No Pain, No Gain

The writer to the Hebrews in Hebrews 12:1-13, compares life to the running of a race.  Perseverance in the race doesn’t just happen; it’s developed!! It’s a gain that can be experienced, but only through some pain!! “No Pain, No Gain.” August 18, 2019.

Do you find it incredible that a person can run 26 miles at one time? Without stopping? And without dying? Because, I do!! I have a lot of respect for marathon runners! Their skills set and level of ability is so far beyond mine that I can’t help but marvel!  And if we are being really honest, I have to tell you that it’s not just 26 miles that impresses me, I find it incredible that people can run 2.6 miles without stopping!

The Lime Scooters have made their way into downtown and within the last 2 weeks another two companies have put their scooters on the sidewalks. And this is great news for a guy like me. This means that I don’t even have to walk 2.6 miles anymore – I can just ride! Without exhausting too much effort and look pretty cool in the process!

There’s one main reason that I don’t run very often. It’s not very deep or philosophical. It’s pretty simple really - “Running Hurts!” 

Now I know that is a bad excuse. And I know that I am missing out on some of the health benefits of running. I know that I’d be thinner if I ran more regularly. I hear that it makes you feel better and is a good way to start the day (I suppose that might be true.) I’ve heard from people who run every day that they have the opposite experience that I do – that they feel weird if they go a day without running. As you build endurance and tolerance and resistance, you get to be in better and better shape. The more you push yourself to do something, the easier it becomes. The more you exert yourself the longer it will take you to get tired and worn out the next time.   

I know I’m not the only one that dodges the pain of running, but that doesn’t make it a wise decision. There’s a lot of benefit to running, even periodically and even short distances. I know that I miss out on a lot of those benefits because I’m a wuss. I wish I were more driven, because it’s true: No Pain, No Gain.

The marathon runner embraces the pain and powers through the pain, because they know they will be better for it on the other side. The marathon runner builds tolerance and endurance. They go from getting in shape to getting in race shape. That’s how it can be that 26 miles is not an insurmountable task! The marathon runner experiences those gains because of embracing the pain of training.

The writer to the Hebrews compares life to the running of a race. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. He includes himself as a runner and he bids us all to have perseverance in the race. But that perseverance doesn’t just happen--it’s developed. It’s a gain that can be experienced, but only through some pain.

There’s a spiritually lazy person inside of all of us that wants life to be easy and wants everything to go our way and wants to coast through life without any cares or concerns. But that’s not what God has planned for us. That’s not what God has planned, not because he’s unfair, unjust, or unloving. That’s not what God has in store for us because that’s not what’s best for us. If the bed of roses life was what’s best, then God would give us that, but he hasn’t! Remember No Pain, No Gain. We gain strength and wisdom and patience and trust through difficulties and trials. We’d have no way to gain perseverance if there were no struggles in our lives.

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. We can embrace the hardships and trials. In fact, we can rejoice in them because they are a reminder of our connection to the Lord. The word “discipline” is really a word that means making a “disciple” – a student. Hardship is one of the ways that God forms us to be a faithful follower. The Lord disciplines the one he loves. If we didn’t have hardship, would be follow God? Would we need him? Would we become or remain a disciple? 

Have you ever seen a marathon runner lose a race because his shoes came untied? I bet not for a couple of reasons – 1) you use your time more wisely than to watch other people running on TV but 2) marathon runners double, triple, quadruple tie their laces so that they don’t trip or get tangled up. That could be the end of the race for them if they tripped and broke an arm or a leg. 

How much more dangerous is it when we try to run our race without throwing off the things that could catch us, trip us up or entangle our feet? Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. It seems pretty basic, like Bible 101, doesn’t it? Just get rid of your sin! But far too often we don’t! Far too often we let sin lurk around us. We embrace it and try to live with it and in it. We accept the lie that if our culture says it’s OK, then it must be OK! We live believing that if everyone does it then it can’t be that big of a deal. We ignore our own consciences and end up ignoring the guilt that we once felt that tries to warn us about sin. We fall into selfishness and pride and feel as if we can do it on our own, and we end up tripping over ourselves and falling flat.   

If we want to succeed in the race, if we want to reach the finish line, we need to throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  

Only one problem, we can’t do that! We can’t get rid of the hindering weight of our own failures. We can’t remove the sin that trips us up, and that means that we keep on falling and failing. If we are on our own, then the finish line is further away than the end of the marathon appears to be to most of us. We need help--without it we are doomed!  

Our God knows how powerless we are to keep his law, to run the race the way he desires.  He knows that we don’t have a chance of finishing on our own, and so he steps in to help! He unties the sin from around our legs and removes the hindering weight of our guilt and he sets us free. Our God opens our eyes and helps us to see and to fix our eyes on the one who empowers us to run and to win the race!

Let us run…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 

Jesus endured and overcame the temptations of the evil foe who tried to trip him up and ruin his race. But nothing could set him off course. Nothing could distract or prevent him from reaching the finish line, from accomplishing the goal that he set out to accomplish. He was willing to set aside his perfect rest in heaven to come to a place of toil and strife and strain to run the race of life. His earthly race began in the womb of a virgin. He gave up the company of angels to make company with us! He lived a perfect life and ran a perfect race so that God’s law could be fulfilled and that his demands would be met.

Jesus knew and lived the truth – No Pain No Gain. He knew that because of sin, someone had to suffer, someone had to pay, someone had to die. Jesus couldn’t stand the thought of that being you or me, so he set out to run the race for us.  He took our place and our punishment and our pain, because he knew – No Pain No Gain. He knew that if he didn’t take our pain then we would have to suffer. He knew that if he didn’t take our punishment that we would be punished forever in hell.  He knew that the only alternative to our deaths was his own, so he loved and lived and died for us! Jesus knew that it’s true, No Pain No Gain, so he embraced the pain so that we could be his gain!

Jesus - for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Jesus scorned the shame of the cross. He scoffed at the idea that something like crucifixion would try to deter him from his goal to be the Savior of the world. He boldly, and lovingly and heroically laid down his life and endured a brutal death. He embraced the Pain, so that he could achieve the Gain of us with him forever.   

And then having crossed the finish line, having finished the race, having accomplished his goal to save the world from their sin, he sat down at the right hand of God. He rose from the dead, he ascended into heaven and now he reigns for you and for me. From on high, he guards and protects us and keeps us in his tender care. And he prepares the finish line for us, the place where we will spend an eternity with him.

And until that day we cross the finish line, we press on! We keep running, we keep enduring, we keep fixing our eyes on Jesus. He strengthens us for the race, he feeds us in Word and Sacrament. He gives us living water and encourages us and empowers us to keep on enduring the pain, because a far greater gain lies in store for us on the other side.    

And until that day, we will face the hardships that God chooses to allow into our lives. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. By enduring the pain of the Lord’s disciple-ling, we gain the righteousness and peace of God’s training.

Perhaps the hardship that will come our way is rejection. We’d be in good company if that’s our pain. Consider him (Jesus) who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Persecutions, hardships, trials will come our way, but remember that Jesus endured them too. And he not only endured them, but he overcame. He overcame to win a victory, a victory that he now shares with us.    

My friends, keep on running. Uplifted and empowered and strengthened by Jesus, keep on running! Don’t grow weary! Don’t give up! No Pain, No Gain! And the gain that Jesus gives is worth it all!    

Live, Run, Fight with the confidence and faith of Paul, who said:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7-8).    

And with a glorious gain like that, who cares about the pain! Amen.

Preached at Grace Lutheran Church, Milwaukee, WI on August 18, 2019