Lent Devotions 2012: Wednesday 22 February

ASH WEDNESDAY

You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?” Galatians 5:7

It was my Senior year in High School, and I actually made the finals of the 400-metre dash at our conference Championships. Sure, I had the slowest time of everyone in the finals, and I had the outside lane, but I made the finals.

On your marks, go! The gun sounded and we were off. I felt as light as a feather and I was flying around the track. The first 100 metres flew by and I just kept picking up speed. At the 200-metre mark I hit my full stride and everything was flowing like never before. Passing the 300-metre mark, I had a quick peek to see where I was. I was leading the race, and not just leading, but I was way out in front. Joy and excitement filled my mind as suddenly the thought flashed through my mind that I was going to win the conference finals.

Then it happened. At about 320 metres I hit ‘the wall’. This was not any wall; it was THE WALL. Suddenly it felt like I was running in quicksand with a grand piano on my back. One, two, three, four, runners blew past me on the home stretch as I limped across the finishing line. My quick start had only managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

And so it was with the Galatians. They were running life in the freedom and forgiveness of Christ Jesus. But then someone had “cut in front of them and hindered their progress in the faith. They were in danger of stumbling and being disqualified from the race. When the gun sounded, they relied on the strength of the Holy Spirit who called them and equipped them for the marathon. But into the race, they began relying on their own strength and good works to see them through. But this only leads to disaster. When we rely on our own power and wisdom, we run headlong into ‘the wall’. Works lead to collapse, exhaustion, and ultimately death.

Many start their lives in Christ running full tilt, but as time goes by, they run out of steam. It can be illustrated by the fact that many who will begin reading this booklet will not continue until Good Friday. Yes, you may have good intentions, and the spirit might be willing but the flesh is weak. We begin the race well, but we falter at the end. It is a bitter and sad thing to do. Believe me, I’ve been there.

Instead, remain in Christ and His strength alone. Each day remember your Baptism and live in repentance confessing your weakness and rejoicing in His strength. And in His strength He will lift us, even when we fall, and He will give us strength to run and not grow weary.

Run the straight race through God’s good grace;
Lift up your eyes, and seek His face.
Life with its way before us lies;
Christ is the path, and Christ the prize.

(LSB 664, verse 2)

Amen.