A couple weeks ago I did something I didn’t think I would ever do. I ran (and completed) a half-marathon. My wife had been encouraging me to do something like this for a few years and in November, for some perplexing reason, I made the decision to do this with her. At the time, I thought I was in decent physical condition. And then I went out for my first run. Let’s just say that it was more challenging than I expected. Six months of training and a few minor injuries later, I successfully completed the event. And I learned a few things along the way.
One – the importance of discipline. There were plenty of days I didn’t feel like training. If I skipped a run, I felt good for a day and then I paid the price on the next run. How true is that in other areas of life? Integrity, character, relationships – if we drop our standards for even a day, there may be harsh consequences. It takes longer to recover and we open ourselves to injury when the next test comes along.
Two – watch who you listen to. I noticed a stark difference in feedback when I would tell friends what I was preparing for (and it continues after the event too). The comments were either, “Wow! That sounds so difficult! I could never do that!” Or, “Wow! That’s fantastic! You can do it!” The first comment came from those who had never tried a running event. The second comment came from those who had been there before. If I listened to the first comment, I ended up discouraged (“yep, I can’t do it either”) or arrogant (“I’m doing something better than you”). If I listened to the second comment, I was encouraged in the best way. I would remember that others had gone before me, that this was doable, and that I was created to run.
On race day, I was (mostly) ready. I didn’t set any records. I didn’t win any trophies. I finished in the middle of the pack. But I finished the race. All the miles of training allowed me to finish strong. The hours of preparation took me from not running at all to the finish line.
I hope I can say the same when the bigger race is done. The time in prayer, the hours studying Scripture, the play dates with my kids, the coffee with friends, the discipline with work, the friendship with my wife – it has value and significance. I hope to live in such a way that my life makes a difference on the world around me, and not for my namesake but for the glory of Christ.
The Apostle Paul reminded Timothy of this concept in 1 Timothy 4:8. “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” Paul went on to explain this in verse 10. “This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers.
Work hard, struggle even, for a goal that has meaning and value. Our hope is not in what we can achieve. After all, what’s a few miles? Instead, our hope is in Christ and his unequalled achievements.
“Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians 3:13b-14 NLT
This writing appeared in the Pastor’s Corner section of The Sheridan Press on June 17, 2017.