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The Marathon of Life and Ministry

Written by Irvina Parker

The main definition of the word ‘marathon’ is a long-distance race, which measures 26 miles and 385 years. The word ‘marathon’, for me, has always been tied to something more closely related to the binge watching of movies (although I really don’t do much of that either), or crafting (the more probable option). A marathon for me would be based on the length of time I did something, certainly not the distance of miles I ran.

I must admit, I was surprised when our daughter Jennifer first started running in college. Walking? Yes. Running? No! Within a few years, it led to her participation in various running events. Then, our son joined in and they did a few events together, and soon, my husband decided to walk some of the events with them. Before long, she announced that she was doing the half-marathon in Oklahoma City. She has since done the full marathon and the team relay. The event is the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon, which remembers the victims of the Murrah Federal Building, which was bombed in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. That horrible tragedy pulled out the best in our city as citizens rallied behind the rescue workers and the families of the 168 victims and 600-plus injured.

I have been a spectator at the Memorial event but never a participant…until this year! In the early part of 2018, Jennifer convinced me that I should participate in the April marathon event. “How on earth did she think I could accomplish that?,” I wondered. I am a fast walker, but running is not for me. Nevertheless, I am now the proud owner of my first marathon medal. However, I must confess that it was for the Kids’ Marathon, a part of the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. David and I did it with our 5-year-old grandson, who was far more interested in the tall buildings downtown than the marathon itself. I also must confess, that with the Kids’ Marathon, only the last mile and a half are completed as part of the event. The other 24.5 miles are completed and recorded ahead of time, in various activities, over the course of a few weeks. I am pretty sure this will be the only marathon I will ever be able to complete. The event was so fulfilling, that I have vowed to return in 2019 with all my grandchildren and twin great-nieces. We are going to do it together. It’s exciting to have the streets lined with spectators, who are there to cheer you on and tell you that you can do it! You can finish what you have started.

On our once-in-a-lifetime trip to Greece the very next month, we saw the Olympic Stadium, along with many other reminders of the games which started there. The Biblical references by Paul and others, of running the race, makes so much sense in that context. A visit to Mars Hill, where Paul was tried, and then walking the old roads in the ancient cities of Corinth and Ephesus, bring the struggles of the early apostles into greater perspective. They wrote from firsthand experiences.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, 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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:1-3).

I have always loved the “Hall of Famers” list in chapter 11, which prompts this powerful beginning of chapter 12. Looking back allows us to gain great perspective of the power of faith. They are great witnesses, whose stories testify to the faithfulness of our God. There is obviously a huge gap in between those listed in this chapter and today, but no doubt you have plenty of names that you can add to the list. I know I do!

Wherever you are in the ‘Marathon of Life’ today, take a few minutes to remember those who have gone before you and can testify to God’s greatness and faithfulness. Then you must act on the rest of that passage in Hebrews 12. We are reminded to keep our eyes focused on Jesus Christ! Whether you are a leader in Women’s Ministries, Girls’ Ministries, or another ministry in the local church, lean into the promises He has given. Walk in His footsteps and trust Him to continue to light your pathway. His endurance and victory at Calvary give us hope. The writer challenges us to consider that victory, in order to “not grow weary and lose heart.” Because of Him, we can face the challenges of the ‘Marathon of Life and Ministry’ with boldness and determination. We can win the race!

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