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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...




Salvation

By James Bradford
June 13, 2010

When I had a medical checkup recently, the nurse told me I had a runner’s heart. I’m always glad to hear that, although it’s not like I don’t work at it — even though I do love running. For me it’s fun and invigorating; running makes me press my limits.

It’s like the runners I see when I visit the track or a park. For some of them it’s all about fitness, or their competitive natures getting the best of them. Maybe they’re training for a goal, like a marathon, or maybe they’re just stressed out and need to run it off. All I know is that they’re out there — doing the run.

It’s all very much like life, actually. The apostle Paul, who wrote well over half of the Bible’s New Testament, said that, to him, reaching the end of his life would be like finishing a race (2 Timothy 4:7). And it’s true. Even if you think that life is nothing more than a rat race, it’s still a race.

When I run, it’s like being locked into my own little world for a while, and I actually find myself thinking quite a bit about life, and God — you know, the big questions. What’s this race of life all about anyway? Where am I really going? And what about this runner’s heart of mine? What happens if it stops beating? I mean, it will stop at some point. What then?

Some things in life I wish I could just do over. It’s like a 5K race I entered a while back. It should have been easy, but a half-mile before the end of the race I got so dehydrated and overheated I had to quit. I kicked myself for the rest of the day, but the race was over. There were no second chances.

But are there ever really any second chances in life? Surprisingly, the answer is yes. The Bible calls it salvation. Salvation is God’s great second chance for every one of us. You see, all of us have stumbled and come up short at some point in the race of life. God calls it sin. Our failures and the decisions we make trying to go it on our own, independent of God, get us running down the wrong track — out there, lost and on our own.

But here’s where God’s second chance comes in. The Bible tells us to picture a huge stadium filled with fans cheering you and me on. These are the people of faith who have already found God’s second chance and have run their race. They’re all the people I have met, and perhaps you have too, whose lives have been recharged and redirected through this thing we call salvation.

The writer of the New Testament Book of Hebrews puts it this way: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses [those are the cheering fans!], 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” (12:1, NIV).

Pretty remarkable! Lay aside sin — the Bible calls that repentance, or getting back on God’s course in life — and get rid of everything that might hinder the run. Believe me, it’s easy some days to come up with excuses not to run. But here’s the important part, the very next verse:

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Jesus — He’s the center of salvation.

Once I was driving my daughter to school. She knew I had gone out and run a few miles earlier that morning. So she asked me, “Dad, how do you decide how far to run? Do you just go until you get tired?”

I explained to her that if I focus on how I am feeling at any given point in the run, I get really tempted to give up. So instead I start by deciding ahead of time how far I am going to go, and then I picture the route in my mind. The key is to focus on the destination … not the distance and the obstacles.

In the race of life, our destination is more than an accomplishment or even a place — it’s the Lord Jesus. He is the finish line, as well as the One who gives us the breath to help us get there. He is the One who ran through the wall of shame and pain at the cross in order to die in our place and wipe away our imperfect record. And He’s the only One who offers forgiveness of our sins and invites us to start over.

On vacation a few years ago, my wife and daughters and I stayed overnight at Mammoth Village in California, at the base of the famous Mammoth Mountain ski resort. I got up the next morning and decided to do a run. The road from where we were staying rose gradually, turned left and then continued on to the base of one of the ski lifts. It was mid-August, a beautiful day. I started out just fine, but before long my lungs started burning. Every step got harder. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me.

Suddenly I realized that although I was at the base of a ski mountain, the base itself was more than 7,000 feet above sea level. No wonder I was gasping. Too little oxygen.

The great news about salvation is that the Lord doesn’t leave us to run this race alone, on our own strength and energy. The Spirit of God that raised Christ from the dead is the same “wind” that God puts into us when He gives us His salvation.

Of course, someday this runner’s heart of mine will stop beating. But here’s the really good part! This run here on earth is only the beginning. We are really made for eternity, created for an everlasting life bought and paid for by Jesus himself. Eternity in heaven — don’t miss it!


JAMES BRADFORD is general secretary of the Assemblies of God. Adapted from the iVALUE video series available online at ivalue.ag.org. Used with permission.

Email your comments to pe@ag.org.