A school sports day is like marmite, you either love it or you hate it. It’s that time of the year when children compete in various races and events and parents and friends cheer them on whether they feel like they are going to win or not.
Once there were two brothers. Bill who was very athletic and Ben who was not. Bill had won lots of races, Ben could have won awards for lounging around. Bill loved sports day but Ben hated it.
It was the big race day and Ben was listening to the crowd cheering as he watched his brother sprinting around the track. To this day he is still not sure what came over him, but he knew that he wanted people to cheer for him and so he ran. He jumped onto the track and started running and he made it at least 20m before collapsing. He was unfit, unprepared and he was wearing the wrong sort of clothes. Later it was agreed that it was a miracle that he had even made it 20m. Ben was sobbing as his father picked him up and carried him home.
Later they talked and Ben explained to his father that he wanted to please him and to make him proud the way that he believed that his dad was proud of Bill. Ben heard his dad say that he was proud of and loved them both but he was still determined that he would beat Bill.
Ben’s father decided to help him by getting a coach to work alongside him. The coach congratulated Ben on his effort and desire but explained that if he wanted to race well that he would have to train rather than just trying hard. Ben began to see that trying hard by itself had led to disappointment rather than training which involved discipline, regular exercise, the right diet and lifestyle changes that would lead to improvement. The going was slow (and I mean really slow) at first but Ben persevered under the watchful eye of his trainer.
Months later came the race. Ben believed it was his day, he had trained hard and he was in good shape, he had his running shoes and gear and his trainer had prepared him well. He looked athletic, he felt athletic and he felt like he was running faster than he had ever run before. As he ran it was like his trainer was with him, advising him and spurring him on every step of the way.
As Ben came into the home straight, he and his brother were neck and neck. Ben was straining with everything he had but Bill was cruising and as they neared the line, Bill pulled away and won. Ben felt devastated as he collapsed and then he felt his father’s arms around him and the words ‘I’m so proud of you Ben’. He looked up to see his dad, brother and trainer all there excitedly congratulating him. Ben realized how blessed he was, he had a loving father who accepted him unconditionally, an inspiring older brother who showed him the way through example and a coach who was always there to guide him. Ben’s life changed that day as he began to be grateful for what he had and to see all that he had achieved.
God is our Father and he loves us unconditionally. He cheers for us when we do well and he cheers for us when we are stumbling along. He wants what is best for us.
If we turn to God, then we become a brother of Jesus who lived the perfect life. If we feel we have to be better than Jesus we will be discouraged but if we look to his example and let him inspire us then we will be encouraged to move forwards in life.
God, the Holy Spirit is described as someone who comes alongside us to offer advice, expertise and guidance. He is always with us but if we don’t listen to and let him lead then his presence can’t make a difference in us.
The Bible says that life is like
a box of chocolates running a race. We need to let go of the things that hold us back, especially sin. We need to focus on Jesus who inspires us and we also need to endure.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honour beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people;then you won’t become weary and give up. (Hebrews 12.1-3)
As we travel through life, may we learn what it is to train instead of just trying. Lots of us have things we would like to change, but we try hard rather than putting small practical steps in place to achieve the change. As we seek to change, may we be encouraged and challenged by the Holy Spirit who is with us providing training and may we be inspired by Jesus’ example, but most of all I hope we will be secure in God’s love because he loves us whether we change or not.