Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. Colossians 3:23-24
One of the reasons I decided to train for a sprint triathlon recently was that I felt the need to branch out and add variety to my workouts. Using running as my main source of cardiovascular exercise was placing a little too much stress on my body. Triathlons, which combine swimming, biking, and running, are a great way to add new forms of exercise while continuing to work on increasing cardiovascular endurance. Although I could write a book about all that I learned, not just in training, but in actually completing the race last weekend, I have narrowed it down to a few FAITHful fitness observations.
Running as a metaphor for the Christian journey of faith is something that is not new. There are many verses in the Bible that remind us to “Run the race with perseverance” and that with God we will “run and not grow weary.” But as I trained in the other triathlon sports, I realized that swimming and biking both had their own points to make about how we move through our lives of faith.
First, let’s take swimming. One thing I notice about swimming is that stopping is not really optional. There is no getting complacent in swimming. You either swim or sink. I think this is also an important lesson for our journey through faith and life. We will either keep moving along, forward- learning, growing, striving toward the goal of being more like Christ…or we won’t. If we decide to stop doing this we will be treading water, wearing ourselves out and going nowhere.
What about biking? At first, biking seems a bit easier than swimming in the sense that if you get tired of pedaling, you can always coast. This seems great at first, flying down a hill, going quite fast, and still gaining ground! BUT THEN….you hit a slump, or a hill in this case. You might be able to coast down a hill, but you can’t coast up one! Sometimes our faith journey seems to be going quite smoothly, we feel like things are moving at a good pace, and maybe we don’t need to work so hard, maybe we don’t need our accountability group, that ministry work, that Bible study. BUT THEN…life happens, we come upon an uphill struggle and we haven’t been doing our “legwork”. Yes, we can begin again (yay for grace and mercy!!), but it will be that much harder.
And then we run. Running is a great faith metaphor of faith for many reasons. First, running uses your whole body, is improved by core strength, requires deep breathing, and training regularly improves performance. I think we can see where this is going. Moving forward in our faith requires not only our whole being, but reaching out to the body of believers to assist us. As we continue to grow in our knowledge of Christ, the CORE of our faith, we can ‘run’ more effectively. When we call on the Holy Spirit to strengthen and sustain us, we are more efficient and can cover more ground along our journey. And finally, we must regularly train, persevering through the long runs, the rough weather life brings our way, when we feel like giving up because it not ‘fun’ today. We must press on in order to take hold. We must run the race (and swim, and bike!).
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. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3