Paul, as well as the author of Hebrews, use the analogy of a race when talking about the Christian life. It’s not a 50 yard dash, It’s not the 100 meter sprint or any other short term effort. The Christian life is more like a marathon. It takes perseverance and an understanding how to pace ourselves and sometimes even pit stops for water. Along the way there will be hills and valleys and long stretches and sharp turns. But the thing is we’re not running it alone. God sends his sustaining grace to keep us on course and hold us true until the end. Paul told the Philippians (1:6), “God, who began a good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished…” Peter says (1 Peter 5:11), “My purpose in writing is to encourage you and assure you that the grace of God is with you no matter what happens…”

Paul tells us (Romans 8:28) that God is the great choreographer of all life and all our circumstances. He “works all things together for good for those who love Him.” Every valley, mountain, crevice and pasture in our lives are specifically designed by God to bring the best out in us and for us. This is God’s marvelous sustaining grace. John Piper wrote this short poem about sustaining Grace:

Not grace to bar what is not bliss,
Nor flight from all distress, but this:
The grace that orders our trouble and pain,
And then, in the darkness, is there to sustain.

He goes on to explain, “I stress this because to celebrate a grace that bars what is not bliss, and gives flight from all distress and does not order our pain would be biblically false and experientially unrealistic.” Through the long boring stretches of life, God’s there. Through the ups and downs, God’s there. Through the sharp turns and rocky roads, God’s there. Not only is he there, but he has laid out the path, he set the course, he designed the trials, he ordered the events. Piper goes on to say, “Our experience and the Bible teach us that grace does not prevent pain, but orders and arranges and measures out our pain, and then in the darkness is there to sustain.” Piper then illustrates by telling a story of a close friend. “For example, yesterday Bob Ricker, the president of the Baptist General Conference, spoke of precious reminders of God’s sustaining grace. Not quite ten years ago Bob and Dee’s daughter was in a serious automobile accident. She is alive today for one reason. In the car behind her was a doctor who happened to have an air tube in his pocket. By the time he got to her she was already turning blue. He forced the tube into her throat and saved her life. At her wedding a few years later, Bob told her: those facial scars you have to live with—they are memorials of sustaining grace.”