Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Running. I am not sure there is another word in our English language that conjures up the same amount of conflicted feelings for me. I have quite the love/hate relationship with it. Sure, there are physical and psychological benefits, but let’s be real, it is exhausting and painful. And, to be entirely honest, I am a wimp. If I could get the same benefit from laying on my couch, I’d choose that any day of the week over doing a run.
Both Paul in I Corinthians 9:24-27 and the Hebrews writer make inferences comparing our Christian walk to that of a runner. Not a leisurely stroll, not something meant to be relaxing, but a runner.
Having flirted with the label of being a runner, I have done research looking for better training habits, exercises that will increase my level of fitness. Not surprisingly, the path to being better conditioned always requires an increase in workload. Almost all of it involves some form of interval work, alternating a slow recovery jog/walk with a fast run. Some exercises increase the ability to deliver oxygen to the muscles, others increase mental and physical endurance.
I look back over the course of my Christian life and see the intervals. In the midst of those tougher segments, I see how badly I longed to slow the running down to a comfortable walk. I know I prayed for an easier path. I did not want the training intervals. I remember how many times it felt like my prayers fell on deaf ears. I felt abandoned by God, alone and exhausted.
God knew better. He knew what it would take for me to be running the race I am today. I am by no means perfect, but I have a faith that would not have ever formed had I never been through the trials that I so desperately wanted to disappear.
I had to go through moments of sacrificing my wants and desires, learning what it really meant to say “Thy will be done.” If “Thy will be done” meant getting exactly what I wanted, when I wanted it, I would have not learned the lessons. I had to have my faith tested in order for it to increase. I am a stronger Christian for what I have gone through.
I think it is a fairly common human experience to want the easy road. We don’t want the pain, but somehow we want the results. It does not work that way. Paul’s comparison to the strict training that a runner undergoes perfectly describes what we are up against in our work to grow. We have to be deliberate and open to the experience of pain.
Where are you at today? Are you in the midst of a trial or a time of rest? Wherever you are, God knows exactly the training required for the road ahead. Have faith, his hand is guiding your growth into the Christian he needs you to be.
As always if you have questions, ideas or want to study further, I am available at TheRefreshingWell@gmail.com.