For my entire life I’ve been a runner. As a kid I’d make my parents watch me run laps around the house. ‘Round and ’round and ’round I’d go until my little legs couldn’t run anymore. In high school I was a sprinter; wide-eyed, determined and filled with lofty goals of breaking the school record for the 100 meter. But it wasn’t until my 20’s that I discovered what I was really made for. Endurance. I thought I’d take my shot at a half marathon. That went well. So I took a chance on a full marathon. That also went well. And, because God created me as an extremist, I thought it might be fun to try ultra marathons. Turns out, my heart, mind and body were simply created for endurance.
Most of what I know about the spiritual life has been deliberated along the running trails. The many lessons required to succeed in a race are the same lessons required to succeed in the life of faith.
First things first: Set Your Mind. Your mind must be set on the end goal because the path to get there is hard as hell and you’re going to want to quit. You know the saying – mind over matter. It’s for real. Colossians tells us, “Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Don’t underestimate the power of your mind. The right thoughts will get you where you want to go. Every race I did I had visions of finishing. We must set our mind.
Second – the element of training that most people abhor; Discipline. This is the dirty task required if I wanted to do the thing my mind was set to do. Ugh…. discipline. Nobody likes discipline. We interpret it as such a kill joy. I cannot begin to count the number of days when vegging out in front of the tube was exponentially more appealing than lacing up for an afternoon of hill repeats. But vegging out wasn’t going to get me where I wanted to go. Lace up and do it, whether you feel like it or not. You’ll be surprised to find that discipline is one sexy package.
Third and finally , Perseverance. Your legs are going to want to quit. Your lungs will feel like they’re on fire. And your mind will tease you with visions of greasy burgers and a massage. But you’ve trained like a beast and your mind is set. Perseverance will carry you through. Of this I am certain.
In the walk of faith we’re going to have days; sometimes even months at a time, when we want to quit. There are many Christians who are content with admiring Jesus from afar. Admiring gets you all the good feels without the transformation. But I have to admit, I don’t want to admire Jesus. Admiration won’t change your life. No, I want to follow Jesus. (Most days anyway).
Following is a narrow road and it’s terribly costly. It’s a journey of dying to self and it can be brutal at times. It’s a road that demands a set mind, discipline and perseverance. It’s wrought with sacrifice, temptation, warfare and trickery. You’re going to wonder if it’s worth it. You’ll question the purpose of it all. Your heart will want to give out, your mind will turn to mush, and visions of admiring from afar will allure you. But hold fast. Set your mind. Discipline your spirit. Persevere your way forward. Get over your hill and see what you find there.
You will find this road, this is the one that satisfies your deepest longings. This road is where you discover who you were created to be. This road is where you’ll find the juiciest of fruit – Love and Joy and Peace and Liberation. This road will take you places you never thought possible. It’s so very worth it.
Endure on, my friend. You’re a boss and you’ve got a strength within you you’re not even aware of yet.