I found this story interesting, as I read it the other day, and want to share it with you as we start our week. “Marla Runyan gave her all to qualify for the Olympic Games in 1996, but her best time finished short of the mark to make the United States team. Undeterred by that failure, she returned in 2000 and made the team for the Sydney Olympics. Her eighth place finish in the 1,500 meter race was the best finish ever for a United States woman runner. The thing that makes Runyan’s accomplishments even more remarkable is that she is legally blind. She is the first legally blind athlete to ever qualify for and compete in the Olympic Games. After her Olympic career was over she switched to running marathons and in 2002 posted the second fastest debut marathon time ever by an American woman.
Runyan can only see shapes and blurs but she says that her lack of vision is actually an asset—she just focuses on the finish line in front of her rather than looking around to see what the other runners are doing. Not having visual distractions helps her compete and win her races. The same thing can be true in our lives. There will always be things that try to pull us away from what we should be focused on doing. Many times, these will be good things, but we must be willing to set them aside and stay focused on what is most important.”
As I listen to this story, I think of the words of the writer to the Hebrews as he tries to encourage the people as they face the challenges that life is presenting them: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 1:1-2 NIV).
When life seems to cave in around us, even as Christians, it is sometimes hard to stay focused on Jesus. He is there and we know that and we love Him but it is challenging, at times, to let Him take the central focus. Things wear us down and things that are stressful distract us. We need to consciously keep our minds and hearts on the person and work of Christ and the eternal truths of God’s word. That is why it is so important to spend time, daily, in God’s word, reflecting on it, praying as we interact with it, and meditating on it. As we build our spiritual resources, we are preparing for the rough and rocky times.
I also exhort us, as fellow pilgrims, to pray for one another and, as I have said Sunday, to cherish each other in whatever ways we can - to comfort, encourage and empower those around us as we run the race. Our “cheering on” has an incredible impact on the lives of others and helps keep them focused on Jesus. Jesus' love is made visible by reaching out and helping others.
Thank you, my friends, for being the arms, feet and voice of Jesus to one another. As Paul said to us Sunday in his prayer, “that (our) love for each other will overflow more and more and that (we) will keep on growing in (our) knowledge and understanding…” of our faith (Philippians 1:9 NLT). God bless you as we live for Jesus – Pastor Ralph