The analogy the New Testament uses comparing running to the Christian walk has become more poignant to me recently as I have reignited my love for running in the last year or so. As I wrote about in my most recent post, I am all fired up about running these days.
By the grace of God alone, I am also all fired up about using all I have for His glory. Thus, the fondness for the analogies. First, let’s look at a few of them.
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” – Hebrews 12:1
“Do you know know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win … Therefore, I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”
– 1 Corinthians 9:24,26
Considering the comparisons drawn, here are a few takeaways.
Both take discipline
When starting out running, or living the Christian life as a new convert to Christ, it can seem overwhelming. How do I become a proficient runner? How do I grow in my relationship with God through Christ?
The answer boils largely down to discipline. Someone who is serious about either pursuit will get after it with regularity, perhaps even every day. Just as the runner pounds the pavement each day, the Christian prays and pours over the Scriptures daily to get to know the God of the Bible, who has revealed Himself to us in its pages. What seems as a great gap in physical ability or knowledge is slowly, systematically chiseled away by persistence and discipline.
Endurance is built over time
Just as the new runner will probably not be able to run a 10k race the first week, the new Christian will by no means immediately have the answers to all their questions, or have a solid grasp of the coherent story of human redemption woven throughout the pages of the Bible. These things take time. An inordinate amount of time. A lifetime, in fact.
There is always another fitness goal to reach. There is always another question to answer, another passage to scour, another sin to forsake.
As the runner and the Christian continue to plod away toward their respective missions, things begin to change for the better. What once was maybe only two minutes of running before stopping to walk becomes three, then five, then 10, then 45. What once was a mystery about the ways of God becomes a fascination, then a foundation of knowledge as truth after truth is revealed in Scripture and through prayer and fellowship with other Christians. The progress each one makes with consistency is truly remarkable. Which brings me to my next point. 🙂
Progress is established with endurance
In the trenches, sometimes progress goes unnoticed. We want to give up because we don’t see the results of our faithful plodding. Then, miraculously, one day we find that we’ve reached our first fitness goal or that we are getting awfully close, and we think about how far we’ve come.
One day, we may be having a conversation with a friend and a passage of Scripture pops into mind with which we can encourage our friend. Or we find ourselves reacting to a frustrating situation in a way that is far different than how we used to; in a way that shows God’s handiwork in our life.
It is those situations that show us that we do not labor in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58). Our discipline creates endurance, our endurance produces progress.
Conclusion & Encouragement
If you find yourself in either or both of these challenges, be encouraged. You’re getting better all the time, whether or not you realize it.
To the runner, I recommend you keep a log of all your workouts: distance, time, how you felt, etc. Seeing your stats over time gives a realistic and encouraging look at how far you’ve come, especially on those days when you are questioning your progress.
To the Christian, similar advice applies. Keep a journal of your spiritual progress. When you learn something new in your time with God, write it down. When you’re struggling with a certain sin, write it down. (Also, confess it to God and ask for His help in overcoming it, of course.) When a truth from God hits you in a fresh way, write it down. This journal, just like the runner’s log, will provide immense encouragement as you look back on all the ways God has been working in your life.
Don’t give up. Keep running the race. Keep plodding along. With an eye on the great things already accomplished, know that it just keeps getting better.
“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
– Philippians 3:14