A couple weekends ago I committed to run a half marathon (13.1 miles) which marks the farthest run I have ever completed by a long stretch. It was a strangely telling experience of much of my personality and the process of completing the race taught me a lesson or two along the way.
The telling part of my personality is that I do much better when I am in community with people than when I am by myself. In this case, I would not have finished the race in nearly the time I did (1:56:06) had I not been running with Brian who was coaching me the whole way and cheering me along with his presence. I think anyone who runs (or doesn't run) will gladly admit to you that running in community is much more enjoyable than running by yourself. I will testify to that.
There were several times I wanted to stop. Specifically at mile 8 and 10, I could feel my legs really starting to weary themselves with the monotony of the repetitious movement of the run. As my legs told my brain that they were tired, my brain would have to answer back and tell them to keep running for 5 more miles, then 3, then 10 more minutes, until I finally reached the home stretch.
There are times that we all want to stop--be it for comfort or boredom or selfishness or what have you--we don't like to put ourselves in an uncomfortable position and so we avoid those times when possible. (Romans 7). But if you cave into those desires and start "walking" or worse yet, stop altogether, you will notice a HUGE difference in your finish time. If anything, if we want to see better results, we should push forward and pick up our pace a little. The more momentum we gain, hopefully the harder it is to stop. (I trust that the parallels between actually running and spirituality remain relatively obvious).
One last comparison that became immediately applicable, was with my thesis. I am constantly fighting this thing (or more accurately, putting it off). I keep telling myself that the next day I have nothing scheduled, I will dedicate the whole day to taking a big chunk out of it.
Except that's not how you make progress on a big project.
You don't save for retirement by putting away $50,000 every couple years. You put a little in regularly and frequently, so that it just becomes part of your routine, and the money amasses itself over time.
You don't lose weight all in one training session, but it is a faithful commitment to dieting and workout over time that yields results.
You don't write a thesis over a weekend, but read a little here, write a little there, and gradually complete each chapter.
You don't finish a marathon in 13 minutes, or even an hour. You keep going, step by step, until you see the finish line roll into view. Then you can pick up your pace a little.
And you don't train for a marathon all in the week leading up to it. You train little by little everyday until you build up the miles to do longer runs and then finally compete in the race.
And you don't develop a relationship with God through a week of camp, CIY, or other mountaintop experience. You dig into the word everyday. You worship Him at every opportunity. and you pray to Him without ceasing.
It's the little day to day disciplines that pay off with the greatest dividends.