Now, I’ve never been a competitive athlete. You could probably tell by just looking at me. But over the past few months, I have been working out a good bit. Each day I can feel that I am stronger, more flexible, and have more endurance. I am still not ready for any type of marathon, but I know that compared to say, six months ago, I would fare a LOT better now than I would have then.
This makes me think about Paul when he speaks about running the race to win it…not aimlessly. To build up it takes daily workouts…stretching (sound familiar), extending you just passed your comfort zone, then flexing (pressure) to elongate and strengthen, weight (more pressure) to help to tear down your muscles…as they heal they grow back stronger and able to withstand more pressure/strain/stress and more.
Maybe this is why James says “Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds because perseverance MUST finish its’ work …so that you gain maturity, not lacking anything.
From what I have learned from runners (these are people that run in marathons and the 5-10K runs)…Training is daily. Each day you stretch yourself more and more. Without stretching, you can easily become seriously injured. Training can start as much as 4-6 months before a race.
During the actual race, (especially a marathon) you start out with your pace that you have developed during your training. (You don’t want to “bonk out” early). And you breathe relax, take the up-hills and down-hills as they come, but most importantly…you breathe and relax…be at peace if, you will. At some point, your body begins to reject the strains of the constant running. This is where you have to just keep pushing. EVERY RUNNER HITS THIS POINT. You have to press on. This is hard to do if you don’t have your goal in sight or at least have your goal in your mind. With that “pushing-through the pain” soon a second wind hits and you are back into your pace and running.
Then the second wind ends…it is just pure drive from that point. If the runner had not set their goal before the race, the chances of them not finishing the race highly increase. Also the chances of injury increase. The runner is no longer running on adrenaline…just pure desire to finish.
The Christian walk doesn’t seem to be much different. There are phases of spiritual exhilaration where we are running on fresh faith whether that is experiencing an encounter with God (i.e. new faith, leading someone to Christ, healing, answer of prayers etc). This can quickly fade. Soon a Christian can find themselves in a dry, desert like phase when it is just the pure drive and commitment to the call. Throughout this, there are “second winds” where God is near and you can even “feel” Him close (By the way, He does promise to never forsake you.) that bolsters the continued “race” in seeking and finding God.
Then there are times when only your faith and commitment can get you through that phase…many times this is when many Christians burn out on their faith. It is easier just to go the way of everyone else or to just give up on their faith.
Like many things in life, in order to gain the ability…you have to practice it.
What to learn to play an instrument – practice
Training for a marathon – practice running
Learn to read faster – practice reading
Deliver a great sermon – practice speaking
Let this be an encouragement for you. There are thousands in the same or similar boat that you are in. God has not forsaken you. You have brothers and sisters in the faith that can help you, encourage you, and sharpen you. Just be willing and ready to be committed and ready to follow through.