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Running the Race: Healthy Christianity

I don't particularly care for the discipline of running. In fact, I care to avoid running when I can help it. It makes me breathless, windless, sweaty (sometimes) and tired. The one and only reason I run on a weekly is because I have signed up to run the Flying Pig Marathon this spring, and as we all know, it isn't worth signing up to run a marathon unless you actually run it! And running takes training which takes more running which takes more training so that you can run. Great.

Which rather reminds me of Christianity....

The Apostle Paul likens life as a Christian to being a runner (1 Cor. 9:24), and not just someone who signs up to be in a marathon but someone who is signed up to win the marathon! "Run in such a way as to win the race," Paul says. So what does it look like to be a Christian who runs in such a way as to win the race?

A runner runs everyday. Brian Nash is a runner. He averages about 2000 miles a year and runs every day of the week, rain or shine, for at least 3 miles. He completes 4 marathons or so a year plus other endurance events and he does so in excellent finishing times. Brian is a runner.

I run, but am not a runner. I run 2-4 times a week, which is just enough for my body to remember how to run, but not often enough to really tap into the feel-good endorphins everyone promises. While I am better off running 2 times a week than not at all, that still doesn't constitute me being a good runner. I will even post good times for the times that I do run, but that doesn't make me a runner.

I don't read my Bible everyday of the week. I don't have extended prayer times every morning, nor do I have a daily worship singing time. I don't practice fasting more than once a year and I don't regularly practice solitude with God. I go through spurts of being a good Christian, but I am not regularly plugged into Jesus' will and way for my life. I am a Christian but not a Christian who is ready to win the prize.

Because I am not a runner, I follow a training schedule; it tells me to run 3 miles every Monday, 5 on Wednesday, 3 on Thursday, and an extended run over the weekend. Without the accountability of that schedule I would probably run every weekend and no more. I would put in my time once a week and call it enough, but I wouldn't have the determination to run the other days. After all according to my flesh, running isn't fun.

According to my flesh, being a disciple of Christ isn't fun. Isn't it ironic that disciple and discipline are such similar words? A disciple is disciplined in the ways of his/her master. Discipline isn't fun. It isn't meant to be fun. It's meant to show you results--to get you closer to the athlete/musician/Christian you want to be.

And here's a fun little saying that we toss around in church world: "just a closer walk with thee." Have you ever considered that Jesus might not be all about walking the race but instead running it? Have you ever run alongside a faster person than you and tried desperately to keep up? Have you ever realized that your pace doesn't match someone else's and watched as they disappeared around the next corner? When we ask to be walking with Jesus, what we are asking for is for Jesus to be the pace-setter for our marathon run. We are asking Jesus to come alongside us and get us to finish the marathon at a 6:00 min/mile pace. Sound impossible? The good news is that Jesus is always open to help you train. He meets you at your pace and runs with you every time you strap on your running shoes. Maybe it starts out at a walking speed, but he is ever encouraging us to pick up our pace. He matches our pace and pushes us onward and upward to a more heavenly gait.

As I said, I wouldn't run weekly if I didn't have something to prepare for, something I have signed up to compete in. So here's the motivation for your Christian walk: we all have a deadline. The race day comes for each of us at some point or another. The challenge is not whether you will compete or not, it's if you will be ready to compete.

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