As I write this blog, I am sitting under what I like to call my “Devotion Tree”. It’s a very large oak tree which serves as the starting line for our area cross country course, which just happens to be on some property that my home church owns. I find that 20-30 minutes a day here allows me to truly focus on what God has and can do as I hear the sounds and see the sights of His handiwork.
This morning, it seems as though there is something different in the air. You see yesterday was a “Day of Praise” for our church. It’s much like a homecoming event, where we take a look back and celebrate the things that God has done. This event takes place every year and is always capped off, just like any great church does, with a meal.
But the “Day of Praise” at my church has another significance for me. If you’ve ever heard my testimony, then you know that Run for God was “birthed” at this event. That’s right, SEVEN years ago, a man by the name of HR Poe said SEVEN words to me that forever changed my life, and as a result, the lives of many others. It was seven years ago yesterday that HR said, “Mitch, don’t let this become your god”. HR said this in response to God revealing to him that I had allowed running to become more to me than just a sport. It had become an idol.
What took place over days and weeks ahead was nothing short of God showing me that He was in control. Starting a running ministry made no sense. I had never been to seminary, I wasn’t a teacher, I was terrified to speak in front of a crowd, I wasn’t even that good of a runner, and I just wasn’t qualified to take on this role. I was absolutely correct! But what God showed me 7 years ago was that this wasn’t about me and what I could do in my own power, it was about Him, and what He was going to do if I would simply step aside and let Him move. Seven years, and thousands of churches later, God is still teaching me this principal.
Let’s fast-forward six years. Last November as we were preparing to release the updated 5K Challenge, which includes the presentation of the Gospel and the plan of salvation, I began to pray for God to allow me to share the Gospel in a “big way”. I even wrote this on one of my prayer rocks that I keep in my office. It wasn’t very long (six months or so) before God began to lay a vision on my heart. This vision was to take the words of His Son to the masses through the pages of Runners World magazine by simply asking the question that Jesus asked to his disciples in Matthew 16:15, “Who do you say that I AM?” Readers would then be directed to a webpage that would clearly walk them through the plan of salvation and give them the opportunity to reach out to us should they have questions. Clean, Clear, and Simple!
It seemed as though God was showing me a billboard with His fingerprints all over it. This vision was from God, and there was no denying it, but what I did over the next few months was allow doubt to creep in. I kept this vision to myself and would not discuss it. It just didn’t make sense! I couldn’t possibly be this bold. I couldn’t bear the thought of all the ridicule we’d receive from a world who is growing farther and farther away from God. A full page Runners World ad costs roughly $14,000 per month, I can’t afford that, and besides that, I’d never convince Runners World to even run such an ad. Sound familiar?
By August, God had convinced me once again that this wasn’t about me, it was about Him. I’ll never forget walking into our offices in early August and just springing this vision on our Run for God team. Needless to say, I got some blank stares, and lots of questions. Questions like how will we handle this, and how can we possibly afford this. Questions were many and answers were few! I began to reach out to some people whom I trust in my community to share this vision and to seek donations. I knew that we needed to raise some “seed money” to get this campaign off the ground before reaching out to the general public for help.
Run for God has never accepted donations. We’ve always kept the lights on through book and t-shirt sales, but this campaign would blow the budget and break the bank for sure without some help. It seemed as though everyone I talked to was 100% on board. Checks began to come in, but they weren’t coming in at the rate that made me feel comfortable about moving forward. I knew that 650 people donating $20 a month could keep this campaign in the pages of Runners World magazine indefinitely, but I needed to get this thing off the ground through local funds before making my case to the entire Run for God family.
Since the day I decided to step out and start this process, God has been confirming this decision in my heart. He’s done so in many ways. I attend our youth services on Wednesday nights at our church, and our youth pastor started a series called “Being Bold” literally the week that I began to put this plan in action. He spoke each week about people who took on “God Sized” tasks throughout the Bible. People like Esther and Daniel. People whose plans would fail if God didn’t show up. He went on from there to a series about Noah, and how God sometimes calls us to do things that just don’t make sense! God was putting people in my path that it seemed were speaking directly to me saying, “your on the right path”.
Let’s fast forward to this past Thursday. I was beginning to lose faith in this plan. You see, since the beginning, God had laid the January 2017 issue of Runners World on my heart to kickoff this campaign. This is the most read issue and this effort would have the greatest impact because of this fact. The deadline for confirming our intentions to Runners World Magazine is TODAY, October 24, 2016. This past Thursday, I was even giving my brother an update on this campaign, all the while having that sinking feeling in my stomach that this campaign might never happen. How could it? I hadn’t raised enough money yet, I’d started to fear the persecution once again, and “My Plans” just weren’t going “As Planned”. I was allowing this campaign to become a symbol of what “I” could do rather than what God can do!
Yesterday morning I showed up to church early to help setup for our day of praise. This is usually a day of celebration and reflection for me on what God has done through this ministry. HR Poe even rode with me to the place that I am currently sitting (my Devotion Tree) to help set up for the meal that would be after church. HR and I even talked about that day seven years ago when God prompted him to lovingly confront me about an idol in my life. But yesterday didn’t start with joy in my heart. As much as I tried to put on a happy face, I couldn’t help but dwell on the fact that I had failed God and this evangelistic outreach that he laid on my heart was imploding.
You may have heard the phrase that our God is an on time God. I’m here to tell you that is TRUE! Once we got everything set up for the “Day of Praise”, I ran home to get the family for church. We hurried back, took our seats, and began to worship with our church family. Something felt different. The music seemed to be more piercing, the atmosphere seemed to be more electric, and it was obvious that God was moving in our church yesterday morning. Then my pastor took the stage!
Charlie Bridges took the stage to give his message. Over the years, I have reached out to Charlie for advice on many occasions. In fact, he and his wife are the ones that encouraged me to make the phone call to Lifeway years ago about publishing Run for God. But for some reason I had not mentioned this campaign to my pastor. Not because I didn’t want to, but because it just never happened?
Once Charlie took the stage and put his first slide up on the big screen I knew why the subject had never come up. It was so that there would be no question or explanation for what was about to happen. Charlie’s entire message was built around Matthew 16:15 “Who do you say that I AM?”
I was instantly a basket case! I was hitting my wife in disbelief at what I was seeing. Was it a dream? Was I seeing things? This couldn’t be real! Seven years ago to the day I was confronted with seven words that began the ministry known as Run for God and today, seven years later, I’m being confronted with seven words that could change the hearts and lives of over 2.8 million people a month. Once the invitation was given, I couldn’t get to the altar fast enough. I knew my doubt was a lack of faith and therefore sin. I had to get on my knees and confess to an almighty God that I was attempting to limit what He could do based on what I could do.
As if that were not enough, as I lay there weeping on the alter, I felt a hand on my shoulder. At first nothing was said, I just knew someone was there praying with me. Then, it was as if God had brought this journey full circle as I heard HR Poe’s voice praying for me.
God is Good all the time, and all the time God is Good!
How can you help?
By the way, today, I let Runners World know that January’s issue is “a go”. We’re going leave the rest to God!
If you would like to contribute to this campaign, simply visit www.RunforGod.com/Donate
“By this we know love, that He laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” 1 John 3:16
If you don’t’ follow the sport of triathlon, then you may not have seen what took place this past Sunday in Cozumel, Mexico during the final moments of the World Championships.
Alistair and Johnny Brownlee from Great Britain are two forces that must be reckoned with if you want to claim a top spot in the sport of Olympic distance triathlon. These two brothers claimed gold and silver at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, but it’s what they did this past weekend that has the whole world talking.
While competing at the ITU World Championships in Cozumel, both brothers were beginning to set the stage for yet another one-two finish. Johnny had a comfortable lead as he approached the finish line while his brother was battling it out for second place just behind him. With 1K to go, things went south for Johnny. His body began to shut down in dramatic fashion as a stumbled to the side of the course only meters from the finish.
Johnny appeared to be done. He looked dazed, and a podium finish seemed to be disappearing. It was at this moment that his brother Alistair rounded the corner on his way to what would now be a gold medal when he noticed Johnny standing to the side of the course. To everyone’s sheer amazement Alistair also stopped as his gold medal chances ran buy him. He put his brothers arm around his neck and all but dragged him to the finish line. As if that were not enough, as they approached the finish line, he pushed his brother to the finish ahead of him.
Today, you see the images and pictures all over the Internet. Alistair is being called a hero, which in my eyes he is. It’s a teachable moment for athletes of all ages all over the world. Here is a guy who sacrificed his own aspirations for another brother.
Could this be a living picture of 1 John 3:16? Now I do not know the spiritual well being of Jonathan and Alistair Brownlee, but I do know this, Alistair showed sacrificial love for his brother. He showed a side of humanity the Christ calls us to put on display daily. He showed that when your brother is down, you help them up, not run past them. He showed us that real love is an act of giving ones self even at a cost.
Thank you Brownlee Brothers for not only being a shining example of sportsmanship, but for showing how we can all live 1 John 3:16 lives.
Watch the dramatic finish of the 2016 ITU World Championships HERE.
“Who do you say that I am” is a simple question that Jesus Himself asked His disciples. This question is recorded in both Matthew 16:15 and in Mark 8:29. But why did Jesus ask this question, and why is this question so relevant today?
Today it seems, more so than ever, people are afraid to use the name of Jesus. Some don’t use His name because they’re afraid of what people may think, say, or do. Others may shy away because they simply don’t have a good answer for the question above.
Recently, I was preparing for a campaign that you will hear all about this fall. The campaign is one that will pose this very question to lost people all over the world. But it didn’t start that way. You see, early on I was considering posing the question “Who is God to you”, which is the exact question that we use in The 5K Challenge material. The question “Who is God to you” is fine in the context of a Run for God class. Most classes are taught in the church and most people in attendance, while possibly not saved, at least have an understanding that Jesus was the Son of God, and in fact is God in human form.
But what about the general public? What about those people who have never been exposed to the Gospel at all? The Lord began to change my thinking about the central question I was asking. While “God” means only one thing to Christians and people who have been raised in a Christian setting, it can mean many different things to people all over the world who have never accepted Christ as their Savior. The name Jesus however cannot be mistaken for anything other than the Christian faith.
The name of Jesus does make many people uncomfortable. Why? Because His name reveals “Absolute Truth”. These days it seems that anything “absolute” is under attack. Just the other day I was reading some material that was discussing the subject of gender. The material said, and I quote, “Gender is NOT either/or. In many cases, it’s both/and”. The Absolute Truth is clearly defined in God’s word, but that makes some uncomfortable and stating the Absolute Truth in this case will cause you to be hated by many.
Jesus came and lived on this earth for 33 years. He came to be the example for how we are to live our lives, and He died a horrific death and was raised from the dead three days later so that we could spend eternity with Him in Heaven. The name of Jesus is Absolute Truth. The answer to the question “Who do YOU say that I AM” will determine where you spend eternity. The answer to that question is either/or not both/and. Either you acknowledge Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior or you don’t.
Today, speak Absolute Truth! Jesus said in Matthew 5:11, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.” He says it again in verse 10 as well as in verse 44. Yes, many will persecute us, but we are called to share Jesus as an either/or option not both/and.
God Bless! Mitchell
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6
If you raced with us this past weekend at the JFest 5K and 10K in Chattanooga, TN then you know the meaning of this sign. This past Saturday was our 6th Annual – Run for God – JFest 5K and 10K. It’s a race that many people attend because of the fact that entry into this race also grants you entry into the JFest Festival which goes on for the entire day and spectators get to enjoy some of todays most popular Christian bands. This year’s headliner was David Crowder.
If you’ve ever been to one of our races, then you know the amount of attention that we give to every detail. The course, the volunteers, the entertainment, the results, the awards, the shirts, and the list goes on. We prepare for months, spending countless hours trying to anticipate what “could” go wrong. We’ve always been fortunate to have races that seem to go without incident. Yes we’ve had the occasional participant in the wrong category, or a participant whose chip did not read, but nothing major.
The previous statement did not hold true for this past weekend. You see the sign above? That sign is the one that indicates to runners that if you are running the 5K then turn right, and if you are running the 10K go straight. That sign, when held in the correct location, is a critical waypoint to get people to their destination with the correct race distance. The problem this Saturday was that this sign was being held approximately 100 yards away at different turn causing roughly 400 5K runners to take a turn that they did not need to take, thus making the distance of their race 3.75 miles instead of 3.1 miles.
Needless to say, as I saw this unfolding from a distance, my heart sank. I wanted to go crawl under a table and hide. “This is a disaster!” I though as I paced around trying to figure out what to do next. Luckily the 10K runners remained on the right route, but I had hundreds of 5K runners who were getting way more than they bargained for. Yes the thoughts of “Who’s to blame”, “How did this happen”, and “How do I fix this” raced through my mind, but the one question that trumped all others was “WHY?” Why did this happen? Over the next few hours and days I began to dwell on that question. I went back in my mind to the planning, the setup, the meetings, and the logistics. Why did this happen? Why did God allow us to mess up so badly?
This morning as I ran my 5-mile run, I believe God gave me some clarity. I believe that through this God pointed out two very important lessons that I often discount or simply look over. I believe that God allowed this “bump in the road” to get my attention. Maybe it was just for me? Maybe it was just for our staff? Or maybe it was for me to learn and share with you.
Lesson #1 – People follow your lead, and it can have eternal consequences.
What I failed to explain earlier was that the first 15 or 20 5K runners did not make a wrong turn. Why? Because they were running in a pack and they were following the escort bike. They had their eyes on someone who knew the route and was leading by example. The lead biker had come out the day before and studied the route. He even had us drive him around the route so that he could ask questions and know for sure that come race day he would lead everyone down the right path.
So what happened? Two things. A gap was formed in the field separating the leaders from the rest of the field. The leaders were following someone who knew the course and was telling them to “follow me”. At that same moment, the rest of the field had dropped back, not able to see the leader, and were looking for a sign of where to go. The sign that they saw, the sign above, was misplaced, and ultimately led them and everyone who followed down the wrong path.
God really got my attention here this morning. He pointed out that such a simple mistake can lead people astray. Saturday, a simple gesture caused people to run 1K longer than they had planned, but what about the seemingly innocent things that we do everyday? Our life as Christians are to be lived in a way that point people to Jesus. We are to be that lead biker. We are to be the ones that look back and say “Hey everyone, Jesus is this way”. But how many times are we that misplaced sign? How many times do we do things that seem innocent, but someone is looking at us, and that innocent thing causes them to turn the wrong way? Maybe it’s our attitude, our actions, our temper, or maybe it’s that secret sin that we think no one knows about.
God showed me this morning that my actions are sometimes like that misplaced sign. Those actions could not only lead someone down a path to eternal destruction, but they could also lead everyone who is in line behind them.
Lesson #2 – God’s Grace and Mercy is what its all about.
God actually began to show me this one while I was on stage after the race on Saturday. As I was watching this mistake unfold, I felt helpless. Once that turn was made, there was nothing that I could do other than let everyone finish and face the wrath of an angry mob at the finish line. I walked around preparing myself, trying to figure out how I was going to explain what happened. I had a few people who absolutely let me have it, one or two to my face and a few others via e-mail and social media. They were upset, and I understood why. We had turned them the wrong way and put a black eye on an event that they had been training for for weeks. These few angry voices were all that I was thinking about. I felt as though the entire field was just as angry as they were and that I had better get ready to face the music!
A strange thing began to happen almost immediately. As people came up to me and told me how disappointed they were with their time, I had the task of letting them know that their time was off because the course was off. Each time I explained this, I braced myself for the rude or not-so-nice comment that I knew was coming and that I deserved. The comments that followed my explanation were “Oh, I feel better now”, “No big deal, we just got more for our money”, “Don’t worry about it, everything was great”. These are just a few examples of many. Like I said, we did have a few that were very upset, and rightfully so, but 99% of the crowd did not even give the distance a second thought.
“How could this be?” I thought. As a race organizer, you have one main job. Give the athletes a course that is the correct distance, and that did not happen here. But possibly the biggest shocker came as I walked up on the stage to start the awards ceremony. I had already decided that I was going to be brutally honest and tell everyone that we made a mistake and that they had basically ran a 6K instead of a 5K. Once that statement left my mouth, I was blown away with the response. Applause! Yes applause! I was prepared for ridicule, booing, and a lot of angry runners, but I was hearing applause.
God showed me in that moment what grace and mercy look like. Grace is getting something you don’t deserve, and mercy is not getting what you do deserve, and I was getting both at this moment. I deserved boos, but instead I got cheers. Wow! Again, God pointed out this morning that this is a true picture of our walk with him. We as sinful humans deserve the wrath of God. We deserve to spend eternity separated from him. We deserve the worst that can be thrown at us because we “blow it” everyday. What happened on that stage Saturday is a perfect picture of God’s grace and mercy for those who have a personal relationship with Him. We deserve Hell and instead He gives us Heaven.
So did we learn anything about this race? Absolutely! Will we ever make a mistake again as race directors? Probably so. Did God illustrate a valuable lesson that I needed to see? You bet He did! Whenever you feel like you’ve been dealt a bad hand, be slow to react. Step back and assess the situation. Pray about it before reacting. Many times God will be showing you something that you would otherwise miss.
Have a great day everyone!
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God” Romans 8:28
Do you ever have those sleepless nights where it just feels like you might as well get up and start your day at 2:00 AM? I know I do. I may be thinking about what I need to do the next day, a loved one or friend who is going through some difficult times, or that friend or family member who is lost and does not seem receptive to the Gospel.
So what do you do? Do you get up, trying not to wake anyone else in the house and get your day started? I mean, your not sleeping, so why should you just lay there? I have even come to realize over the years that I can get a days worth of things done in the one or two hours leading up to the alarm clocks going off around my house. There are no distractions, no phones ringing, no kids jumping around, and no breaking news on the televison. No, at 2:00 AM it’s usually just you and your thoughts.
But is this the right thing to do? Have you ever considered that God may be trying to get your attention? Maybe He is wanting to talk to you and you to him without all the distractions that we all fill our lives with. Maybe we shouldn’t jump up and get our day started. Maybe we should just lay there and have a talk with God. The times I’ve done this have been magical! When I turn my focus to God in prayer rather than jumping up and turning on the shower, a funny thing usually happens. The anxiety of whatever I was thinking about seems to slip away, as I take that issue to him in prayer. Psalms 55:22 says, “Cast your burden on the Lord, And He will sustain you..”.
So, the next time you are laying in the bed, eyes wide open, wondering why you’re anxiuos about something, take it to God. Does God hear you while you’re laying in the bed? Absolutely! I can’t think of a better time to talk to God than while you have no where to go, no one to talk to, and no one or nothing distracting you.
Oh, and one more thing. Laying your burden on the Lord will often times result in the most peaceful sleep there is. Have a great day everyone!
What are some things that we fear? This is a question that I recently posed to my Run for God class and I received many answers. Just a few were death, the unknown, flying, drowning, and so on. Did you know many studies show that the number one fear in America is public speaking? I can absolutely relate to that one! Fear is something that almost all of us can relate to. Some choose to call it other things like anxiety or stress, but at the end of the day it’s most always fear.
Recently while preparing for a study, I came across a question that really got my attention. Would you consider fear a sin? Strange question right? On the surface, you would think that the simple answer is no. There is a gentleman by the name Tom Elliff who visits our church every few years to speak. When I read this question, I immediately thought back to a quote Tom made that I had written down in my Bible. His quote was “Stress equals Selfishness”. Tom’s point was that anytime we are stressing over something, we are in effect saying that what ever we are stressing over is too big for God. We feel it is something that we can’t turn over to God and that we must take it on our self.
So back to the original question, is fear a sin? Absolutely! The Bible says in 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of sound mind.” You may be saying to yourself, “Mitchell, that doesn’t say that fear is a sin.” You would be correct, but we must consider the source! The Bible does say that God did not give us a spirit of fear. So if God does not give us that spirit then who does? There are only two possible answers here. Either “the devil” or “I don’t know”. In either case, it would be wrong for us to accept the spirit of fear. If from the devil, then the reason is obvious. And if you don’t know, then the reason should also be obvious. Do you remember when you were a child and your parents told you not to take candy from strangers? They told you this because they didn’t know the source, and when you allow things in your life from which you do not know the source, bad things can happen.
Moving on. So what does the Bible say about what is a sin. Romans 14:23 says, “…for whatever is not from faith is sin.” Whatever IS NOT from faith is sin. This passage of Scripture brings up another question. Can faith and fear coexist? No. Faith and fear cannot coexist. One will push the other out, and which one wins is up to you. We see this in Matthew when Jesus’ disciples awake him in the boat because they were afraid of the storm. Jesus responds to them and says “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” We see the same response from Jesus when he asks Peter to get out of the boat and walk on water. Peter was actually walking on water when his faith was completely in Jesus, but the moment he began to doubt and fear, he began to sink. Jesus’ answer was the same. “O you of little faith, why do you doubt?”
“Faith and fear cannot coexist. One will push the other out, and which one wins is up to you. “
The Bible illustrates this principle clearly here, and we see it in our everyday life. In order for fear to set in, faith is pushed out. But the opposite is also true. When faith takes over, fear is pushed out. Jesus calls us to live by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7) and the choice to do so is ours.
So we’ve determined that fear is not, I repeat, is not given to us by God. We’ve established the fact that faith and fear cannot coexist. And we’ve also seen where the Bible plainly says that whatever is not from faith is sin. So fear must be a sin. Faith is the cornerstone of our salvation, and anything that we do that is done out of fear instead of faith is unacceptable to God. It is for this reason that you must know the reason that you came to know Christ. When you came to know Christ, did you do it out of faith and a sincere desire to follow Him, or did you do it because you didn’t want to go to hell? Coming to know Christ out of fear is not true salvation, it’s when you come to Him in sincere faith and brokenness over your sin that you’ll truly know salvation.
Fear is something we all struggle with, and it’s a sin we can all pray about. Let’s all make the decision to push fear out and let faith take control.
Discipleship. This is a word that until six years ago, I used loosely. I’d attend a “discipleship” class at church, I’d learn about “discipleship” in Sunday School, or I’d refer to a Bible Study as having a “Discipleship” focus. It wasn’t until January of 2010 that I really began to understand the true meaning of “Discipleship” as we kicked off the very first Run for God class.
“Discipleship” and “Following Christ” are often used synonymously, so we can surmise that a “Discipleship Class” is a class that teaches us how to be a better follower of Christ. When I started the very first Run for God class on a cold Tuesday night in January of 2010, I really didn’t know what kind of class it was going to be. All I knew was that I was terrified of leading a Bible Study and speaking in front of people. Have any of you been there? That first class kicked off, and God seemed to have His hand on it from the very first word. We were all learning to relate our faith to the sport of running. Everyone in that first class was a member of Grove Level Baptist Church and all were secure in their faith. A “discipleship” class is exactly what it turned into and still is today.
Over the years however something began to happen in Run for God classes all over the world. Instructors began reporting back to us stating that people were getting saved as a result of their class and that people were showing up who had never been part of a church. This was something that honestly I did not see coming. I understood very well the parallels of faith and endurance, but I had never really sat and thought about the fact that those lessons could be used to bring people to the Saving Grace of Jesus Christ. Wow!
Over a period of months, this got me to thinking about The 5K Challenge in general. Should it remain a “discipleship” program, or was God calling me to make yet another very uncomfortable shift, and focus our efforts on making this program more about evangelism?
On November 15th the Run for God – 5K Challenge – Second Edition will begin rolling out. The program has been completely rewritten with the help, input, and talents of many great people. We have taken your suggestions and ideas, coupled those with the principals that we feel will take this study to the next level, and compiled a format that has both “discipleship” and “evangelism” components to it. Yes, we do still cover a lot of material that teaches us “believers” how to be a better follower of Christ, but rest assured that the Gospel of Christ and The Plan of Salvation are clearly presented in this new study. It’s unmistakable and it’s going to be life changing for many people.
Also new to this series is an Ice Breaker DVD series. This is a video that you will play at the beginning of each week’s class that will get everyone’s attention. You’ll be seeing serious videos, some funny video’s, and you’ll be hearing from someone on our team each week. Many of our awesome Instructors have asked for more direction and “meat” in the study. Well, now you’ve got it! The all-new Instructor’s Guide is about as comprehensive as you can get. Each week we give you all the direction that you need to lead a successful class and feel comfortable about what you are doing.
Whether you’re a new instructor or a seasoned instructor, I feel that The 5K Challenge – Second Edition is going to take your teaching experience to the next level. I hope you will join us!
Run for God will soon be celebrating its sixth year of sharing the Gospel of Christ through the sport of running. Tens of thousands of people have walked through this program that started with just twenty-two people at Grove Level Baptist Church in Dalton, GA. Although Mitchell did step out of his comfort zone that first cold night in January of 2010, it was never his goal or desire for Run for God to be what it is today. No, if you’ve read his testimony you know that the Run for God of today was nowhere on his radar, but we all know whose radar it was on.
Early on it was obvious that God was at work in this ministry. Doors began to open, walls were taken down, and Run for God almost seemed to grow without any effort at all. Almost daily Mitchell and Holly were pushed farther and farther outside their comfort zone. Holly even left her job doing ultrasounds to keep up with the ever-growing number of classes that began popping up. Why? Because it became very obvious that God was driving this train and someone had better hop on to help.
Since the early days of Run for God not much has changed. We still have a small warehouse that the day-to-day operations are run out of. We still show up to host races a few times a year, and we still have new classes popping up on a weekly basis. But the Run for God – Run Club may just change that!
Since the beginning, people who have taken The 5K Challenge or The 10K/Half Challenge have all asked the same question. What next? It seems as though the on-going discipleship piece has been missing. We hear from classes all over the country who meet over and over again, not because they need a refresher on how to run a 5K, but because they love the community atmosphere that they were a part of. They learn together, share together, and yes, run together.
We have been discussing a club format for sometime now, but it wasn’t until Devotions that we had a tool to help make that happen. As you know Devotions is an annual study that will keep the Run for God program fresh for years to come. In fact while rewriting The 5K Challenge, which releases this November, we decided to revolve that entire program around Devotions.
Our research tells us that had we started The Run Club back in 2010, it would be the largest running club in America. Not only the largest, but it would be six times larger than the current title holder. Wow! Imagine what a statement would be made if this time next year the Run for God – Run Club was the largest running club in America. It really is no reflection on what the folks at Run for God are doing, but it IS a huge reflection on what God may be up to.
Check out the Run for God – Run Club today at www.RunforGod.com/RunClub and Join The Movement!
Hebrews 12:1-3, “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.”
In this scripture, the author tells us that we should throw off all that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles us. This message is important for those of us who are truly seeking to make Heaven our home. Imagine yourself running the race for God. You are running, but you have a heavy load on your back. There are obstacles that keep jumping in front of you that you are allowing to hinder your forward progress. You cannot win a race that way. You must throw off and get rid of that which hinders you from winning the race! What is it that is hindering you right now? Is it a relationship? Is it a particular sin? Is it an attitude? Whatever it is, throw it off such that it doesn’t stand in your way anymore.
It’s so encouraging to know that we can always seek God’s Word and His Will in our time of need. All we need to do is pray and ask God if it is His Will that the obstacle be put aside as you strive to run for Him. Doing this will not always be easy, but sometimes you have to do something hard for the sake of your relationship with God. It’s time to evaluate our lives and what is hindering us from being all we can be for God and then as the scripture say–Throw It Off!!!
I am an astronaut. Don’t believe me? Good call. I’m not an astronaut, but I am a runner. I can say I’m an astronaut a thousand times, even put it on a billboard along a busy highway, but it will not make me one. How do you know I’m not a space man? There’s no evidence. You won’t find photographs of me walking on the Moon, or tethered to the side of a space ship. You won’t find my name on official NASA rosters, because I’ve never been an astronaut. On the other hand, you will find my name and photograph evidence all over the running world. With access to online race results, I will leave a trail long after I’ve left this world. There is evidence going back to the 1980’s! I’m a runner and I can prove it!
I am a Christian. The question becomes, “Is there enough evidence to make it obvious to those around me?” You may have heard it put another way, “If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”
Today’s world affords us so much convenience. Technology makes our lives so much easier. Think of all the things you can do with a smartphone, for example. We access a wealth of information at our fingertips each day. I remember having to go to the library to find an answer to a question. What took us hours a few years ago can be done in seconds today. Maybe that’s why there are people who believe being a Christian means saying a prayer and then going back to the same life they lived before. It’s easy to believe in that level of simplicity because we live in an instant satisfaction world, but the Bible is very clear on the issue. James tells us in his letter that faith without works is dead. He also explains in James 2:19, “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!” Satan himself knows who Jesus is and he believes. It doesn’t mean he’s saved. How do we know? The evidence shows that he is clearly opposed to God.
Jesus said in Matthew 7:20, “You will know them by their fruits.” He was speaking about Christians who are saved through Him. He goes on to say in verse 21, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” Notice that Jesus doesn’t say, “He who goes to church…” It is possible to be an artificial Christian, going through the motions on Sunday, but showing a different side on Monday through Saturday. Unless there is proof of Christ in us when we are outside the walls of the church, the evidence is not sufficient. After all, one of the most popular reasons non-believers give for not attending church is that they feel church-goers are hypocrites.
On the other hand, we know that good works will not save us. Titus 3:4-7 says, “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” No matter how many good deeds we perform, they will not get us a ticket to heaven. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work for Him, it simply means that being good is not enough. We cannot be good enough to earn our way to heaven. It is a free gift!
It is not about what we have to do to be saved, it about what we want to do once we are saved. Once we come to the realization of what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross, we will not be able to stop doing good things and spreading His name. James put it this way, “But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (James 2:20-24). The evidence shown in our works proves our faith. Being a Christian is not a box to check off as if it is part of a to-do list.
Here’s the good news. Sometimes you have to go out of your way to show your faith by taking care of someone who needs you, or visiting a funeral home to comfort someone who is grieving. But showing evidence of your faith is an everyday practice too. That means sharing your faith with a waitress at your favorite restaurant, showing kindness to an elderly lady at the grocery store, or sharing the Run for God story with someone at the oil change place when they comment on your shirt. We can show the evidence of our faith in any and all interactions and everyday situations.
If you own a GPS watch, you know that it makes training better. You know your pace, your distance and maybe even your heart rate. After downloading the information, you can analyze everything you have done and create a better plan for the future. But, it won’t run the miles for you. It will only aide you in your training. When you say the sinner’s prayer, it is only the first step, like buying the watch. If you just speak a prayer and your life is not changed, the prayer is meaningless, like leaving the watch in the box. Praying that prayer doesn’t mean you turn into a perfect human being, but people around you should notice the change. I hope you have taken the watch out of the box. I hope you’re wearing it out! If you have purchased the watch but have not used it yet, what are you waiting for?
Dean Thompson, Run for God