Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Race of Life

Many years ago a good friend of mine shared with me a newspaper clipping relating the story of two world class marathon runners from Spain. The two runners were named Antonio Canovas and Fernado Diaz and the setting was the Madrid Marathon. They were 2 of over 4000 runners that year. The winner of this marathon was granted a free pass to participate in the New York Marathon later that year.

Canovas and Diaz were friends and competitors. They were also two of the favorites to win the race. As the race progressed these two runners gradually separated themselves from the pack. They traded the lead back and forth as they set a fast pace. Then as they approached the last few miles of the race, Canovas began to experience cramps. He fought the pain and took the lead as they approached the finish line. But several yards from the finish line his knees buckled and he fell down. The race was Diaz’ to win. But Diaz did something that shocked the crowd. As he approached Canovas, he stopped, swept up his friend and flung his arm around Canovas and stumbled with him across the finish line. The faltering Canovas crossed the line first.

When asked about this after the race they replied,

“Once we were in the lead, we decided not to fight each other and arrive together. It did not matter who won. We are accustomed to helping each other. The pain and suffering united us.”

In the end, the judges awarded both men passes to the New York Marathon.

Life is not about winning, it is about finishing the race, and doing it not alone, but with those you love and care about.

President Deider F. Uchtdorf has taught, “…our destiny is not determined by the number of times we stumble but by the number of times we rise up, dust ourselves off, and move forward.”

The truth is, life we be filled with trials. We will make mistakes and fall down occasionally. Sometimes when we think we are winning, and because we are so far ahead, when we do have a setback or make a mistake, fall down if you will, it is all the more painful because we did not think it was possible. But that is actually when we are most vulnerable and our pride takes control.

The scriptures teach us in 1 Corinthians 10:12-13:
Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

While these verses outline a wonderful promise from God and should give us solace in our weaknesses, we still do stumble and fall. A simple fact of life is we will be tried and tempted. And we will at times be tempted, and for whatever reason, miss the escape opportunity or sadly simply not choose to escape, even though we know we should. In other words, we fall down and sin.

Luckily, like in the Madrid Marathon, if we humble ourselves, there will always be someone to help us get up, keep moving forward and finish the race.

Why can’t we just run the race of life to the finish line without interruption or temptation?  Why must we face choices that can jeopardize our happiness? Why does the Lord allow us to be tempted? Understanding the answers to these questions may help us avoid falling down so often.

In the book of Abraham 3:24-25 we read about one of the primary purposes of our life on this earth.
“And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell;
And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;”

The main purpose of life is to choose God over the Adversary. We are tempted so we can show by our actions our trust in the Lord and that we choose Him.

So in this race we call life, there will be many opportunities for us to choose God over the Adversary, to prove ourselves faithful to God. The Adversary will also set traps designed to trip us up. And sometimes we will fall down. There will be times when we fall down that we will feel like we can’t get up. We can’t move forward. And that is exactly what the Adversary wants us to feel. That there is no hope. I can’t get up. I can’t break this habit. I can’t change. I can’t forgive. Whatever your challenge might be, you may want to say, “I can’t do it.” But the Lord is right behind you, ready to sweep you up into His arms and help you move forward. Sometimes He may work through a friend or a family member. Maybe it is your bishop. It may be their arms that pick you up. Whoever it is, the message is, you can do it! Get up! You are destined for more.

The thoughts of despair and doubt that we often might feel are not of God. These are emotions that the Adversary promotes to make us think we can’t get up. It is normal to feel sorrow and remorse when we sin. And it is human to feel disappointment, even in oneself, but the Gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us we are destined for better.

Whatever the challenge might be, the message of the gospel tells us we can get back up. It is not okay to accept our weaknesses. We must acknowledge we have weaknesses, but we must strive to change. We can do this by humbling ourselves sufficiently so the Lord can help us overcome our weaknesses. That is how we get back in the race.

In the Book of Mormon, most are familiar with this wonderful passage, Ether 12:27:
And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

We must be humble, have faith and trust the Lord.

Humility and reliance on the Lord leads to a Godly sorrow that empowers us with faith and hope in Christ. That faith and hope leads to repentance (action- changing our lives). With faith and hope in Christ and a humble heart, we have access to the Grace of the Savior.
This grace is an enabling power that allows men and women to lay hold on eternal life and exaltation after they have expended their own best efforts.

Because of the Fall of Adam and man’s weaknesses and shortcomings, divine grace is needed by everyone. However, grace alone is not enough without total effort on the part of the recipient. Hence the words, “It is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Ne. 25:23).

My friends, the atonement of Christ gives us hope. We can get up. We can change. We can finish the race!

I have found in my life that there are a couple things that have helped me rise each time I have stumbled or fell down.

1. One of the Adversary’s methods to prevent us from progressing is to confuse us about who we really are and what we really desire. We fall down when we forget who we are and why we are here. It is also hard to get up when we lose sight of our eternal nature. Remember you are child of God and you possess great worth and potential. You are loved by many and always loved by your Father in Heaven.

2. I try to focus on developing what I consider to be the 4 most important attributes of Christ. Humility, Faith, Hope and Charity. When we remember who we are and humble ourselves (that means acknowledging God knows better than we do) and exercise faith and hope in Christ we can better feel and practice charity. This will not only give us the strength to get up, but it will cultivate the desire to become the hands that can help others up that have fallen too. If you want to get up, help up someone else. If you want to feel better, help someone else feel better. Refocus your life on others and forget yourself. That is the essence of Charity. Giving of yourself to others.

I love these verses from Moroni in the Book of Mormon that teach about these principles.

Moroni 10:20-23
Wherefore, there must be faith; and if there must be faith there must also be hope; and if there must be hope there must also be charity.
And except ye have charity ye can in nowise be saved in the kingdom of God; neither can ye be saved in the kingdom of God if ye have not faith; neither can ye if ye have no hope.
And if ye have no hope ye must needs be in despair; and despair cometh because of iniquity.
And Christ truly said unto our fathers: If ye have faith ye can do all things which are expedient unto me.

Moroni 7:48
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen.

The simple truth is, no one can finish the race without Christ. He is the gatekeeper. He is the Savior of all of us. He will personally pick each of us up and carry us across the finish line, one by one. It is by His Grace we are saved, after all we can do. So do all you can and then cry unto God in the name of Christ that He will help you get up. I promise He will. 

January 26, 2014
W.A. McIntyre

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