long distance between myself and the person on the screen to make a difference in their event, and I get emotional with them after each contestant completes their charge through the course.
Of course I know that my voice doesn’t increase their drive to accomplish more than they thought they could. I know that the woman hanging by her fingertips looking for a little more strength and energy to reach for that next handhold and move on from this challenge to the final challenge won’t be emboldened to make the effort by my couch potato chants. This doesn’t stop me from voicing my excitement and inspired want for them to succeed though. I love encouraging people. I love crying with them when they cry and celebrating with them when they celebrate. In fact, at my church the joke is that my spiritual gifts are hugging and crying. I am very comfortable and fluent in both and you will often see me doing both with individuals I am visiting with; they go well with something else I love to do – pray.
There are so many obstacles in life: sin, addiction, depression, pain, disease, war, murder…I can hear you all adding your personal list of obstacles here. We are all going to go through something that challenges the wits out of us; that brings us to a halt emotionally, sometimes physically, and maybe it’ll even give us the spiritual hiccups. God’s glory, our success, the beauty of life comes from our stamina and drive to dig in and keep pushing through it; it is in the process of leaning into God and allowing Him to take us through it. “He knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold,” Job 23:10. This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. I don’t want to just live in Jesus, I want to be alive in Jesus. This means I am going to go through much, and it isn’t always going to be fun. Sometimes it looks scary, but I am finding out that each obstacle I complete is another gift, a refining moment, I have to share with someone coming after me to encourage them in their own obstacle course pilgrimage. I am a warrior, you are a warrior. We are strong because of Him. He has gone before each one of us and completed the course perfectly; so, I want to be able to say as in Job 23:11-12 that, “My feet have closely followed his steps; I have kept his way without turning aside. I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.”
LORD, You are the mighty I AM, and You are my all in all. What is my worth and purpose? This is the true question You planted in our hearts while we were yet in our mother’s womb. You planted a need that only You can fill, and we are each in different stages of this pilgrimage, running obstacles for our refining and growth. I thank you for your saving mercy and grace and your holy presence. There are so many obstacles to face here on this earth, I pray we take your path today and each and every day as we face these obstacles as the warriors we are. I long to see your face and hear your voice at the end say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” I ask you to fortify us with your strength and balance. Give us the will and the stamina to complete these obstacles with courage and confidence. It is in the mighty name of Jesus I pray this. Amen.