The nicest (bad) word I’ve ever been called What a snowy run taught me about following Jesus in a culture that no longer is

This week as I was running in the snow (which doesn’t happen a lot, so it’s nice to do it when I can), I thought about another snowy run that happened a few years ago and smiled. It was the day someone called me the nicest bad word I’ve ever been called.

But first, some context.

I started running almost 10 years ago. Now, I’m not the fastest or the best, but I have been a pretty decent example of consistency over the years. Some years I run more and some years I run less, but most years I’m logging somewhere close to 1,000 miles. The majority of those miles are run on the same roads, and usually alone.

Of course, I don’t run to be noticed by others (except for drivers – I’d like for drivers of vehicles that could potentially hit me to notice me!!), and when you run a lot of miles alone, sometimes you feel like you’re in your own little bubble, unbothered and unnoticed.

But on that snowy run a few years ago, I wasn’t unnoticed. In fact, I was paid an amazing compliment that was one of the most unusual compliments I’ve ever received.

As I was running through the snowstorm past a business near my home, a friend of mine who was in the store at the time said one of the employees pointed out the window at me and said, “That is one crazy *******!”

With that crazy context in mind, let me tell you what that one simple, honest, off-color statement communicates to those of us living out our faith in a rapidly changing post-modern culture.

Extreme circumstances call for extreme commitment to everyday convictions

Want to stand out? Simply stay committed to doing what you’ve always done at a time when no one else is willing to do it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run by that store – surely in the hundreds of times by now – without that comment being made. But one run in the snow – one normal run in abnormal conditions – is what stood out.

Extreme circumstances call for extreme commitment. (Plus, it’s just plain fun to run in the ❄️!!) #snowday #10k

Posted by Paul Jenkins on Wednesday, January 17, 2018

There’s a verse in Philippians that calls believers to “shine like stars.” Did you know that stars are ALWAYS shining? It’s what stars do! But you and I don’t see them shining until the sky around them has grown dark. They simply do what they were made to do in an environment that enhances the effect of what they’re doing!

This is a wonderful time to be a follower of Jesus because if we’ll simply continue to do what we’ve always done – if we’ll simply BE who we have been recreated to be – we’re guaranteed to stand out as the culture around us grows darker.

Standing out is simply a matter of shining out when all the other lights are going out!

Extreme circumstances can be vehicles for producing effective change

You and I are living in a culture that can tend to be a little bit entitled, yes? We get participation trophies for everything even if we never really did anything, and so it makes a lot of sense that an entitled culture would fail to see the value in uncomfortable situations.

But growth never happens in a recliner (unless we’re talking about the waistline!). Labor precedes delivery. Working out comes before building up. That amazing feeling you had when you made an A came after that horrible feeling you had studying for the test. Seeds push through the soil as the plant begins to take root and grow.

There’s no way around it. Hard times produce strong people when we accept the fact that easy street is not the best avenue for change.

The apostle Paul wrote it this way:

Not only that, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. (Romans 5:3-4, emphasis added)

Suffering produces. It’s one thing to go run when the weather is perfect. It’s quite another to run in a (Southern) blizzard. Both runs are effective, but only one convinces me (and others) that I’m a runner who will run no matter what.

There is no doubt that the church is facing tough times in America, but there is also no doubt that the tough times can change the face of the church in America.

Shine like stars, and allow the darkness around you to reveal in you and produce through you the brightest light of the Gospel the world has ever seen.

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Paul Jenkins

Paul Jenkins is lead pastor of The Gathering, a community church located in beautiful downtown Albemarle, North Carolina. He's the author of God is My Air Traffic Controller and My Name's Not Lou. Paul is passionate about his wife, his 3 children, running, reading, coaching, leading people who are following Jesus, Swedish Fish and the Carolina Panthers.

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