How’s your summer going? Mine has been busy. Good, but busy.
For the past few years I’ve done a lot of speaking at youth conferences during the summer, so I am on the road–actually, on a plane–about once a week during the summer. This year we went to the NACC, too, and a week of vacation, so it feels like we have been running all summer long.
Running is good for our physical heath, but can be bad for our spiritual health if we are not careful.
The Christian life is often compared to running. About 2000 years ago the Apostle Paul wrote this to a group of people who were in a race similar to ours: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (I Corinthians 9:24-27).
In this passage, Paul encourages us to run to win. That’s what Tom Johnson did.
I don’t know Tom Johnson, but I like Tom Johnson.
In February 2002, Tom Johnson, a long distance runner from the United States, raced one of the world’s leading endurance race horses. The 50 mile (80 km) race across the desert in the United Arab Emirates was a photo finish. Tom Johnson beat the horse by just 10 seconds in a race that took five hours and 45 minutes to complete. Tom did have one big advantage in that he was able to eat and drink while he ran. The horse had to stop for 60 minutes during the race to eat, drink and have a short rest.
This morning, I was reflecting on I Corinthians 9:24-27–and Tom Johnson–and I had a couple of thoughts:
I like Tom Johnson not just because out ran a horse, but because he believed he could outrun a horse! That’s unbelievable . . . . to us . . ., but obviously not to Tom. It was his idea. He woke up one morning and said, “I think I’d like to race a horse across the desert.” Good idea. He trained hard, prepared himself, went to the desert, lined up next to the world’s leading endurance race horses, ran the race, and won.
We all run against competitors which are much tougher than a horse. We run against heartbreak, fear, discouragement, illness, pain, sin and death. And, even though–in light of your current situation–winning may seem unbelievable, you must believe that you can win and that–through Christ–we all will win.
2. Running to Win requires that we find nourishment while we run.
Tom beat the horse because he ate and drank while he ran. He kept himself nourished, while he also kept himself moving.
We must find ways to keep ourselves spiritually nourished while we run, which means we must make time to read the Bible, pray, go to church, and build up our relationship with the Lord. If not, we risk losing a guaranteed victory.
But, we must also find ways to keep moving, avoiding the temptation to gather at the “watering hole,” which can be easier said than done. Watering holes are great places to find nourishment in the desert, because there is both water and the potential for growing, or trapping, food, so they are great places to stop and live.
We are in a race, so we must fight the temptation to use our need for spiritual nourishment as an excuse to stop running. It seems to me that too many of our churches are like over-developed watering holes along a desert path at which we’ve gathered for nourishment convincing ourselves that one day we’ll start running again once we’ve had enough spiritual food and living water to make it to the finish line, when in reality we’ve chosen nourishment–and comfort–over obedience.
Running this spiritual race is not optional. If we are Christian, then we are runners in a spiritual race and we aren’t permitted the luxury of lingering at the watering hole, standing in the shade, sipping water, singing songs about running, talking about running, reading stories about great runners who finished the race years ago, purchasing running equipment, while all the while refusing to actually get in the race and run.
We must find nourishment, but we must also run. If we want to run to win, we must do both.
Running without nourishment is death.
Nourishment without running is disobedience.