Run for the Bling

I get a charge out of running half marathons. 13.1 miles of physical and mental torture. I, like many others, run for “the bling.” It’s all about the medal. Typically, the harder and longer the race, the bigger the medal. And to me, our spiritual life is like running a race. We run with our eyes focused on “the bling” -­‐ seeing our Lord and Savior at the finish line, ready to win a reward in Christ’s Kingdom. But how do we run the spiritual race? What does it take to be victorious?

Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 9:2427

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.

Before I get into the actual race plan I want to address something that is critical to training for the race of a Christian life ‐ surround yourself with people who will lift you up and improve your performance.

My two mentors in running and in spiritual training are:

Meb Keflezighi is an icon in the running world. He is a four-time US Olympian. He won the NYC Marathon in 2009. He won the Boston Marathon in 2014. I got to finally meet him a few weeks ago after I finished The Gasparilla in Tampa, Florida. He finished second in the marathon. He is 41 years old and still continues to be a force in the running world.

Pastor Daniel‐ well, he’s Pastor Daniel!! We all look up to him for spiritual guidance. Plus he loves to run too!

 

Here are 4 keys to being victorious:

 

1.  STRETCH

You can’t just lace up your running shoes and go. You need to stretch your muscles first. Our faith, our spiritual muscles, are like our body’s muscles. The more you stretch the faster you can run and be capable of running longer without tearing. Stretching requires us to push beyond our normal level of comfort. And just like physical stretching, spiritual stretching is not easy.

Hebrews 11:6

And without faith, it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

1 Timothy 4:7‐10

Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

Taking time to stretch before a race is like being stretched on each mission trip in order to prepare me to become the Ghana coordinator. I couldn’t go from my first mission trip ever to Guatemala to being the Ghana coordinator. It’s just like you can’t run a marathon without running a 5k first.

 

2.  HYDRATE

Nearly 2/3 of your body is water. Water is essential in every function of the body. It is extremely important that you drink enough water before, during, and after each race. If you don’t you will become dehydrated. You’ll get dizzy, lethargic, you’ll get headaches and muscle cramps. But a well-­‐hydrated runner feels stronger and can run longer.

The same goes for us spiritually too. As our bodies thirst so do our souls. Living water is essential for a fulfilling and blessed life. The living Word, Jesus Christ, and the written word, the Bible, can satisfy our thirsty souls as we thirst after God.

John 4:13‐14

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

When you run a race there are volunteers lined up every 1 to 1 ½ miles, depending on the distance, that reach out and hand every runner a cup of water to stay hydrated. Christ invites everyone to drink of the water of life. He reaches out, he gives freely. No one is excluded.

Revelation 22:17

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.

 

3.  FOCUS

Obviously, the goal is to run straight to the finish line. You don’t look behind you. You look forward, placing one foot in front of the other. Focusing your energy towards crossing the finish line is the same as in running the Christian life race. Don’t take your eyes off the goal – knowing Christ. Don’t dwell on the past. Don’t look behind you. Let go of past guilt and what you are ashamed of. Realize you are forgiven and look forward to what God will help you become.

Philippians 3:13‐14

Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Once when I was running with my dog Munson, I wasn’t looking ahead. As I was looking side to side, he ran in front of me and I tripped over him. I was bloody, scratched, and bruised. You have to look straight ahead and focus. If not, you will wind up bloodied, scratched, and bruised when you least expect it.

4.  REST

Times of physical rest are essential to allowing your body repair and strengthen itself. You need time for your sore and aching muscles to recuperate.

When God completed His work of creation -­ His marathon ­‐ He rested.

Genesis 2: 2‐3

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day, he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

Exodus 20:8

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.

If God rested then we should, too. By keeping the Sabbath, we can refresh our spirits and have time to relax our minds from all the stress and strain. God commanded spiritual rest because He knew we needed time in worship and rest. Our goal as believers is to train ourselves to run the race of life. It takes hard work, dedication, and energy. It requires 1) stretching 2) hydration 3) focus 4) rest. We must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and always keep Him in sight.

Hebrews 12:1‐2

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

If we stay true to God and run the good race, He promises the finish line and “the bling.”