1 Corinthians 9:24-27 – “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”
I try to run. I’m not fast. I haven’t gotten to the point yet where I can go long distances. But I attempt to move myself down the road at a pretty good clip about 2-3 times per week. And I enjoy it. It gives me time to think and pray and listen to my music. I like the way that it makes me feel. I like smelling the flowers and the trees and seeing the beauty of God’s creation when I run.
Yesterday, I tried to push myself a little – start just a little earlier, go just a bit farther before turning around and then stretch out my stopping point by a few feet. No large gains but I thought my body was going to crash before I got to my stopping place. I’m tearing down this trail with the end in sight praying, “Come on God! We gotta do this! I need to do this! Get me there I pray!” And I did. And I felt amazing. And I’m sure Jesus was up in Heaven smiling because He knew that I needed to prove to myself that it can be done.
The whole experience made me think about the life lessons I have learned from “running”.
- Start with an end in sight. I have learned that if I have a destination in mind and I set my mind to that endpoint, I can coach myself to get there, usually. The same is true in life. I need to remember, each and every day, why I am doing what I am doing – I’m doing my part to advance the Kingdom of God so that no one dies and goes to Hell. And some days, I have to coach myself on that endpoint. The Holy Spirit reminds me to keep going for this very cause.
- Know when it’s time to turn around. I need to know when it’s time to go back. Sometimes I get going on things and forget what I’m doing. That’s when I find myself in a big mess. I didn’t turn around in time. Sometimes I will get going on something spiritual and then end up messing the whole attitude of it up because of sin.
- Keep your eyes on the prize. Yesterday when I was running, I knew my endpoint. And I must have looked like a crazy person mouthing to myself, “Come on. You can do it. One more curve and you will be able to see the end. Come on.” That was the longest curve in the history of mankind. But I knew if I could just see that stop sign that life would be so much better. I knew that the stop sign meant more to me than the people that put it there intended. It meant that my run was over. When I am running through life, I have to keep my eyes on the prize – Jesus saying with open arm, “Well done, Melissa! Welcome home!”
When Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians, I dare say that he never dreamed that people would be running just for the exercise benefit. But he knew that exercise is important to the body. He also knew that spiritual exercise was good for the soul. This is the type of exercise that he was encouraging the Corinthians to participate in.
If you want a muscle to get stronger, you have to do exercises that will create tiny tears in the fibers. Those tears are addressed by the body and become stronger because the body builds them up. The muscle fibers come out stronger and ready to take on more.
The same is true in our spiritual life. We have to go through tough times and tear those spiritual fibers just a bit to make them stronger. But just like we can’t make our muscle fibers stronger on our own, we can’t make our spiritual fibers stronger. We have to rely upon God to make both stronger. And in both instances, those fibers can’t be torn too much. It requires just the right amount of stress to create the necessary scenario for growth in strength. And only God knows what that scenario is – He created our spiritual and physical fibers.
Let me encourage you to be aware of growth in your life. Take these little lessons from running and try to apply them to your scenario. But no matter what, make sure that you are allowing God to direct the scene and let Him encourage you to keep on going. He has the prize in His hand.