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The Jordan Volunteers: The Race Before Us

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The Jordan Volunteers

The Race Before Us

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The Jordan Project has been a wonderful opportunity. It has also been a long procession of firsts in my life: first time overseas, first time living in a foreign country, first time working with special needs children and, as of April 8th, my first marathon. A big part of the Jordan Project is leaving a legacy, both for the people we serve here and also for future volunteers. So it was that I decided to follow in the footsteps (literally) of last year’s volunteers by competing in the Dead Sea Marathon.

Webster’s Online defines a marathon specifically as “a footrace run on an open course usually of 26 miles 385 yards (42.2 kilometers)” and generally as “something (as an event, activity, or session) characterized by great length or concentrated effort.” Indeed the marathon can be seen as a type of the struggle of life—especially for the Christian life. Running as an analogy for the Christian life has been popular since the earliest times—phrases like, “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1 Hebrews 12:1Why seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which does so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
American King James Version×
) are very much a part of the Christian tradition.

The bible often uses types and symbols to help us better understand spiritual concepts, and this is a great exam- ple. The marathon—like life—is a long and often arduous journey. Like life, it is not a sprint and can only be completed through much effort. The trials and hardships experienced during it cannot be predicted ahead of time; it requires planning and timing, patience and endurance.

The Shorts of Truth

This analogy works well in the general sense, but perhaps even better in a more specific sense. Specifically, the marathon symbolizes any major trial that stretches us to the limits of our endurance. The keys to finishing this figurative marathon are the same as those for a real one: preparation and determination. The first part of this is having and maintaining the proper equipment. For a runner, these are shirt,
shorts and a trusty pair of shoes. Modifying the list found in Ephesians 6 for the running analogy, our essential equipment might be the shorts of truth, the shirt of righteousness and the shoes of the preparation of the gospel of peace.

Another crucial factor is training. Runners diligently follow a program of small runs, building up gradually to race day. Likewise, Christians build the character and endurance to overcome large trials through the small trials and setbacks of life. Making the most out of these small, often daily tests strengthens us spiritually so we can confidently endure the larger ones that come along less frequently. An additional aspect is maintaining proper nutrition, both before
and during the race. For a Christian, this is a healthy diet of the Word of God and staying hydrated with the Holy Spirit. Without these, our strength doesn’t last long, and we fall far short of reaching our goal.

Our goal in the specific sense is to successfully overcome our trials, becoming ever stronger through them. And in the general sense, our goal is nothing less than eternal life in the very family of God. Concerning this goal, notice what the apostle Paul says: “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 [24] Know you not that they which run in a race run all, but one receives the prize? So run, that you may obtain. [25] And every man that strives for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.
American King James Version×
).

Always Overcome

As every trial in life has its end, so too did my marathon: after hours of pounding the pavement in the heat, I ran across the finish line. My marathon here in Jordan was a trying but rewarding experience, made possible because of careful and committed preparation. Likewise, our Christian marathons can be successful and rewarding if we prepare and dedicate ourselves to the task of overcoming. As we do this, let us all echo Paul when he said, “Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14 Philippians 3:13-14 [13] Brothers, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth to those things which are before, [14] I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
American King James Version×
).