Bear On His Back

I never saw any particular reason to run unless I had a ball in my hands and someone was chasing me, or someone else had the ball and I was chasing him. That was fun. But track and field events were a waste of time as far as I was concerned. You run and there's nothing to take you mind off the pain.

Nonetheless, our football coach thought we should all participate in track in the spring in order to stay in shape. I threw the discus and the shotput and suffered through the required running. The worst was at track meets when the coach decided that everyone who wasn't running in another event had to run the half mile. Aaaugh !

There were usually about a half dozen of us fifteen-year old Mineral Springs Hornets, unwillingly drafted into this event. You didn't have to look at the uniform color to figure out who we were. We were that gaggle bringing up the rear. The goal wasn't to win the event. We tried to avoid finishing last. It wasn't too hard because there were usually one or two short fat guys with us. Everyone trotted leisurely until the end of the race, whereupon we sprinted (actually we trotted a little faster) for the finish line, leaving the short fat guy bringing up the rear.

One day my friend "Bug" told me before the race, "Today I'm going to run hard. I'm going to try to finish among the first ones." I was impressed. Sure enough the gun sounded and Bug took off. Rounding the first curve he was challenging for the lead. Two-hundred yards into the race he still figured among the leaders. "Look at ol' Bug!" I wondered.

Unfortunately my ambitious friend had forgotten one thing: to run half a mile you have to work hard in training. You have to prepare yourself. "Want to" isn't enough, you body has to be ready. Bug began to fade like sunlight, late on a winter's afternoon. We had an expression for it-a bear climbed on his back.

Soon others passed my red-faced friend. He was sucking air violently when I jogged past him. To his credit, he finished the race, but dead last. Even the little, fat guy beat him.

It's hard to run with a bear on your back. An old time "track coach" gives us some advice about how to run our race,

"Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus"(Heb. 12:1, 2).

I've noticed a few "bears" that are slowing me down in my race for the Lord. One is the tendancy to dread things that are coming up. A new teaching assignment, messages for a week-end youth camp, an article that I have to write, desk-work that piles up in the in-box (you recognize it because it's been in the inbox so long that green spores have grown upon it). I agonize and then finally I do it and think, "That wasn't so bad. Actually, it was fun. What was I worried about?"

Don't dread! "Help me Lord by your Spirit." Don't dread. Look forward to these opportunities the Lord gives you.

Do you have any "bears" that are slowing you down? An attitude full of doubt? A tongue that can't stop criticizing? A life lived with self at the center? Days on end where worry and frustration replace joy? A constant search for something "big" to make you happy, ignoring the small joys that the Lord loads us with each day? Hidden sin? Laziness in prayer and study of the word?

Lay aside those weights. You can't run like that! Ask the Lord to help you conquer the tendency to live with that grinning bear perched on your shoulders. Old Grizzly won't get down of his own free will. You have to decide to make him descend and you have to do it each day, until he goes away and bothers someone else. It's called discipline.

The goal in this race is not to avoid losing. "Run in such a way as to get the prize," "coach" Paul bellows (1 Cor. 9:24). We're motivated because we're daily looking at Jesus our Lord. Don't just run to beat the slow guys.

Run to win!