The Average Joe

Screen-Shot-2014-07-16-at-2.27.07-PM-590x900My family has been following the show American Ninja Warrior. It is a spin-off from a Japanese show where athletic competitors try to make it through different stages of insanely difficult par courses at the fastest time. But the last stage of Mount Midoriyama, the final obstacle course in which they are all trying to make it to, is so difficult that it is not timed. Last night we watched this stage with bated breath. It has been a great season. The first woman ever completed round one, and was followed by one more woman contender. This is so rare because the obstacle course just wasn’t built for women. Height is a definite challenge in some of the courses where a reach of 5 feet or more is required, and many them are very demanding on upper body strength. And yet 5’, 100 lb Kacy Catanzaro also made a historical run completing the second phase of the competition. You can watch her amazing run at the Dallas Finals here (Watch it!). Unfortunately, the Jumping Spider took her out in the third course. Although I certainly do, the course has no favorites. There are no do-overs. If your foot touches the water, or you run out of time, that’s the end of the line for you. People train hard for this competition, many building their own par course in their back yard. There are now par course gyms where contenders train for the competition. Some form training teams to help support one another. A handful of competitors have now made it to Mount Midoriyama several times, and yet we still do not have an American Ninja Warrior. Not one person in the six seasons of the show has completed the final course and won the $500,000. Both white-collar workers and blue-collar workers enjoy this sport. In fact, the only two people who made it to Stage Four of images-3Mount Midoriyama this season were a weather man and a ski lift operator. The course definitely takes a working man’s grit and determination to press on for the prize. As they approach certain obstacles I think there is just no way anyone could complete it. I mean, “The Unstable Bridge” doesn’t sound like anything I would want to attempt. And it’s not too comforting to have turning door knobs as your only grip to reach for when ascending at a height around forty feet. The show also gives plenty of back stories. The final contender of this season was Joe “The Weatherman” Moravsky. He is better known as “Average Joe.” Many of the competitors are martial artists, professional athletes, rock climbers, free runners, and professional gymnasts. But Joe is a weatherman. He is utterly unassuming in his looks: no ripped physique, no bravado, no bells or whistles. He looks completely average. And he made it the furthest this year. Here is a preview of the Average Joe's run. Don’t we all love a story like that! Of course, it would have been even more wonderful if Average Joe completed the whole course and became the first American Ninja Warrior. He will be back next season with many others. But what an illustration of the Christian life. If we were shown the obstacles that we will encounter before hand, many of us would probably just give up. One thing we do know is that we have to train. Disciples require discipline, and Christians need to exercise their faith over and over as we run with endurance the race set before us. And we are not to grow weary. When we are knocked down, we are exhorted to get back up (Heb. 12:12-13). [caption id="attachment_3043" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Just your average super-hero. Just your average super-hero.[/caption] When we think of discipline, it is often in the form of correction for what we have done wrong. But we are to endure discipline like athletes training daily. And we do not lose heart because we do have the most important finisher that went before us in the race. We are to look to Jesus, the founder and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb. 12:2). What a beautiful verse of Scripture that is. What a glorious truth for us to confess. Our prize isn’t half a million dollars. It is eternity with the founder and perfecter of our faith, Jesus Christ. It is holiness and worship on the new heavens and the new earth. It is a kingdom that cannot be shaken. We are disciples of Christ, learners in training. Our Father disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (12:10-11). And we are given a cloud of witnesses who went before us, as well as the church, fellow believers to run the race and rub elbows together. Let’s exhort one another to be finishers for the prize. In our race, many average Joes will persevere to the end, but we will be anything but average on the new heavens and new earth.