Defeating Discouragement and Winning the Race
Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest, (Joshua 1:9, KJV).
You have a calling. You have a mission. You have a purpose. You have a destiny. And whether you know it or not, you have just signed up for discouragement. You’ve just entered a race that will demand your all with hurdles to jump and stumbling blocks to overcome. The terrain is rough. You are precisely the kind of person discouragement seeks out, and it won’t just come to slow you down. It comes to take you out of the game.
Discouragement is not looking for the pansies, the whiners, the do-nothings, or the complainers. It comes for the bold, strong, and fearless men and women of God who are willing to lay solid rubber to hot cement and go the distance — all the way to the finish line of life. You’re the ones who are focused, intense, and ever-ready. You’re ready to rock it. And when you’re putting on your running shoes, discouragement comes to subtly untie your laces.
You’ve got to learn to tie your knots a bit tighter, if you know what I mean. God wants to encourage you, because the race is long. You will get tired. You will suffer times of discouragement. And you really don’t know where you’ll break that proverbial ribbon. Discouragement will tempt you into areas of depression, despair, and defeat. It happens when we give in to sulking, whining, pining, and self-pity. Don’t give in! These will not help you. They will kill you. Go ahead and have a good cry out. But you’ve got to get back up again. God offers the genuine comfort, compassion, wisdom, and encouragement to put you back on track.
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have some hurdles to jump, mountains to climb, or stumbling blocks to overcome. Regardless of the terrain, you’ve got a trail to blaze. God expects us to win the race we’re called to run – regardless of the obstacles we face. As a loving Father, He equips us to win. That is what this post is all about.
It all begins with proper training.
Running the Race
Know ye not that they which run in a race run all but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obatain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is termperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I , not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway, (1 Corinthians 9:24-27, KJV).
Paul defines our Christian life as a race to be won, where there is a marked finish line. Christ defines our Christian walk by a straight and narrow path, which He says few will find. Why? Because few are willing to travel that path or run that race. It’s tight.
I believe with all my heart that discouragement comes to the those pressing deep and reaching high for God. It doesn’t bother those who have no vision, who are shuffling and mucking through life without purpose. Discouragement isn’t going to waste its time on a soul that isn’t going anywhere or doing anything. No, discouragement comes for those with vision, purpose, and fearless intensity.
If that is you, you should be encouraged. It’s time to put your shoes back on. Tie your laces tight.
Every athlete goes through cross training if they’re going to enter a race. Regardless of the sport, training is part of preparing to win. As Paul says, you run the race to win. There’s no other purpose. Every individual on the track is there for one reason: to win the respective race.
Discouragement has a purpose also. It slows you down, without question. But its true purpose is to take you completely out of the game. It wants you to quit cold. It wants you to give up, give in, and check out. And if it can’t do that it wants to set you up to trip, stumble and fall – incurring and sustaining injuries that could remove you, or as Paul says, “disqualify” you. That is the purpose of discouragement. So if you feel yourself letting up, getting tired, growing weak, or needing to re-calibrate; give those areas their required attention, and be on guard against discouragement. Give yourself the necessary time and attention to strengthen those areas that are weak. That is where cross training becomes absolutely essential.
Discouragement often comes in areas we’re not anticipating. Sometimes those areas are entirely unrelated to our core vision, mission and purpose. Yet they are so intimately connected to us and our lives that they bleed into those core areas, thereby affecting our ability to overcome.
In terms of running, cross training is important because it both strengthens and brings flexibility to muscle groups running does not use. Why is this important? Because no area should be weak or ignored.
A weak area is a vulnerable area.
Let God cross-train you.
Just because the sport of choice does not use a particular muscle group, that doesn’t mean other muscle groups don’t deserve attention or that they aren’t necessary to help you win the race. Every area should be strong, able to serve you in your core purpose. The same is true for your spiritual life. God wants you cross trained. He wants you able to handle those areas that could otherwise trip you up, affecting your ability to win in fulfilling your unique destiny and individual purpose.
Weak areas are vulnerable areas. They need to be addressed and strengthened so they can serve you in their supportive roles. You may be a great sprinter. But without the necessary flexibility gained through cross training, you’ll never make it over that next hurdle.
What are the areas of your life that need cross training? Are these areas where discouragement is targeting you and affecting your core mission and purpose?
It’s time to strengthen what is weak. It’s time to cross train.
You are reliant upon your peripheral vision to succeed.
Focus is great. It’s necessary. It’s central. It’s key. However, you can focus so intensely that everything on the periphery is either ignored or neglected. When that happens the rest of your life becomes a blur of obscurity. And suddenly… you’ve got blind spots. Blind spots are dangerous.
Again, these represent vulnerability. Where there is not awareness, things go undetected. When things go undetected they can’t be properly addressed – whether good or bad, hence the need for peripheral vision.
Take the blinders off.
Allow God to address your blind spots and restore your peripheral vision.
Training your peripheral vision is just as important as your core vision (your central focus). And not only physically, but spiritually. Being aware of what’s going on around you is critical. Don’t ignore or neglect your periphery. Maintaining visual balance is a key part of maintaining your central focus. Don’t ignore those other areas on the sideline.
Your peripheral vision is a gift from God. Use it to your advantage. Always be aware of what’s going on in your peripheral life (the sideline).
Proper Form vs. Speed
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, 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 the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin, (Hebrews 12:1-4, KJV).
When it comes to running, speed is of interest. How fast can someone run? That is a question worthy of answering, yet it is determined by the runner’s form. In the Kingdom of God it’s not the one who is the fastest who will win — It’s the one with proper form. As children of God, we are not seeking first place. We are seeking to run with integrity – that’s proper form. The manner in which we run is what is important to God. He’s looking for integrity of heart.
A strong runner is not necessarily one who has the greatest speed. Sprinters don’t endure long. The strongest runner, the one who will endure to the end, is the one who has the best form. The form of a runner is found in their stride and alignment, otherwise known as body mechanics. This determines how far they will go with each step, the manner by which they work with gravity instead of against it, and their rhythm or cadence.
Running with proper form protects you from injury.
The endurance of a runner and their subsequent speed is determined by proper form. The same is true for us spiritually.
Will you go the distance? What is your endurance?
But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved, (Matthew 24:13, KJV).
Whether or not you will finish the race is determined by proper form – not speed. Focus on endurance. God is not looking for who will be first. He’s looking for those who will endure to the end. Because life is not a sprint – it’s a marathon.
The first will be last, and the last will be first. Those who will ultimately win the race are those who run with integrity. They will endure to the end.
Winning the race requires endurance.
Endurance requires proper form.
Who’s Got Your Back?
But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God, by faith: that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded, (Philippians 3:7-15, KJV).
Your back is your most vulnerable area. And as you’re running forward, embracing your destiny, you need someone covering your tracks.
The destroyer comes for our backs. He attacks from behind. We see it all the time in the media. For those who make genuine headway for the Kingdom of God, there is always someone who is ready to dig up their past, stab them in the back, and cause them to stumble. Those who come from behind are always out to steal, kill and destroy.
People will use your past to discourage you by throwing it in front of you again. That is not where your past belongs.
JESUS CHRIST WILL ALWAYS COVER YOUR TRACKS.
YOUR PAST IS FORGIVEN, UNDER THE COVENANT BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST.
Christ will never allow your past to defeat you.
He will always call you onward and upward.
The only One who can truly have your back is God, although there may be many trailing behind you in the same race who would love nothing more than to see you stumble and fall to ruin. God plainly tells us not to look back. Yet our back is our most vulnerable area. It’s tempting at times to look over your shoulder.
No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God, (Luke 9:62, KJV).
Your back (past) requires covering. You’ve laid some tracks on that trail you’re blazing, and God is the only one who can cover them. He does that through the blood of Christ that cleanses us from all sin.
We were not designed or created to look back. Our eyes are in front. So, don’t look back. Reach forward. Strive ahead. Press on. There’s nothing you can do about yesterday. It requires forgiveness only God can offer. Your past is under the blood of Christ. If you’ve fallen, get up again. Don’t stop. Keep going.
His mercies are new every morning.
So learn to tie your shoelaces. Allow God to cross train you. Address your blind spots. Learn how to focus. Keep your peripheral vision intact. Run with proper form. And above all press on. Be ready to endure to the end. It’s the only way you’ll win. It’s a race worth running.
Cheers & Shalom,