I've recently finished Christopher McDougall’s book
Born to Run
. It hasn't influenced my running regimen yet, but it was a fascinating read. In the book, McDougall studies the Tarahumara people of Western Mexico – a Native American tribe with a penchant for taking 100-mile leisure runs through insanely inhospitable landscape. After bringing a group of American ultra-marathoners to compete against the reclusive tribesman, McDougall makes a radical observation about the Tarahumara’s secret to running. “They'd never forgotten what it felt like to love running. They remembered that running was mankind's first fine art, our original act of inspired creation.” It's a sentiment, I'm sure, that many sedentary Americans find hard to believe; however, McDougall goes on to explain, "We were not designed to sprint; we were designed to endure long distances." We are inherently marathoners.
Sometimes we all need reminding that the journey of faith is a marathon not a sprint. The Christian life emphasizes a day-to-day existence engaging in an in-depth relationship with Jesus. Eugene Peterson refers to this Christian life as a “long obedience in the same direction.” As a Christian, "Where am I going?" and "How do I get there?" are two faith questions that will forever hover over you; in addition, they are not always visible or immediately attained.
All of our biblical heroes demonstrate that journey well. Abraham sets out from Ur to Canaan out of faith and nothing more. Likewise, Thomas’ question to Jesus is honest but helpful: “Master, we have no idea where you’re going, how do you expect us to know the road?” Jesus replied, “I am the way, the truth, and life, no one comes to the father except through me.” Jesus will lead you on a joyous journey of faith if you truly desire, but at times I question whether that’s what most of us really want.
I had a friend who pastored a booming church in Texas. It was hip, exciting, and flashy. People were flocking there to see the unique worship, innovative skits, and to hear the cutting-edge sermons. He told me how thrilling it was for the young staff at first, but soon it became exhausting. People kept clamoring for more. For fear of losing their audience, the staff felt they needed to top whatever they did the previous week. They soon realized that by preparing each week for a big Sunday show they were spiritually starving themselves in order to
“feed the beast.” It became a distraction to their own spiritual journeys and those unwieldy expectations burned out many on the staff. When you live from event to event, eventually the novelty wears out – and so do you.
I say this because I think that we are entering a very important season in the life of our church. Tabernacle has experienced many exciting things over the last few years. New structure, new staff members, new giving, new mission opportunities, and so much more! I can sense that some folks want to know what the
big thing will be. Some of us want to sprint from event to event, but what is lacking is meaningful engagement in a depth-filled faith walk.
Over the next few weeks as we tackle the book of Jonah,
I challenge you to prayerfully engage your calling as a believer in Christ; and to remember that we are all on a journey. Are you living from big event to big event that the church performs, or are you looking daily to grow in a deep and abiding relationship with Jesus? Let’s push one another to stop living for the next big thing – let’s keep our eyes on the one big God.
Expecting His Best,
Stephen V. Allen