Saturday, June 8, 2024



1 Corinthians 15:58 ¶  Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

For my 50th birthday I went to Pamplona, Spain, and ran with the bulls in the San Fermin Festival that year.

The festival lasts for 7 days and those who come to run choose how many days they want to run. You have to get up before daylight and get in the crowd to claim the spot where you want to encounter the bulls along their route. There are three cannons that mark the morning. The first one signals the runners to find their spot. The second cannon signals the release of the bulls and the third cannon signals when all the bulls are safely in the ring and the streets can be opened to the public again.

There were thousands of people dressed up and ready to run each morning. The first morning I ran a short portion at the beginning of the route until the bulls passed me. Once all 10 bulls pass, big wooden gates are closed to keep the runners from continuing to chase the bulls and to keep the bulls from turning back on an unsuspecting crowd.

I was a little disappointed with my first run since I didn’t get to follow the bulls all the way to the city center and into the bull ring. Only those who get into the bull ring with the bulls are allowed to play with the 5 fresh young bulls they let out into the ring. Chasing and being chased by the bulls always looked like such fun on TV. But that morning I wasn’t allowed into the ring because the bulls all passed me up quickly.

So, the second day I was better prepared. I claimed my spot early.

And when the first cannon went off, I took off. There were a couple of thousand runners, and I felt like I was in the race of my life. I thought to myself … I’m over 50 years old and this may be the last real race I’m ever going to run. I’m going to give it all I’ve got. I was in fair shape but to my credit, I was probably one of the few runners who wasn’t recovering from a hangover that morning.

As we stretched the run out and approached that famous curve just before the long ‘locked in’ corridor where people are often caught by the bulls and have nowhere to take cover, I was already in the lead.

The course was paved with stones and wet, but I was determined. I wanted to make it all the way to the bullfighting arena and so I pushed myself. The route is lined with shops and people watching from balconies and I stayed out in front all the way up the hill, around the statue of Earnest Hemmingway, and down through the narrow tunnel and into the arena. I made it … I was the first one of hundreds that came gushing through the gate behind me.

The whole arena was filled with cheering people. As people continued pouring in, I made my victory lap, clinching my fists and raising my hands, jogging around the large arena where the thousands sat yelling and chanting. They were even throwing things out into the arena as I ran by their sections.

After a minute it began to feel and seem a bit odd. They were all chanting the same thing in unison. And the things they were throwing were cans and trash and half-eaten fruit. When I looked up at the crowd, they seemed angry and what they were saying wasn’t my idea of praise.

I circled more towards the center of the ring and away from the seats and stopped to ask a guy what they were saying. He told me the crowd was calling me the son of a whore because I was the biggest chicken of the day. He said that I had made it all the way to the bullfighting arena before they had even let the bulls go.

It was about that point that I heard the second cannon go off, signaling the release of the bulls way back at the beginning of the run. I had been so focused and ran so fast that I made it all the way to the end before the bulls were even let out. The crowd was not congratulating me, they were cursing me … making fun of me … belittling me … calling me names … and for a moment, I felt their shame was deserved and I wanted to hide. I took my top shirt off hoping no one would recognize me and blended in the crowd before going to meet the bulls who were about to arrive.

You don’t have to be what other people believe you are.

I found myself trying to prove to myself that I wasn’t what others thought I was. I felt like I needed to redeem myself, if for no one else, at least for me. While I was dodging the bulls and trying to help those who were tripping and in danger of being gored, I believe God spoke to me.

I came away from the day with two new truths I still rehearse today.

1.   Not one of the people shaming me while sitting in the safety of their seats were out in the streets or down in that arena with the bulls.

a.   It’s fairly easy to judge and criticize the quarterback when you’re sitting at home in your recliner on a Sunday afternoon.

b.   What are you doing besides complaining?

2.   I won the race I was running.

a.   No one else knows the race you are running.

b.   I had no responsibility to run the race they thought I should run. I was running my race, for my reasons … and I won.

Why allow someone else’s stupidity to set the mark of your success?

Don’t let someone else decide who you are.

Hebrews 12 NKJV

1 ¶  Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

2  looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

3  For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.

28  Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.

29  For our God is a consuming fire.

God says:

·        You are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.

·        You have received a kingdom which cannot be shaken.

·        God will have the final say.

·        Run your race with endurance.

·        Be unshakable, immoveable, and full of grace.

How can you be unshakable?

1.   Commit your life to Jesus Christ.

2.   Lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares you.