Today, something very tragic happened in the world of sports… a runner died. Being a runner who has thoughts and dreams of running half-marathons, and marathons those three words are particularly tragic. What is most amazing is that this runner was no ordinary runner… he was an American marathoning champion, an Olympic hopeful, an elite athlete, and a newlywed. Ryan Shay died today just 30 minutes into the Olympic marathon trials in New York City. He was 28. Of all the people going to bed tonight the ones having the most difficult time with this are his family and new wife Alicia, but be sure those of us that run have been shaken too. Shaken because we have lost a great athlete, and because it shatters an unspoken assumption in many runners: these things don’t happen to us. We don’t have heart attacks, strokes, cholesterol problems, or hypertension we are in great shape… The thing is false assumptions are dangerous if you live by them. I don’t know what Ryan Shay’s situation was. In the days to come more details will come out, but I know this… when he lined up this morning he had no idea it would be for the last time.
As a runner I have to ask myself, “Will this change me?” I’m training right now for a half-marathon in December, my first one. I have been training, and demanding more from my body than I have in a while. I’m not elite, but I have goals in mind. They are not earth-shattering, they are personal goals, but important to me. I want to run a marathon in 2008, and try to qualify for Boston in 2009. But after hearing the news of Shay, I had a brief moment of pause… is this really something I want to do? It was a brief pause. I love to run, and this is want I feel God wanting me to do right now. In about 6 hours I’ll get up and run my longest workout since I started back last year. God willing it will be cool and calm, but in the back of my mind I’ll think about Ryan Shay and his family. They had assumptions to.
Just as in running assumptions can be dangerous, they are equally dangerous in the Christian life. Too many people believe the idea that life in relationship to the Father will be easy and struggle-free. Some assume temptations won’t be temptations at all for the Christian. Still others believe that Christians will always relate to each other in the most loving and self-sacrificing way possible. There are literally thousands of assumptions just like that upon which people live their lives. When one of them is shattered, a person may be tempted to question their faith, or the Christian faith as a whole. Sure in the Bible Jesus says, “I came that you might have life and have it more abundantly” and He commands us to “love our neighbor as ourselves” and elsewhere it is written “resis the devil and he will flee from you”. All those things are true, but none of them claims an easy life, or a life that is pain-free. In fact, Christianity may even be hazardous to your health. Literally millions of Christians have died over the past 2000 years, and thousands die each year even now as martyrs, or as though standing up for the cause of Jesus Christ.
What assumptions did those people live under? Just one… that they were meant to glorify God. That is a vague statement, but it is true. Martyrs know that their only goal is to glorify God whether in life or in death. They lived by that principle and they died by it. Jesus said “if anyone wants to follow me he must take up his cross…”
Now, if you are not a Christian or are pretty new to this whole thing, this may sound like the worse advertisement in the world of the faith, but there is more. Christianity is not about suffering, it is about living for something that has value beyond this life. It is about living for something for greater value. That is where the abundance comes in… it is not in material prosperity (though there is nothing inherently wrong about that)… it is in a life that echos throughout all of human history. Each life lived to the glory of God does just that. It has eternal effect.
So, the question is: what false assumptions are you living under? Do you believe life is about the here and now only? Do you believe there is more? Do you live as though God owes you something? Or do you live as though you owe Him?