I suppose I am competitive by nature. Part of the allure of the sport of running is that you can easily gauge your success, tweak your training to meet performance goals, and be acountable to no one but your self. The reality is physical ability rarely hinders runners from their desired success– it’s mental will that is typically the culprit.
When I toe up at the start line for a race one of the first things I do is evaluate my competition. I look for runners of a similar age group and can decipher much from the apparel they are wearing, the tone of their legs and of course the style of their running shoes. The intensity on the face of elite runners is another obvious giveaway. While I’m casually chatting with the running community of like minded folks around me or idly fooling with my ipod— the elite runners are staring ahead, preparing mentally for the challenge of the milage and speed they plan to unleash. It is very difficult to distract an elite runner when they are in the zone.
As I waited several minutes before a race a few weeks ago I couldn’t take my eyes off of this gal about my age about five feet in front of me. She was an intensly focused fine tuned running machine! As I surveyed her physical attributes I became keenly aware that without knowing anything about her– she was going to totally leave me eating her dust! It was quite obvious that she had come prepared to race.
This got me thinking about the concept of what makes up an elite runner? What made her that much faster then me? Was it natural ability, her physical height/weight, or– did she simply train harder? I’d like to suggest that the only difference between this woman and me, or for that fact any race “winner” and me is the mentality they approach running with on a daily basis.
Elite runners enter races never having a goal to merely finish. Elite runners equip themselves with every training run by making conscious efforts to push themselves out of their comfort zones. Elite runners beam with confidence because before they start the race they know they have put in the necessary time and preparation to succeed.
Most Christians (myself included) long to be successful in the great marathon that Christianity can be correctly described as. We wish to “run well” for Jesus! Make a difference in the world. Avoid sin and live righteously. Control our flesh and increasingly grow in the fruits of the spirit.
The problem is– the mentality that most Christians approach our faith with on a daily basis is anything but that of a champion. Our attitude towards Jesus often reflects that we are satisified with a “get out of hell free card”– instead of a genuine growing and changing relationship. We are comfortable living with our routines and detest the idea of being stretched.. We fight vehemntinally against any uncertainity. We lack confidence in our ability to live out our faith because we don’t spend the necessary time in the word of God and prayer preparing for this intense race.
It’s like— we expect it to just happen. If you had a friend who showed up at the start line on race day who never attempted a practice run before and they told you, “I’m going to win today!” You’d laugh, possibly roll your eyes and shake your head. As a runner, you know that it’ll never happen like that. You can’t just get off the couch and become a running machine overnight!
Is this how we as Christians approach our walk? We don’t practice or make conscious efforts to grow in our faith yet we expect to win the battle against our flesh. Perhaps we think we can will our way into sinning less and loving more. It doesn’t work! We get frustrated. We complain that this race is no fun. We whine that our muscles are sore.
We contend that the course is too difficult or perhaps even impossible. We wonder how God could be so foolish in designing such an unattainable finish line.
Take a look at 1 Coritnhains 9:24-27
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
This verse instructs us to run in such a way to get the prize! Paul approached every relationship (race) to win for Christ. He did what it took to run that terrain, whether that meant be a Jew, Greek, slave, free, weak or strong. He did it all for the sake of the Gospel. We are running this race for Jesus to get a crown that will last forever. We shouldn’t run like someone running aimlessly… run with purpose! Think about that.
You’re not running to merely finish, you are running for a prize! God wants Christians to train to be elite runners in this race of faith!
Put in the training efforts. Discipline yourself. Talk to Jesus daily. Pick up the bible and read it, study it, look for the many applicable tools given to help you succeed as you run!
Train for the bigger race… reaching and teaching others about the joy of running for Christ. Fellowship with believers who want to finish strong! Surround yourself with cheerleaders whose goal is to see you do more then finish– but to clap and shout “wahoo” for you as you get closer to attaining the prize.
Successfully running the Christian race doesn’t “just happen” any more then couch potatoes “just happen” to become elite runners. Next time you have a hard day or are stretched out of your comfort zone remember you are learning to run an effective race and building spiritual muscles. You ares showing others the power of finishing and teaching them how to finish, or better yet how to train and run. And what could be better then that?