The Strive Challenge Banner

The release of Tim Hiller’s new book Strive is coming October 1! To get ready for the Strive release, we’re introducing “The Strive Challenge” – 6 weeks with 1 purpose – to help readers pursue what matters most in their lives. Join in at: https://www.timhiller.com/the-strive-challenge/

CLICK HERE to download and complete today’s Strive Challenge Tracker!

If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.

Matthew 5:41

It was the fall of 2012 and I had just entered our football coaches’ office after the end of a long practice. I plopped down in my desk chair and began to wrap up some post-practice work as our players finished putting away their helmets and shoulder pads and began filing out of the locker room.

As I began making changes to the offensive game plan based on my practice notes, I heard the door slam shut. I rose to my feet and turned around just in time for one of our players to crash into me, hurling his arms around my neck, sobbing uncontrollably. I hugged him back, still a bit dazed and confused by the rapid change of events in the last ten seconds. Then the words began spilling out of his mouth uncontrollably, over, and over again.

“My dad’s going to die coach. My dad’s going to die. He’s going to die…”

After minutes that seemed like hours passed, we finally sat down to talk.

The young student-athlete’s father had received a devastating diagnosis. He had a terminal illness and his days of health and life were numbered.

Two and a half years later, just a few weeks ago, I attended the funeral of my player’s father. And in the midst of sorrow, I learned about the life and legacy of a man who lived with radical commitment to the things that matter most in life.

In the eulogy, offered by my player’s uncle, he referred to the father’s disease as “the race he didn’t want to run.” Yet, it was during this painstaking race, when my player’s father was physically at his worst, that God equipped him with the ability to be at his best. In his illness, he went farther than he ever had before.

Despite the debilitating disease, my player’s father continued to go to work until he was physically unable so his kids could see the value of commitment and the strength that God can provide. Despite his voice beginning to fail him, he continued to mentor a young man he’d been meeting with, and led him to the Lord, despite his declining health. Despite his fatigue, he continued to rise early each Sunday morning to serve in various capacities at his church, always seeking to better the lives of those in the congregation.

Moved to tears by this man’s enduring faith and radical commitment, a thought dawned on me:

Perhaps it’s in the race we don’t want to run that we need to find the strength to go farther.

During his famed Sermon on the Mount, Jesus laid out what going farther truly looks like. But without some context, we likely won’t appreciate the level of service and commitment Jesus is asking for:

“If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” (Matthew 5:41)

In Jesus’ day, the Jewish people lived under the authoritative government rule of the Romans. If a Roman soldier was carrying his equipment pack and came in contact with a Jewish man, the military member was permitted to force the man to carry his pack for one mile (1,000 paces in that day). By law the Jewish citizen had to comply—a frustrating practice that further subdued the individual under the Romans’ powerful rule. For a Jew, this was a race no one wanted to run. I’m sure many packs and military goods were immediately dropped by resenting Jews after completing that required 1,000th step.

But it is here, in the midst of the scorn and shame of the race unwanted that Jesus issues what would’ve been an unthinkable challenge to a Jew under Roman rule—go another mile. Go farther.

Another mile? Go two miles? Go farther?

Yet, when we are all faced with life’s races we don’t want to run—dealing with a difficult person, facing the loss of a loved one, overcoming illness or injury, making a difficult decision—it is in this very crucible that Christ asks us to go farther. Though it may seem like an impossible request, consider the positive life ramifications of going farther:

  1. Love over legalism
    The first mile was forced by law, but the second mile was a choice. A choice of love and compassion. When we make the decision to go farther we move from being cordial to the people we are supposed be cordial to, to a place of genuine love and concern for them.
  1. Servant over slave
    The first mile meant the soldier owned the man, but the second mile was an act of service. When we make the decision to go farther we move from doing the things we have to do to doing things we don’t have to do, all in an effort to put others’ needs ahead of our own.
  1. Grace over grudging
    The first mile was a reminder of being under authority, but the second mile was about forgiveness. When we make the decision to go farther we move from resenting people and circumstances to an attitude of mercy and a willingness to forgive.

All of us, in some form, are either finishing a race we didn’t want to run, entering a race we don’t want to run, or are in the midst of a race we didn’t want to run. Such are the seasons of this temporary life. But if we make the daily decision to take on Jesus’ challenge to go farther, we have the ability to love, serve, and extend grace as we live and move in the world.

CLICK HERE to download and complete today’s Strive Challenge Tracker!

Buy STRIVE nowReview STRIVE on GoodreadsFollow Tim on AmazonFollow STRIVE on Facebook
The Strive Challenge™ by Tim Hiller