One of my most memorable experiences as a youth was running on my junior high track and field team. I never believed that I would love running. I had never considered myself to be fast or to have the strength and endurance to run a race. However, my time on the team taught me so much more than how to run a race. It showed me the importance of setting a goal.
After I had made several attempts to try to beat my peers with my speed and agility but had failed, I decided to quit the team. As I approached Coach Williams to tell him of my decision, he stopped me and asked, “Cummings, what’s your reason for running?” That question changed my life. Though I soon became a decent runner, I became an even better person because I was pushed to find a reason to run.
In his letter to Timothy, the apostle Paul presents his own eulogy in the form of a defense. Aware that his time on earth is drawing to its end, Paul writes of his earthly and spiritual journey—the good fight, the finished race, and his remaining faith. Paul is able to finish his life journey because he is focused during his most trying moments—because only the righteous Judge can provide the crown of righteousness.
What is your reason for running? What prize are you after? From whom do you wish to receive your reward?
Holy God, giver of life, health, and strength, thank you for the ability to run the race you have given me. Help me to focus on my ultimate goal, which is to please you. Amen.
The theme in the readings from the Hebrew scriptures is abundance. Joel speaks of the time of plenty in the land of Israel. This abundance is not only physical, for it includes a generous outpouring of the Spirit of God. The psalmist sings of abundant rains that allows the land to flourish. The hills, meadows, and valleys all sing praise to God. Second Timothy 4 contains the scriptural passage that brings us closest to the death of Paul. The apostle has been abandoned by many, but the Lord stands by him as he faces his likely imminent death. In the Gospel, Jesus warns us about the dangers of pride. The Pharisee in the parable thinks his personal goodness brings favor with God, but God desires a humble heart.
Read Joel 2:23-32. How has rain been a sign of God’s impending provision in your life?
Read Psalm 65. How has God’s forgiveness freed you to participate in creation’s joy?
Read 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18. When has God strengthened you in the face of evil?
Read Luke 18:9-14. What aspect of your life do you need to approach with renewed humility?
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