For the last 3 years, I have enjoyed competing in local summer triathlons, and when I say “competing”, I mean “participating”. Moving on. There are a few things I’ve learned from my experiences and I thought that they would be worth sharing. So, over the course of the next few posts (If I can think of more than two things) I will be doing a series called “Lessons from the Triathlon”. This is part one of that series.
Like most non team-based competitive sporting events, triathlons usually start pretty early in the morning. Mine have thus far all had a 7am start time, which puts open registration at a crisp 5:30 in the dark. This is not such a terrible thing, but it has a strange effect on the men at the event. If you know anything about men, we are creatures of habit, performing similar functions each day at roughly the same time. One important “regular” morning function was made clear by the uncharacteristically long line at the men’s restroom, of which I happened to be somewhere near the back. With not much to do, and very little conversation taking place, the guys standing around me began to realize that very few women were entering and exiting their own restroom. After a few minutes, the combination of nature, impatience, and opportunity overtook us, and we proceeded to commandeer the women’s restroom.
There are few things as nerve-wracking as doing one’s business in the women’s restroom. The feeling is similar to when you TP someone’s house in the middle of the night, except that the toilet paper is being properly employed. We didn’t belong there, and we knew it. Fortunately for us, the whole incident was uneventful, but as I began to think more about what took place that morning, this thought popped into my head:
No matter how many guys use the ladies room, it’s still the ladies room.
Not so profound, I know. But, if we change the context, it suddenly becomes much weightier. Here’s how I began to look at it. The Bible tells us that, though we Christians live in this world, we belong to another Kingdom. Peter calls his readers “exiles”, a people forced to live in a land that is not their own, and “sojourners”, people who are just passing through on their way to a future destination (1 Peter 2:11). Scripture uses words like “alien” and “stranger” to describe the life of a Christian on earth. Jesus goes as far as to say that the world will hate us.
Some might say that living in this world is like staying in a hotel room or someone else’s house. But I’m not sure that is the best way to look at it. We can get comfortable in a hotel. People who are gracious hosts will tell you to make yourself at home. But listen to what Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:
For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.
(1 Thessalonians 5:2-10 ESV)
Don’t get comfortable, he says. Don’t fall asleep. Can you imagine falling asleep in the wrong restroom? Only drunk people do that, and Paul addresses that too. No, we must be ready to go like the Israelites at the first Passover who ate with their belts fastened and their sandals on. God is coming to take us away and we better not get caught sleeping and miss it.
We. Don’t. Belong. Here.
So the question is this: How doe we stay alert? How do we stay awake and ready for the day of Christ. Listen to what Hebrews 12:1-2 says:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
(Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV)
Hebrews 11 is the hall of faith, a recounting of faithful men and women in the Old Testament who were looking forward to the Kingdom of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 tells us what to do with their example. Follow it. Look to Jesus and get ready. If we get comfy in the bathroom, we can’t run the race. We have a short time here to work for His glory and then we get to go home.
What do we do while we’re here? We make the most of the time. The cliche phrase is, “live every day to the fullest.” But we often fill our days with the wrong stuff. We spend our time fooling around with with all the stuff the world says is “living.” But Peter says in 1 Peter 4 that the time that is past is sufficient for worthless partying, worldly living, and selfish actions, then he says this:
The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
(1 Peter 4:7-11 ESV)
Think about that. He says, “we only have so much time left, so let’s fill it with love for one another, care for the hurting, building up the body, and glorifying God in everything!” Let’s live with this kind of urgency! What would happen to this world if we did? I know one thing, it will look a lot less like a bathroom, and a lot more like home.
I want to live this way. I want to look forward to the coming Kingdom, ready at a moments notice. Let’s pray for urgency an in our actions, a passion in our prayers, and a love in our relationships that honors God and fills our final days with joy and glory in our Lord Jesus who is coming to take away His bride.
Come Lord Jesus, Come!