Friday, April 13, 2012

In for the Long Haul

"Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven."
Matthew 5:3

To run in a marathon is to run at the best of your ability - running smart - running at your top speed - running a course well studied - for 26 miles.

The "marathon" got is start in 490 BC, when Pheidippides ran 26 miles from the city of Marathon to the city of Athens carrying news of the Greek victory over the Persians.  Ever since that time, the re-enactment of that event is played out in athletic competitions worldwide.

There's an interesting thing about running a marathon of 26 miles - a physical phenomenon.  There's something that happens to each runner in the course of running the distance.  That something is called, "hitting the wall."

"Hitting the wall" happens right around the 20 mile mark, when the body's fuel is virtually depleted and willpower becomes crucial to being able to finish the course.  The runner begins to cower.  He literally begins to beg for air and energy.  His body begins to shut down causing the excrement of bowel and other body fluids.  He actually begins to die mentally, and to some point, physically.  It is at this point that he must forget his flesh - his physical being - and, let his spirit - his competitiveness, his willpower - take over.  This is when he is running on fumes.

As the runner hits the wall, his body, soul, and spirit say to each other, "Please, one more breath.  Just one more step.  Just one more burst of energy."  He says this to himself over and over in the course of the last 6 miles.  Nothing is replenishing the runner.  For the last 6 miles is both physically and mentally bankrupt.

If the runner has been successful with the mental first, and physical training second, coercing himself across the finish line, he can expect to win his prize!

A medal?


Money . . . cash prizes?


But, the prize most wanted by every runner at this point isn't gold or greenbacks.  The runner wants only to rest.  To breathe.  Oh!  For a cup of water!!

Runners respond differently upon finishing.  Some pump their fist in triumphant ecstasy.

Some just barely finish, and stumble over the line on hands and knees, heaving with labored breath.

The real point of interest though, is the one who finishes last.  Crowds gather, anticipation is high.  There are questions asked, "When will he get here?  Most have finished two or three, hours ago!  It's going on six hours, now - where is the last runner?"

Finally, the last contestant is on the horizon!

As he nears, the runner is seen limping, almost crawling, his running uniform is stained with his own excrement.  The look on his face is what one looks like when they're in shock.  The brain cells fried.  But, through the swirl of sweat, emotion, and rubber-numbed limbs, the runner becomes aware of a swelling of sound.  Applause.  The spectators are applauding!

You see, the best applause is not for who finished first.  
The best is reserved for who has finished last.  

As this runner barely makes it over the line, he is met with a thunderous applause!  Medical staff are waiting to treat him and comfort him after his ordeal.  You can't help but notice that this runner is a sweaty, smelly, filthy mess.  But, that doesn't matter now.  All that matters is that he finished.

It doesn't matter that he is a sweaty, smelly, filthy mess.  What matters is that he's HOME now!

Now.  Where did we start this off from?  Ah, yes - Matthew 5:3:

 "Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven."

Again, we go to the Greek:  The word, "poor" in the Greek is "ptochos", which means, "begging, cowering, bent over, humbled, feeling worthless because you have nothing left to give."

The word, "spirit" in the Greek is "pneuma", which is where we get the word, "pneumonia"Pneuma means "breath, blowing wind".  When we have pneumonia, we have difficulty breathing with our inflamed lungs due to congestion - lungs filled with phlegm.  Now, let's put it all together - hearing the Words of Jesus at the outset of His Sermon on the Mount:

"Blessed are you who are begging, cowering, short of breath.  Blessed are you who are stinky, smelly, bankrupt of body, soul, and spirit.  Blessed are you who feel worthless because you're spent, you're humbled by running life's marathon.  Blessed are you who just finish, for you get the prize - ME!"

Kinda gives you a visual of what state Paul was in when he - through the Holy Spirit - the Holy Breath of God - wrote in 2 Timothy 4:7:

"I have fought the good fight.  I have finished the course.  I have kept the faith."

It's nice to know that Jesus will greet you in His arms one day when you cross that finish line after the marathon of life.  It's nice to know that His shepherd's "staff" is waiting for you and me - to give you Heavenly comfort and treatment.  It's nice to know that He will wash our sweaty, smelly, "holy" running shoes at the end of the race, and welcome us home - with the angels applauding!

What do you think?  How do you read?

Sharing The Long Haul this week with:
Faith Filled Fridays at Beholding Glory


  1. A friend of ours passed away this week, and his bereaved family used these verses to honor him. Yes, this suits him quite well.

    Connecting from Beholding Glory, glad I did.

  2. Your description of running a marathon was riveting. (If this isn't too personal -- reminded me of giving birth!!:))

    Really liked the way you applied it to being "poor in spirit" and "finishing the race".

    Thanks for a very helpful post!

  3. Wonderful post. Thanks for the encouragement.

  4. Wow, you really brought me into the marathon. I learned things I never knew. Thank you for sharing this insight and great pictures to make it even more real.

  5. This was just beautiful and so very true. Great scriptures and pictures.

    Thanks for sharing your heart.

    Hope your day is blessed!

  6. Beautiful illustration.
    Reminds me that living out the Christian life is not always going to glamorous, fun, or sweet smelly. But that does not matter because its all in the name of "pressing toward the mark" in Christ Jesus and understanding we are first citizens of Heaven.

  7. This is beautiful! I want to be spent for him and receive him as my prize! Thanks for making this verse in Matt. 5 come alive with meaning. You are a blessing.


I welcome your comments and conversation as we enter into His Story together!

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