Putting on my spiritual sneakers (part 1)!

Posted: 20/06/2011 in God
Tags: , , ,

I used to run short marathons many years back and I’ve recently started running again. It’s got me thinking how this compares to running the “Christian race”. In Hebrews 11 Paul gives us a wonderful summary of great men and woman who served God through faith before the coming of Christ. He shows how despite difficult circumstances and uncertainty about the future they believed the promises of God and walked in obedience with Him. In Hebrews 12:1-3 (MSG) it reads:

“Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls”!

I love how Eugene Peterson’s message bible brings a passage to life. I can almost picture Paul’s enthusiasm as he wrote this. “Don’t you see people, we can do this! Don’t give up, just look to Jesus!” It’s as if all these forerunner’s of our faith are standing in something like the Roman Colosseum, built around the time the letter to the Hebrews was written, clapping and shouting out for us as we head to the finish line they have already crossed. Does that not spur you on?

What do you do when you are about to run a marathon? There are three basic things that I used to do; prepare myself mentally and physically, pace myself so I don’t become exhausted and refresh myself along the way so as not to get dehydrated. If we were to apply this to our spiritual marathon it may look something like this.

Prepare

We are all running the race of life whether we follow Jesus or not, how we run it and our destination is entirely up to us. Once you give your life over to Jesus your journey completely changes! You are no longer on a metaphorical broad road leading through a wide gate but a narrow one leading through small gate (Matt 7:14). A broad road implies an easy walk and in a sense that is true, as those walking on that path live exactly how they want indulging in all the pleasures of the world. This can seemingly give relief or comfort from the trials of life but they are empty and short-lived. I can testify to that myself! And Jesus is clear that the broad road is one that leads to destruction. For those who follow him, there is work involved and it is hard; it is not the easy journey many assume. Jesus himself told us that following him would be difficult, that the cost would be high and that we would face many challenges (Luke 14:25-27, John 16:33). Running on such a path is not easy and preparation is vital! We would consider it ludicrous for someone to enter a marathon without preparation. A runner would put his body through a tough dietary regime, train vigorously and carefully consider the route.  In the same way we should prepare our “spiritual body” (heart, mind, spirit and soul).

Our dietary regime requires the shedding of weight which in the spiritual sense requires us to “… throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” (Heb 12:1) and to put to death our old nature (Col 3:5). In addition we add good food to our diet – food found in scripture and through prayer. Our training is through solid biblical teaching from church leaders and other Christians. Many argue that Christians don’t need to go to Church and while I’m not addressing the theology of this I would argue that it is very hard to learn beyond a certain point on our own. As we listen, discuss, pray with and share with other believers I believe our faith grows and is strengthened; why else would the believers in the early Church “…devote themselves to fellowship…” (Acts 2:42). I am amazed at how much I have learnt in the last 18 months considering I thought I knew a great deal about the Christian faith and walking with Jesus. How wrong I was, and it has only been because I combined fellowship with my own personal study that I have been able to grow! And what about the route? It’s hard to study a route we don’t know but as we fix our eyes on Jesus – our example, we consider the challenges he faced on his path and how he dealt with them. Study the Gospels again and again and again.

Our preparation should begin the moment we put our trust in Jesus and be an ongoing process. It involves discipline, learning and obedience with our eyes fixed on the prize (1 Cor 9:24-26). Jesus is the perfect example of how to run the race and not only that, he left us with the ultimate survival guide in his teaching. In the opening verse Paul tells us to fix our eyes on Jesus “…the author and perfector of our faith…” (Hebrews 12:2). And if we get confused or disoriented in the fog of life we look to his teaching; if we are following it we will know freedom. It’s a promise!       

In my next post I’ll talk about pacing ourselves and allowing for refreshment.

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  1. […] Putting on my spiritual sneakers! (melsmind.wordpress.com) […]

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