Retaining Our Focus

“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:4)

My niece Meghan was an outstanding middle-distance track athlete in high school, frequently winning her events. At the team’s annual awards banquet her sophomore year, the coach said of her, “Meghan learned to run through pain,” a quality often distinguishing the best from the rest. She had grown in grit, exchanging comfort for excellence; she had matured as a runner and become a winner. Perseverance has a transforming effect all its own, and Meghan was named the “most improved” member of the team that season.

It was James, the Lord’s brother, who wrote, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”1 We know from Paul the test of physical persecution, of course, yet our trials also include worldly enticements that distract us and devilish deceptions that discourage us from growing up into Kingdom effectiveness. Jesus taught, for instance, when we let “life’s worries, riches and pleasures” choke us like weeds, we remain immature and unfruitful.2 Too, He said we can expect people to insult, persecute and falsely say all kinds of evil against us because of Him.3 These are meant to intimidate us, yet in reality they are but hindrances and entanglements we are called to “throw off” as we “run with perseverance the race mapped out for us.”4 For we run not just to reach a finish line: there is impactful work for us along the way. Indeed, Jesus said that by persevering those who hear the word and retain it produce a good crop.5 Paul summarized a life of purposeful pursuit this way: “I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”6

Then we run with focus, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith,”7 and we “consider him who endured such opposition … so that [we] will not grow weary and lose heart.”8 “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,” we, like Paul, “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called [us] heavenward in Christ Jesus.9 For “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”10 We mature as runners; we become winners.

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25)

Father, lead us in the course you’ve mapped out for us today. Strengthen us to throw off all that would hinder and entangle us. Grace us to fix our eyes on you and to run well in Christ. Amen.

1 James 1:2, 3
2 Luke 8:14
3 Matthew 5:11
4 Hebrews 12:1
5 Luke 8:15
6 Acts 20:24
7 Hebrews 12:2
8 Hebrews 12:3
9 Philippians 3:13, 14
10 2 Corinthians 4:17, 18

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