Tuesday, January 19, 2016


     I have set two goals for the physical side of my life this year. The first goal is to run my first 5K. I would like to be able to run that 5K in 45 minutes or less, no walking in between, just all running. My second goal is to take my bike on a Century Ride, and ride 100 miles along the beautiful shoreline of North Carolina. I prefer to bike, but during these winter months I have decided to focus on the 5K goal and take advantage of training indoors where its nice and warm. You might not think that running a 5K is a big deal, but for someone who has not been very athletic in the last 25 years or so of her life, the idea of running a 5K can be very daunting!
     This morning I had to push myself to run 2 miles, let alone push onward till I reached 3.5. I wanted to give up. I wanted to just get off my treadmill, go make a cup of coffee and sit on my bottom doing nothing the rest of the day. But I also knew that if I didn't keep pressing onward I would give up and fall into a rut of not running at all. So I pushed and I pressed onward. As I ran I thought about my spiritual life and how, throughout the years, I have wanted to just give up on this whole living a Christian life and go back to doing life the easy way. Let's face it, being a Christian is hard. Living in sin is easy.
     I wanted to give up when my husband didn't want to listen to me talk about Jesus to him, or when he closed himself off because I was too religious for him. I wanted to give up when my mom lost her battle to cancer and went home to be with Jesus. I wanted to give up when someone I respected and admired, and counted as a fellow co-laborer in Christ, hurt me and broke fellowship with me. But I didn't give up. I kept pushing through, and I kept pushing onward. I didn't give up the fight.
"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified."
1 Corinthians 2:24-27 ESV
     So what makes us keep going? What makes us pick up the towel and start fighting again? I believe it is discipline. I believe that you are, in the end, going to get out of this life with Christ what you put into it. Paul teaches us a very valuable lesson about our spiritual lives and how to keep fighting and pressing onward when everything in us wants to just get off the treadmill. He teaches us that we have to run like we mean it.
     Every single person who runs a race knows that only one of them is going to win the prize. Paul encourages us to run so that we can win it. You don't enter a race with the intention of coming in last, you enter a race with the intention of winning. The same principle applies to our relationship with Jesus Christ. Are we running it with the intention of winning or with the intention of losing? What you put into your relationship with Jesus is what you are going to get out of it.
     That is true of anything in our lives; relationships, careers, schooling, every outcome is a result of the effort we put into it. What you put into your marriage is what you are going to get out of it. What you put into your job is what you are going to get out of it. If I enter a race with the intent to lose, then I am going to lose. We have to run like we want to win. You have to put the effort in if you want to see the finish line.
     Secondly, we must learn that without discipline, without proper training we will never be able to finish the race. We will want to give up because we have not applied the basic principles of self-control. Paul reminds us of this truth in verses 25-26 when he mentions the training an athlete goes through to win the crown.
     This morning my legs wanted to give up about a mile into my run. My knees began to scream at me and my feet decided to get a little numb. I hydrated and kept pushing through it. Eventually my legs, knees and my feet got the idea that I was not going to give in, we were going to run whether they liked it or not. I disciplined my body to do what I needed it to do, not what it wanted me to do.
     Discipline in the life of a believer is the willingness to set aside our own selfish desires to do what we know is best for us, and what we know God wants from us. If I am going to run a 5K and ride 100 miles this year then I have to discipline my body to do what I know will be give me the results I am looking for. There is not point in running every morning, or riding 25-30 miles a day if all I am going to do is eat chocolate cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday. To reach these goals that I have set for myself I need to curb my desire for chocolate (which takes the power of the Holy Spirit because I love chocolate!) and choose healthier, higher in protein snacks for myself. I have to train my body to desire wholesome foods, not unwholesome foods.
     The same is true of our spiritual lives. If we say we want a deeper, more intimate relationship with Jesus yet we fill our spirits with junk food from the world we will not reach our ultimate goal. You can't say you want more out of something if you are not willing to put in the effort to get the results. If you want a closer walk with Jesus then you have to discipline your spiritual life to lay down the unwholesome and train yourself to desire the wholesome.
     Your Christian life is not some magical potion that you drink and you just become a better person; a perfect picture of Christ. You have to put forth the effort to obtain the prize, to become that person in Christ whom God has called you to be. One of my all time favorite scriptures is in Philippians 3;13-14, where Paul tells us that he too keeps pressing toward the goal of the high calling of God in his life. Everyday he puts forth the effort through discipline and self-control to run the race God has set before him. We must do the same.

     I don't know where you are today in your spiritual walk with Jesus, but I hope that you can find encouragement in Paul's words today. Don't give up. Even though your legs want to give out and your feet are going numb, keep running. Bring your desires under the control of His Holy Spirit and just keep running. If you are tired spiritually, take a look at what you are eating spiritually. Are you filling yourself with His Word or the World? If you are weary, take a look at what you are drinking in. Are your drinking in His presence or the worlds? Every athlete runs the race to win, and every athlete knows that to win they have to be disciplined. Run today with the intention of winning and your desire to give up will fade and you will find renewed strength and passion to keep fighting the good fight of faith. Amen?