Endurance: The Christian Marathon

“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 someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (1 CORINTHIANS 9:24-27)

What are the steps that go into running a race? Let me offer six basic categories:

1. Excite — rewards, or who you become as a result.

      • The Olympic games gave a crown for decades before Paul wrote First Corinthians. The rewards are minor compared to other rewards, such as the mental stamina one is rewarded with by running long races. This transformation offers various results. 

2. Navigate — gear, or what you need to run the race.

      • Running shoes, clothes for different elements, runner’s gels, hydration needs, salt pills, how/what to eat on the run, compression socks, etc. There are so many things one needs to research for running hours on end. 

3. Drive — training, or asking yourself WHY

      • How can you move from 10 miles to 100 miles in a week? Lots of training from sunrise to sunset. But WHY do it? You need a solid answer, and you can’t do it for social appearances. In this sense, run your own race.

4. Uncomfortable — Accepting temporary discomfort

      • You will have sore muscles, aches, pains, and minor injuries. That’s normal. If you feel like quitting, ask yourself if you are physically injured. If you’re not, keep going. 

5. Repeat — Again, or even when…

      • You’re unmotivated because…you’re tired, the weather is terrible, the distractions come from all angles, but you must see the strength in reps. 

6. Envision — Visualize, or see yourself finish the race. 

      • See yourself at the end of the race, remind yourself of your goals.

EXCITE — rewards, or who you become as a result.

“Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.” (James 1:12)

This can sound like hard work, but Jesus is our strength. It is the Lord who endures forever; His name, His seed, His kingdom. It is His Goodness (Psalm 52:1), Truth (Psalm 100:5), Glory (Psalm 104:31), Righteousness (Psalm 111:3), and Righteous judgments (Psalm 119:160).

His “Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13), and this is our maxim if we are whipped, beaten with rods, shipwrecked, stranded at sea, stoned, robbed, starving for days, sleepless for nights, or left cold and naked. “If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity.” (2 Cor. 11)

NAVIGATE — gear, or what you need to run the race.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” (Ephesians 6:10)

Put on the following: the helmet of salvation, breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth, shield of faith, sword of the Spirit, and feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.

The WHOLE armor of God — the greek word “panoply” emphasizes completeness. If you leave one point unguarded by carelessness, then it can prove fatal. Going into battle without “girding your loins” would be like running with jeans. One does not forget their sunglasses on a sunny day or a warm shirt on a cold day.

DRIVE — training, or the hard stuff. 

What do we face? What must we endure?

  • PERSECUTIONS: “So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure” (2 Thessalonians 1:4)
  • AFFLICTIONS: “Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me” (2 Timothy 3:11)
  • WEARY: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)
  • CHOKED: “The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s WORRIES, RICHES, and PLEASURES, and they do not mature.” (Luke 8:14)
  • DEVOURED: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) 
  • FOR OTHERS: “Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:10)

What’s the alternative to God? Nothing. It’s either God or nothing.

UNCOMFORTABLE — Accepting temporary comfort.

Look to the cross of Christ.

Realize that he is our pacer. A pacer pacer runs at a pre-determined speed in a race, typically a long-distance event. Other runners follow or stay with the pacer, to ensure that they’re running at their desired speed. A good pacer must be a steady, consistent runner who is focused on maintaining his speed and helping other runners realize their goals.

REPEAT — Again, or even when… you can’t remember WHY.

“Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering….  So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.” (Hebrews 10:32-35)

  • Remember your testimony, and how God saved a wretch like you.
  • There are other examples of individuals in the bible that we’re called to remember, and return. Return to God’s glory and promise and power.
    • Abraham 25 years before the promise and birth of Issac.
    • Jesus healed the man by the pool of Bethesda after waiting for 38 years.
    • Anna in the temple (widow, 84 years old. She had been prayer/fasting in the temple night and day and spoke to all those looking for Jerusalem’s redemption.
    • The Jews who saw all these miracles, and wanted to go back to Egypt.

ENVISION — Visualize, or see yourself finish the race. 

See the end of your life. See the end of time.

“Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse…. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.  His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Revelation 19:11-16)

The story follows:

  1. There are 450 prophets of Baal, and 400 prophets of Asherah. And then there’s one Elijah.
  2. Each side chooses a bull and lay it on wood, without fire under it.
  3. They called on their false god, Baal, cutting their own flesh to no avail.
  4. Elijah called on the Lord our God and fire consumed everything, including the water that he had poured around the altar–as well as the wood, stones, dust.
  5. Elijah executes the prophets of Baal.
  6. Elijah tells Ahab to look to the sea, and that it will rain. It does this 7 times, and after the 7th time, he sees a tiny cloud the size of a fist.

“Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain started falling and Ahab rode off to Jezreel. The power of the Lord came on Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel.” (1 Kings 18:46)

Elijah outruns Ahab’s chariot to Jezreel. The distance across the plain to Jezreel is about 14 miles. The royal chariot would drive furiously around 30 mph, and supernaturally Elijah keeps ahead of the chariot horses. It is possible that God can do something miraculous through you!

In my experience, oftentimes I hear God telling me, especially when I’m praying to run faster: “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9). God has always provided enough strength for me to do what He wants me to do.

Just as God enables Elijah we not only can endure, but we can be victorious — with his help.