The marathon has long been considered as a major milestone in running. The World Marathon Challenge takes it to the level of insanity. This challenge requires runners to participate in seven marathons on seven continents in just seven days. This year eleven people signed up and ran marathons in Antarctica, Chile, Miami, Madrid, Morocco, Dubai, and Sidney. They raced through rain and snow, all while enduring physical issues, sleep deprivation, and jetlag.
A few days in, Tim Durbin, the only American in this challenge, said, “In the last 48 hours I’ve slept less than 9 hours and ran three marathons” (Yahoo). In the end, all eleven racers completed the challenge. Interestingly, for Durbin this race was just a small part of a much larger goal. He is also participating in a challenge to accumulate 24,901 miles of walking, running, cross-country skiing, and swimming over a 10-year span (2013–2022). Why this number? It is the distance around the equator. Durbin described his motivation for these goals, “I am just trying to prove to myself that an average person can do what most others think is impossible. It’s a mental challenge as much as it is physical” (ibid).
People have often looked at the commands in Scripture and thought they were extremely difficult and maybe even impossible to follow. Several times in Scripture Jesus delivered just such a teaching. One came in John 6:53: “So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.’” The disciples responded, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” (Vs. 60). In the end, Jesus was not asking for cannibalism, but challenging them to dwell and live on His words (vs. 63).
Another tough teaching came in Matthew 19 when Jesus said, “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery” (Vs. 9). Once again, the disciples recognized how difficult of a teaching this was, especially in contrast to their culture (Vs. 3, 7). The disciples’ response was, “If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry” (Vs. 10). Jesus knew this was hard, which is why He points out that some people will not obey this teaching (Vs. 11). Even though this is difficult, it’s not at all impossible, which is why some people went to the extreme to put God above themselves (Vs. 12).
The last difficult teaching also came from Matthew 19: “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Vs. 23-24). During this time, people thought those who were rich and healthy were the people God approved and vise versa (John 9:1-3). Jesus destroys this mindset by saying that riches often get in the way of faithfulness. “When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, ‘Then who can be saved?’” (Vs. 25). It was another tough teaching. Let’s pause here before we see Jesus’ response.
In our spiritual lives we too will encounter obstacles that seem impossible. Tim Durbin’s above words apply incredibly well to our spiritual challenges. See, even the most average person can obey the Lord’s commands, even the difficult ones. Obedience is the ultimate challenge of a Christian’s mental and spiritual endurance (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Maybe the barrier we face is in accepting a difficult teaching. Maybe our challenge is obeying a command against an enticing sin. No matter what the challenge is, we can overcome it. We can live a faithful and obedient life. We can obey all of the Lord’s teachings. How? This is where Jesus’ response back in Matthew 19:26 comes in, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
The Lord wants us to win. If we stand with Him, the Lord will stand on our side and help us with our weaknesses. He will give us what we need to achieve victory. The Christian life is by far the ultimate challenge of endurance. No matter what spiritual challenges come our way, let’s never give up.