The water was a crisp 50 degrees and leg muscles immediately turned to icicles begging for waders, or an owner possessing a little more common sense. The trout were in trouble as the master fly fisherman waded into the flowing streams of the Little Red River in Heber Springs, Arkansas. Looking the part, the angler tied on what the locals said was a hot fly. At this point, an image would display an eye-catching 1,000 word lie because that man standing in the freezing cold water with brand new gear was as clueless as could be. And everyone was about to find out…
With the first back cast, you could hear the pop of the bull whip (this apparently means I didn’t let the line catch up before jolting my $2 fly somewhere into the next county). As I exit the most hideous back cast you have ever seen and maneuver the fly out in front of me, the line all came down in a nice pile… meaning that there was not enough momentum to elongate the line and appropriately present the fly.
For those of you that don’t speak the fly fishing language I learned over the next 3, long, days… presenting the fly is fancy talk for making a cast that is good enough that you at least have a shot at catching something. Over the next three days I would guess that I only “appropriately presented the fly” 25% of the times that I whipped that sucker around the “lil Red.”
Run Your Race
The experience of being a “beginner” (and beginner is a generous term) fly fisherman made me reminiscent of the early days of my relationship with Christ. As any time spent in nature tends to do, I spent most of that trip reflecting on God, creation, and what my role in this story may be.
My mind immediately jumped to Paul’s teaching about the race. If you are anything like me, you may not run much… but stick with me, I believe this truth could be an encouragement to you.
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
In this teaching, Paul used language that appeals to the competitive nature of humanity and is encouraging us to remain steadfast in pursuit of Christ.
I was reminded of this passage while watching everyone around me successfully cast, present the fly, and land trout. No one goes fishing to watch the water flow and get a quick bicep workout in… everyone’s goal is to land a fish. Don’t get me wrong, the beauty of creation is worth the trip, but the goal is always to catch fish. This epiphany found me waist deep in the Little Red and reminded me that salvation is a gift that cannot be earned. In the same breath,
discipleship is a process that we must practice, train, and live our lives in a way that sets us up to “win the race.”
While on our trip, I soaked up all of the pointers I could gather and asked about a million questions. By day three, I had landed 7 trout. Talk about a prize!
What is the CHALLENGE?
Just as Paul stated to the church at Corinth, we must train and run the race that has an eternal prize. Christ paid the price and that gift will absolutely change the way we live each day. Therefore do not live your life aimlessly (Paul said don’t be like a boxer swinging at the air) but wake up and make a conscious decision to deny yourself, pick up your cross, and live a life that honors and glorifies God.
Will you fail? ABSOLUTELY. Every single day. But Paul give us some encouragement in this area…
“For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it… Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Romans 7:19-20, 25
Even as Christians, we will continue to make mistakes. This will undoubtedly occur until Christ returns. The enemy intends for these failures to debilitate the believer and drive him into a state of submission. However Paul says that we should not be defeated because of these mistakes, but instead allow them to exponentially increase our understanding of grace and the need we have for Christ’s atonement. This doesn’t mean we should sin more, but it does mean that mistakes and shortcomings are not an excuse to take a timeout for punishment. These failures should, instead, serve as a reminder of the need to run the eternal race. Remember, while we were sinners, Christ died for us.
“What shall we say then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”
I have found that the easiest way for us to become passive, or lukewarm, Christians, is to relish in our shortcomings. My joy is killed, stolen, and destroyed most often following my failure to be perfect. In the same breath, realizing that we are not able to be perfect is what gives me the most joy in my identity in Christ.
Heed the call. Run the race.
See you in the blind.