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Keeping The Faith

2 Tim. 4:6-8 

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For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. [7] I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; [8] in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing. 

In his book, Go the Distance, Ed Rowell, Teaching Pastor at the People's Church in Franklin Tennessee explains "21 Habits & Attitudes for Winning at Life." Throughout the book, he emphasizes the importance of finishing the race and finishing well, one particular story that grabbed my attention was his personal struggle during a marathon race.

In many ways, Ed is a Renaissance man. He describes himself as having "attention surplus disorder"-everything interests him. In his younger years, he was a bull rider, an Elk hunting guide and a Marathon runner. 

Personally, I don't get it. I don't know why anyone would want to run for 26.2 miles, but then again, I don't know why anyone would strap themselves onto a bull and go for a ride either. 

As he prepared for the 1983 Marathon in Kansas City, Missouri, Ed wasn't concerned with finishing the race, he had already completed four Marathons. He was concerned with improving his time. His ultimate running goal was to compete in the Boston Marathon, to do that, he needed to get his time under three hours and ten minutes, nine minutes faster than his personal best.

He was in great shape. For the past three months he got up religiously every morning and ran. He ran through fatigue and pushed himself into Marathon condition. At the starting line, Ed was cold. But he knew that the 50 degree weather and light drizzle would actually benefit him once he got moving.

When the gun sounded that early October morning in 1983, Ed had no idea how much that race was going to impact his life. He started well, but as he did a mental assessment early into the race, he was surprised at how much he was laboring. Using mind over matter, he purposed himself to go on. Not only had he been training his body, he had practiced mental conditioning techniques to help him push through the wall-the mental barrier that tells a runner they can't take another step. But by mile 12, his will evaporated. He stopped running and started walking. After a hundred yards, he ran again. But it didn't last. Like a jerking clutch, he walked a while and ran a while, then it happened.

The early stages of hypothermia began to sit in. The constant drizzle and the low temperature are to a runner's advantage, because it alleviates the problem of dehydration that hot weather runners face. But it isn't to the advantage of walkers, because they don't generate sufficient body heat to offset the environment.

The race organizers had vans circling the course looking for runners who were injured or ill prepared for the race. Twice, one of those vehicles stopped to see if Ed wanted to ride to the finish line, twice he ignored them and started to jog.

The third time they came by, Ed was shivering uncontrollably, but he still shook his head "no" when the van stopped to pick him up. "We've got warm blankets and hot chocolate" the young woman said. Ed got into the van and immediately began sobbing.

It was a defining moment in his life.
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