I am not a runner. I tried for a bit when I was in junior high and high school, but running mostly just makes me miserable—like my body is actually trying to kill me. However, we all run all sorts of races, physical or otherwise, so the analogy of “running a race” for the spiritual life that we find so often in Scripture is one that should land—regardless of physical ability. Whether you find running a misery or a joy, participating in a race takes endurance, and that makes up the primary subject matter of Trillia Newbell’s latest book, Sacred Endurance.
Unlike me, Trillia Newbell is an athlete, and she writes Sacred Endurace (InterVarsity Press, 2019) with the knowledge and capability that comes from years of experience with running literal races. Not only is Newbell an athlete, but she’s the Director of Community Outreach for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, a sought-after writer on matters of faith and diversity for such websites as Christianity Today and The Gospel Coalition, and the author of multiple books. Newbell has the practical life experience and theological foundation to unpack what it means to run a race with endurance, and why the Bible so frequently utilizes this metaphor.Ultimately, we all pursue what we desire, and how well we run the race toward the prize that calls us heavenward to Jesus will be determined by how much we desire Him.
In chapter 1, Newbell lays out why this topic is important for all Christians. She writes, “There’s a reason the Bible often refers to the Christian life as a race. There is much at stake, and getting to the end takes more trust and effort than we’d like to admit. Our integrity, our witness, and even our very lives are at stake.” Newbell doesn’t just focus on the race itself, however, or our human efforts. Rather, she focuses on the grace of God that carries us through. This is an important refrain in Sacred Endurance, in which Newbell takes pains to emphasize that she is not writing a prosperity gospel message, or one in which God has to reward our efforts in a certain way. We serve a God whose grace covers all our steps, and as race-runners, we run as ambassadors—as representatives of the Kingdom of God. “This is our sacred endurance: running the race of the Christian life set before us by the grace of God, through the strength of God, until the day we face our God.”
Sacred Endurance is an accessible read with practical applications to aspects of life most Christians will be able to relate to. Newbell touches on such topics as what it means to be surrounded by a “cloud of witnesses,” legalism (and how to avoid it), how to master the battles we fight in our minds, how to run the race with integrity on social media, and more.
What I found the most compelling about Trillia Newbell’s Sacred Endurance probably struck me because I am not a runner. In chapter 7, she writes, “Some disciplines and priorities should mark our lives—not because we’re attempting to earn something we don’t already have but because we’re compelled to live in a new way… it’s hard to pursue what we don’t desire.” Ultimately, we all pursue what we desire, and how well we run the race toward the prize that calls us heavenward to Jesus will be determined by how much we desire Him. I failed in high school athletics because I never desired to be an athlete. There are other races I run with endurance—other things I pursue—because I greatly desire those things. Newbell encourages us, in Sacred Endurance, to apply that same level of desire to Christ.
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