Run Your Race
About the Guest
Kyle Idleman, a teaching pastor at Southeast Christian Church, talks about applying Hebrews to our relationships, especially marriage. There are seasons of difficulty in marriage, and it takes perseverance and faith to press through the hard times. Husbands often lean toward the grand gestures that get noticed and affirmed, but it's the daily acts of service that make a big difference. Idleman lists some of the obstacles, like indifference, that can tank a relationship.
Kyle Idleman talks about applying Hebrews to our relationships, especially marriage. Idleman lists some of the obstacles, like indifference, that can tank a relationship.
Run Your Race
Bob: It is important for us, as followers of Christ, to persevere, to dig in, to not quit/not give up; and yet, as Kyle Idleman points out, there are some things, where giving up is the exact right answer.
Kyle: The most important spiritual realization for anyone is surrender—it is giving up: it’s giving up my rights; it’s giving up my desires; it’s giving up my plans for the future—it’s surrendering all those things to God. There’s a sense in which we need to learn to give up so we can never give up.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, August 14th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. Sometimes, in order to hang in there, we have to give up. We’ll talk more about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. In our conversation this week, we’ve learned what Dave Wilson’s next sermon series is going to be at his church; right?
Dave: Anxiety! [Laughter]
Bob: Because, as we’ve been talking about persevering in the face of trials and tribulation, this is one of the reasons why we struggle with perseverance—is because we feel anxious about the world we live in/the issues we’re dealing with.
Kyle Idleman is joining us, again, this week on FamilyLife Today. Welcome back, Kyle.
Kyle: Thank you, guys.
Bob: Kyle has written a book called Don’t Give Up: Faith That Gives You the Confidence to Keep Believing and the Courage to Keep Going. I know this series, as you preached it, resonated with folks at your church; but you told me, as you preached this, it turned into a marriage and family series.
Kyle: Yes; I went through this series—going through Hebrews 11 and 12—and then really felt like it needs to be applied, specifically, to some situations and to some relationships; so I did a series on “Don’t Give Up on Your Marriage” “Don’t Give Up on Your Family.” One of the things that triggered that was a conversation I had with a couple that was doing some pseudo-marriage counseling—I don’t think it would technically qualify as counseling—but I was listening and giving my thoughts. As I was talking to the two of them, the husband was pretty defensive. He made a comment, more in passing, about, “I’d take a bullet for her,” and she kind of came back and said, “I’m just asking you to come to church with me.”
As I was listening to it, I thought: “Man, that is—I bet there are a lot of husbands, who would say: ‘I’d step in front of a bullet for my wife. I would give my life for her.’ Okay; well, I’m just asking you to pray with her. I’m just asking you to make an occasional date night a priority”; right? What I saw was a tendency for us to put a huge emphasis on this grand gesture; oftentimes, perseverance requires the little things. It’s the cumulative effect of the daily disciplines, of the daily commitments, of the daily prayers in marriage.
You know, the Bible says, in Galatians 6:9: “Let’s not grow weary in doing good, for at the right time we’ll reap the harvest if we don’t give up.” In our marriage and with our kids, that’s so much of it: “Don’t grow weary in doing good, and in due time…” I don’t know when due time is. [Laughter] I wish there was a date, where it would say, “When they turn this age, you will reap a harvest if you don’t give up.” It just says, “in due time.” It’s not today; but in due time, you will reap a harvest. It requires a commitment to the little things.
Bob: Faithfulness in those small things. Like you, I’ve talked to husbands, who’d say, “I’d die for my wife”; and I go, “Will you live for your wife?”
Ann: Every wife is resonating, right now, with this; because she’s thinking: “Just be in the every day with me. Help me in the every day. I love that you would do this grand gesture for me, but I need you today and tomorrow in the little things.” That really communicates love, and it helps us along the way.
Dave: Yes; I think what happens to husbands—I’ve done this, and it’s what your book’s all about—because you’re talking about running the race. You start running, as a husband, and then it gets difficult: “Okay; I’ll pray with you,” and you one day or maybe two days, and then, it’s just hard.
Ann: Why? Why is it hard?
Dave: I mean, one is just the habit of building a new habit into their life; but there’s—and you talk about it in your book—there are obstacles. The race is marked out, but we don’t know what it’s going to look like. Talk about that, because it really is—the little things are: “Just take another step”; “Take another step”; and yet, something pops up and we just sort of quit; right? How do we keep running?
Kyle: I mean, consistency is my struggle as a husband and as a father. I will do really well for a little while, and then I’ll have a different challenge over here. I think: “Oh, I have it going over here. I have a solid four days as a husband and father!” [Laughter] So I give my attention to something else and kind of turn away from this race that God has called me to run. I just kind of step off the track/get distracted by something else.
Ann: That is totally you, Dave, too. Oh, sorry! [Laughter]
Dave: That’s everybody, honey. She just called me out. [Laughter]
Ann: That is true.
Bob: You know what? I do think there is something about men or about husbands, where we are inclined toward grand gestures. Part of the reason—and you resonate with this, as a wife and mom, too—the grand gestures get noticed, get affirmed, get appreciated—somebody says, “That was really special.” The day to day—the reading the stories with the kids at night, or helping with the bath, or doing—nobody goes, “Hey, that was really special.” But it’s showing up in those that is the perseverance—it’s the stuff of faith.
Kyle: Yes; I think this is where the race metaphor helps us—in that it is the one step at a time, and focusing on taking another step and another step. I’ve heard it described as, you know: “It’s the things that are easy to do and the things that are easy not to do that makes the difference.” I think that’s really true. There are certain things, especially at home with the family—anybody can do them—it’s not that they’re hard to do, but it’s easy not to do them.
That, oftentimes, is what makes the difference; so you take the next step. It doesn’t seem like that big of a deal—but then you take the next one, and the next one, and the next one—and that’s where the promise of a harvest comes from.
Ann: You talk about obstacles. What are some of the obstacles, that you’ve seen, of running the race?
Kyle: You know, I talk in the book about the obstacle of indifference, which is an obstacle that’s really dangerous; because you don’t care. That is the apathy of: “I’m not running, and I don’t really care.” I think that’s a really difficult obstacle to overcome. I also know the obstacle of indifference, oftentimes, requires a very difficult situation in order to get our attention so we’ll get on the track and start running again.
One of the things I would say to your listeners is: “If that’s where they’re at—if they’re going through something that makes them feel like they just can’t finish, it could also be the prompt that they’re needing to actually get back in the race/to start running again. How you receive that desperate moment: ‘Is it going to cause me to just quit altogether, or is this going to be a wakeup call for me?’”
Indifference or spiritual apathy—you know, the early church fathers included as one of the seven deadly sins—the sin of sloth, which doesn’t sound very deadly. It sounds like laying in the bathtub, you know, long— [Laughter]
Bob: —recliner; that’s what La-Z-Boys® are built for!
Kyle: Right; it doesn’t sound that deadly. [Laughter] But it’s one of the most deadly of all sins, because you shrug your shoulders at the very things you should be fighting for.
Ann: What would you do with a teenager that you feel is right there? As a parent, what would your steps be toward them?
Kyle: Well, you know, what I would do is not the right thing to do. [Laughter] I know what I would do—I’d try to light a fire under him! [Laughter] I’ve gone down that path many times. But, you know, in seriousness, I think what I’ve learned with my teenagers is that, if I can be a little bit vulnerable with that struggle in my own life, it can go a long way. Whether it’s connecting it to when I was their age or even more recently, that helps; but pushing them to get back in the race and making them take the next steps and run is often an exercise in futility.
Bob: You know, Ann brings up something that a lot of parents are struggling with, which is teenagers or young adults, who have basically decided to drop out of the race/the spiritual race.
Ann: They’ve become very apathetic in their faith and don’t really care.
Bob: I was talking to a young man, who went to Bible college, and was, at one point, thinking about ministry/maybe missions is what he wanted to do. Today, he said: “Yes; I don’t know that I’m an atheist or an agnostic; I’m just apathetic. I really don’t care about this stuff.”
I looked at him and said: “You know, we’re talking about the big issues of life. We’re talking about—not about who’s going to win the game or this year’s election—we’re talking about: ‘Where did I come from?’ ‘Why am I here?’ ‘What happens when I die?’ These are the big issues of life, and you’re going, ‘Yes; I’d just rather play some video games’?” He was like, “It’s easier to not think about that stuff.”
I think there are a lot of people, who’ve just said: “I was not finding joy; I was not finding peace; I was not finding contentment in trying to do the religious stuff that I was doing; so I just checked out and said: ‘Okay; it’s not there. I’m going to just play some video games.’”
Is there a thing a parent can do?
Kyle: My wife is a huge fan of natural consequences. She just believes, you know: “Don’t rescue them from this,” “Don’t save them.” If they’re going to stay up, and they’re going to play video games all night, then we’re not going to wake them up in the morning; and we’re not going—you know, if they’re not going to have the job, then when they need gas money/if they run out of gas, then they’ll have to figure that out. You know, I think there’s a lot of wisdom in that. I mean, if she heard me saying this— [Laughter]
Dave: She will!
Kyle: She will; yes—because my tendency is to rescue. In my mind, I’m thinking: “Okay; here’s an opportunity to express my love and ‘I’m there for you,’” and to come into a situation that was created by their indifference and apathy and to save the day.
You know, if she was sitting here, I might not admit that she’s right; [Laughter] but I do know that our apathy, in any area of life, will eventually create an unsustainable situation. When we reach that point, it’s an opportunity for God to get our attention and to draw us back into what He’s called us to.
Bob: So, the 16-year-old—who says: “Do I have to go to church? I don’t want to go to church,”—as a parent, do you say—do you make him?—or do you say, “Okay; I’m just going to let whatever natural consequences come from not going to church be a part of what you deal with”?
Kyle: Yes; so, you know, it’s interesting—before I had teenagers, I would have said: “Well, yes you make them! [Laughter] You make them go.” What I have discovered with my kids—and I don’t know that this; I haven’t done the study or the research on it—but they know that that’s the expectation. If they don’t go to church on the weekend, then there are other things they’re not going to get to do during the week; but I’m not going to fight them. I’m not going to say, “No; you are going to go.” I don’t want them to connect church and faith to—
Kyle: Yes; to obligation and to dad saying, “I don’t care…” So, trying to understand where that’s coming from/why they would feel that way.
Bob: When you see a teenager wandering down the path, and they’re headed toward the far country, and you go, “Boy, if they get too far down that path, that’s a long walk back; and there’s danger out there.” As a parent, you’re saying, “Sometimes, you just have to let them wander and find out what’s out there”?
Kyle: You know, one of the things I had tried to do with my kids is strategically place other people in that path. It may be pretty difficult for me to get out in front of them and say, “Hey, don’t go down this path”; but I know people in their life, and I know other kids their age, and I’ll manipulate the situation— [Laughter]
Ann: It’s okay to do that.
Kyle: —so that someone other that just my wife or I are the ones giving that message; because I don’t know that—I think that, oftentimes, that can backfire.
Ann: With our adult kids, now, they’ll come back and say, “I wish you would have…” which is always very humbling, to be the parents of those adult kids now. But one of the things that one of our sons said: “I wish you would have asked me the whys behind what I was doing. I wish you would have gone deeper into my heart if I didn’t want to go to youth group.” I think we did ask, but I didn’t spend enough time of getting into “What’s going on that makes you not want to go?”
I think teenagers are really good at having those discussions if we’re very open, and humble, and want to hear their heart. I think that’s one of those things, as parents—if our kids are going off into that path—to really sit down and say: “What’s going on? Tell me what’s going on in your heart. What’s happened? Is there anything I can do to help you?”
Kyle: One of my four kids really doesn’t like being a pastor’s kid very much. A couple of weeks ago, I was trying to get her out the door to go to church on a Sunday night. She didn’t want to go; we were kind of going back and forth on it. She said, “I just don’t like”—and she didn’t say it with an attitude—she just said, “I just don’t like going with you to church.”
We went, and she went with us that night. I paid attention to all the different people that stopped and kind of noticed her reaction when people were asking her questions. She didn’t want to be in the spotlight. It wasn’t a rebellious attitude; it was anxiety. She was feeling anxious over it. Understanding the why behind it—it wasn’t what I thought it was.
Dave: Talk about applying this to parenting/applying this to marriage—this “Don’t give up” attitude. As a parent, or even as just a friend, to somebody—when are those times when they should quit?
You know, I’m thinking, “If I went on American Idol and auditioned right now, I would be 30 seconds and—
Bob: “Give up,” “Give up.” [Laughter]
Dave: Yes; I mean, but if I—and so many do; we laugh at it when they do that—but you’re sitting there, going, “Dude, quit!”
Ann: Every time, Dave’s thinking, “Why didn’t the parents tell them they were not good?”
Dave: That’s why I’m asking the question, because the parents are encouraging it; and everybody else knows: “No, no; this is one of those things you should quit. You have another gift,” or something.
Bob: “The violin is not your instrument, sweetheart”; right? [Laughter]
Dave: So talk about, when the obstacles come up in the race, and it’s like that obstacle is really a sign to say, “You have something else going, but you should quit this.”
Kyle: Yes; and I think that’s the way you do it—right?—is by you turning their attention to who God has made them to be, helping draw out the gifts that God has given them, and to say gently, “What about this over here instead of American Idol?” Yes; I do think that’s right.
In fact, one of the challenges with “Don’t give up” is that one of the most important spiritual realizations for anyone is surrender—it is giving up: it’s giving up my right; it’s giving up my desires; it’s giving up my plans for the future—it’s surrendering all those things to God. There’s a sense in which we need to learn to give up so we can never give up—that it’s only in surrendering those things and, as Jesus talks about, dying to ourselves, that we can find life and we can find strength.
So, sometimes, surrender is the right message. Sometimes, giving up is the message we need to hear; because it’s in giving up that we can discover a strength that’s greater than our own.
Bob: You referenced Galatians 6:9, “Don’t be weary in well-doing; in due time you will reap what you sow.” You thought, “I wish I knew when ‘due time’ was.”
You got a phone call from somebody, who was not a member of your church, but who had seen you on TV; and he wanted to talk to you. You, actually, connected with this guy; right?
Kyle: Yes; this is a guy who had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and knew he didn’t have much time left. I went to his house to visit with him. One of the things I do on a call like that is—I don’t bring a Bible with me. I’ll ask for their Bible; because you find out, pretty quickly, who you’re talking to. I said, “Do you all have a Bible?” At first, he said, “No, no; there’s no Bible in the house.” Then they remembered they did have one. They went over, and they pulled out a Bible that was three feet by three feet. [Laughter] I mean, it was—it was—
Bob: A door-to-door salesman had gotten them on that one; right?
Kyle: It was so big; it was this big white Bible, with gold lettering and King James version. I opened it up to Romans 8 to talk to them about the love of God, and getting right with God, and what that looks like. You know, he had come to a place in his life where he had worked really hard at getting a lot of things right, because he knew he didn’t have much time left. He got some things right with his ex-; he got some things right with his kids; all his finances were in order. But this was the last thing—he had been putting this off.
One of my takeaways from my time with him was: “Even if you’re just now starting, God meets you right where you are.” Some people give up because it feels like it’s too late: “I’ve gone too far down this path. I’ve made too much of a mess of things.” Just talking to him about the gospel, and the nature of God, and what Jesus does for us, it’s never too late to get back in the race. Even if you have stepped off the track; even if you’ve given up, spiritually, in some ways—you may have given up on God—but God hasn’t given up on you. He is still faithful; and when we reach out to Him, He is there for us.
Bob: So, the person who’s listening, who has felt that way, “I’m too far from God’s grace,” they’ve given up on God because life has been a mess—would you pray for them?
Jesus, I just thank You for not giving up on us. I think of all the ways that You could have given up. When they pressed the thorns into Your brow, You could have said: “That’s enough. I’m done.” When You were spit upon and beaten, You could have, just with a nod of Your head, paralyzed every soldier in the room. You could have said one word and called the angels of heaven to Your defense, but You didn’t do that. You didn’t give up; You were nailed to the cross. You persevered, because You wanted us to know how much You loved us, You wanted to forever establish our value to You, God, by giving us Your only Son, Jesus.
So I pray, God, that You would help the person who’s listening to this right now to do exactly what Hebrews 12 says—to fix their eyes on You—that, Jesus, they would know that You did not give up on them and that You have not given up on them and that they would pray a very simple prayer; and that prayer would just be, “I need help.”
God, I believe that that’s what You will respond to—it’s when we humble ourselves and just ask for help. God, I have been there, as a husband and father. I’m embarrassed when I think about how long it took me to get on my knees and just say to You: “God, I need help as a husband. I don’t know what I’m doing, and I’ve made a mess of some things. I need help.” And as a father, how hard it was for me. I’d read all kinds of books on parenting; but it was hard for me to just get on my knees with my wife and say, “God, I need help.”
Lord, I believe that’s where You meet us—is when we recognize that we can’t go any further on our own. I pray that You would help us humble ourselves and cry out to You for help, and that we would receive Your strength and, God, that You would give us faith and confidence that—no matter where we’re at or what the situation is—that You are the great Redeemer and Healer. You can work things for good. It’s in Jesus’ name we pray; amen.
Bob and Ann: Amen.
Bob: Kyle, thanks. Thanks for encouraging all of us to persevere and to not give up.
Now, I just hear your wife’s voice in my ear, going: “Keep going! You can do it!”—right?
Dave: She never stops. [Laughter] And that’s a good thing.
Kyle: That is a good thing.
Dave: That is a very good thing. Thank God for her.
Bob: We have copies of Kyle Idleman’s book, Don’t Give Up: Faith That Gives You the Confidence to Keep Believing and the Courage to Keep Going. You can order it from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to get your copy. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-358-6329 to get a copy of the book, Don’t Give Up—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
You know, we’ve been talking this week about perseverance/about not giving up with Kyle Idleman. David Robbins, the President of FamilyLife®, is here with us today. We all need to hear a message like this somewhat regularly; don’t you think?
David: Yes; this was such a good conversation for our culture; but also, just for me and each one of us. You know, when I think about virtues lacking in our culture, faithfulness would have to be pretty top-of-the-list as one of those that is lacking today. One of the reasons I think faithfulness is lacking is because we’re so enticed by the next thing—something new—whatever’s being pushed to us by consumerism or to make us feel comfortable.
When faithfulness is lacking in a culture, everyone suffers: marriages suffer, families suffer, our own souls suffer. I feel this often—the temptation to find life in something else. I think all of us do. I needed, today, what Kyle is talking about—a commitment to persevere, to be faithful, to do the things that we commit to do.
You know, Galatians 6 really comes to my mind as I say that: “Don’t grow weary in doing good, because in due time you will reap, if you don’t give up.” The passage goes on to say: “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, especially to those in the household of faith.” My action, after listening today, is to not give up/to be faithful and to even pursue doing good to the covenant relationships in my life.
Bob: Yes; that’s good. Thank you, David.
By the way, I know a lot of our listeners have gotten an email or a letter from you this month, talking about the matching-gift campaign that’s going on, where donations are being matched, dollar for dollar, as we’re raising money for translation of Like Arrows and the Art of Parenting® into new languages—Mandarin, Arabic—other outreaches that we’re fully-engaged in. I hope listeners will take the time to read the emails and the letters that you sent, and I hope they’ll respond and help us take the ministry of FamilyLife to more moms and dads and husbands and wives all around the world.
If you want to help with a donation today, it’s easy to do. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com—donate online—or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate. Keep in mind, your donation, right now, is matched, dollar for dollar, up to a total of $500,000. We do hope to hear from you, and thanks for your partnership with us and the ministry of FamilyLife.
We hope you can join us back tomorrow when we’re going to have an interesting conversation. We’re going to talk about what we can do, as parents—moms/dads—husbands and wives, to make every moment a holy moment in our families. Doug McKelvey’s going to be here to talk about how we sanctify the ordinary in our lives. It’s a fascinating conversation. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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