Warm Up: James 1:2-4, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Stretching: Numbers 14.
Run: The term, “a pebble in your shoe” usually is a reference to something that is hindering or slowing you down. It can be a metaphysical description of holding on to grudges or being unwilling to forgive someone who rubs you the wrong way. The very nature of this metaphor comes out of the context of walking or running. Even the smallest piece of rock, a splinter of wood, or a few grains of sand can hobble us. If the annoyance is not dealt with, it can lead to more prolonged pain like a bruise or a blister. Of course, when you’re running a race, it’s frustrating to take the time to stop and fix the problem. Still, if the race is going to be of any distance, it is imperative that you deal with the irritant. We all pick up ‘pebbles in our shoes’ in life. Trials and tribulations tend to expose some of these pebbles. My pastor used to say that you don’t know what’s in someone’s cup until they are bumped and then what’s inside spills over. And as James reminds us, dealing with these issues shouldn’t aggravate us.
Today’s reading out of Numbers reminds us how extensive the repercussions of a ‘pebble’ can become. God’s dealings with his people in the wilderness of Sin weren’t the result of his inability to lead them into the Promised Land. It was all about their inability to let go of their old ways and prepare themselves for what was ahead. A trip that should have taken 10-14 days took two and a half years while the Israelites continued to wrestle with their unbelief despite the many miracles of God. After these tribulations came a time of testing in Numbers 13 and the results were disastrous. The massive failure to deal with the issue of their unbelief resulted in the loss of an entire generation before God was willing to bring them to the next level of their spiritual training. Sometimes, I wonder what I have missed out on because of my unwillingness to deal with issues that would allow me to know God better and experience his faithfulness even more in my life. Like the Israelites, I murmur and complain about those annoying pebbles, but fail to take the time to pick them out of my shoe. As a runner who understands the nature of the metaphor because of personal experience, I miss the mark in my spiritual walk.
Cool Down: “Lord, it’s hard to look at the tribulations I have to go through with joy. How can adversity be good? So many things happen that I don’t understand. While I know that a fallen world and my own sin nature cause a lot of what happens in my life, I also understand through your Word that you send tribulations to show us our weaknesses in areas where you want to bring victory and strength. Like the psalmist, I need to learn that every lament is an opportunity for praise. Please help my unbelief and let me be reminded in your Word of the many ways you use a ‘refiner’s fire’ to purify us into your image and prepare us for the race that lies ahead. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”