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November 14, 2013

MAY: Faith: We All Celebrate It

— November 2013 concludes a year-long celebration in the Catholic Church of their Year of Faith, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and the 10th anniversary of the publication of the “Catechism of the Catholic Church.”

The 12-month focus on faith is the first such spotlight in more than 50 years and is aimed to have all believers renew and energize their commitment to faith in Christ.

Over the past several weeks, we have looked at the state of faith today. We’ve noticed that it is something that we all need, that it is constantly challenged, but most importantly, it is something that it we all have at our fingertips.

We may doubt it, we may ignore it, we may even deny its existence, but it is a real part of every life. The only real question is, in what or in whom shall we place our faith.

Given what we have noticed about faith in our society, is there enough faith to celebrate? And if so — if we have it — how can we actually celebrate it? Let’s think about some really practical things we can do.

Near the end of his life, the apostle Paul compared the journey of life to a race. He noted that he has finished the race; he has kept the faith. How did Paul run so that he could finish the race successfully? He gave insight to that several years earlier when he said that he “runs straight toward the goal in order to win the prize, which is God’s call through Christ Jesus to the life above” (Philippians 3:14 ESV).

Think for a moment about a relay race during a track and field event. What makes a good race for the runner? What assures the runner of a successful race? At what points will the crowd stand and cheer?

A QUICK START

The runners are ready for the start, tense and perched in the blocks. The gun sounds and runners burst from the starting line. Within seconds, it becomes obvious which runners are going to compete and which runners will struggle to place.

The race of faith is the same way. Celebrate the individuals who laid a good foundation for your faith. Send words of thanks to parents, teachers or friends who showed by example what faith can mean, who spent time talking to you about questions that haunted your mind. Pause at least once a week to reflect on your start. Contact people you haven’t seen in ages with a note or a call of thanks.

VISIBLE MILESTONES

Many runners can pick out places along the track where significant strides were made. Perhaps that is true of your faith run as well. Are there times in your life where God drew you close? Pause to reflect on those moments where God’s faithfulness was even stronger than yours. Remember too that often our faith is strengthened most during times of adversity.

RENEWED EFFORT

There are points in the race when the runner “hits the wall” — a time when muscles and energy seem completely depleted. The successful runner tries to avoid that point through exercise, nutrition and training, but must press through it when it arrives. Our race of faith is the same way.

While we try to avoid it, there are times when our energy is drained, when our hope seems lost, when we are tempted to simply give up. Who or what renewed your strength during those difficult times? Show appreciation to the people who encouraged you, who cheered you on, who ran along side you.

PASSING THE BATON

There is a crucial point in a relay race where the one runner hands the baton to the next. The second runner begins to run before the exchange so that both runners are progressing at the same rate, along the hand-off to go seamlessly. One mistake, one slip, on errant glance and the baton can be dropped and the runners may stumble and fall.

The race of faith is very similar. It has been said that religion is always one generation away from extinction. You may have run your segment of the race well — to whom will you pass the baton? It may be your children, co-workers, friends or companions at your church. Are you helping them train? Are you encouraging their faith? Are you celebrating your faith by passing it on to someone else?

Frank Shorter, American winner of the 1972 Olympic Gold Medal for the marathon, said of running a long race, “Experience has taught me how important it is to just keep going, focusing on running fast and relaxed. Eventually it passes and the flow returns. It’s part of racing.”

Maybe that’s the final thing to celebrate - still running.

— Tom May is the Minister of Discipleship at Eastside Christian Church in Jeffersonville. He is an adjunct instructor in the Communications Department at Indiana University Southeast. Reach him at tgmay001@gmail.com

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