About a week ago, I was reflecting over the amazing opportunities I’ve had over the years, and I realized that everything I’ve done have fallen into one of three categories: activities I continuously pursue, activities I have completed and have not returned to, and activities I never completed.
With the majority of the things I’ve partaken in, I have either continued to pursue them or was involved until their completion. Yet, looking back, I couldn’t help but focus on the activities I stopped pursuing.
For some, I left for health reasons (illness or injuries), others were for the busyness of my schedule. But there have been a few instances where I didn’t see the activity through to the end because I simply didn’t want to. Interestingly, I’ve found this to be true with my writing.
I’ve written stories my whole life. When I was in fourth and fifth grade, I wrote my first books (averaging about fifteen lined-paper pages each). Following those books, I began the crafting of at least a dozen other stories leading up to my senior year in high school. I found myself abandoning ship with all of these stories, never seeing them through to the end.
That senior year of high school, I decided to change this. I researched topics for my genre (I exclusively write historical fiction stories), read how to improve my fiction writing abilities, and laid out plans for my book. This time, I was determined to complete it.
But then I faced roadblocks. I found plot holes. The motives of my protagonists didn’t make sense or seem realistic. The research of the era in which I was writing became a daunting task that I dreaded. As you can guess, I abandoned this book as well.
Recently I’ve revisited the concept of the book, reinvented my characters and plot, and researched more thoroughly the era in which the story takes place. It’s been a challenging process staying committed to this book, as I plan for it to be the length of a novel (opposed to the 15-page stories I’ve written previously). But I’ve always desired to achieve this goal of completing a book, and no matter how long it takes me to complete it, I will stay committed until the last sentence of the book is typed.
Some of you are probably thinking, that’s great, Marissa. I’m, um, glad to hear about all this… kinda. But, why am I reading this? Can we skip to the part where we start talking about how this applies to faith?
To which I say:
If you’re familiar with the New Testament, then you’re no stranger to Paul (What an incredible story of transformation and grace!). You’re also most-likely familiar with Paul’s topics of endurance and perseverance. Often, he used analogies regarding runners in a race to help readers relate to his message.
But there’s a different path I want to take with this concept. Instead of focusing on the race, I want to focus on the training.
Although running has been one of the activities I’ve personally been unable to complete due to health issues and injuries, I’ve still had the opportunity to experience training for 5k’s and for other runs I’ve completed in the past.
Almost anyone can tell you this: you can’t wake up on the day of a half marathon and expect to run the full distance if you’ve never trained to run. It’s a recipe for disaster.
Rather, you have to train yourself physically to prevent injuries and to breathe properly. Not just physically, but also mentally: half of the battle is pushing through the doubt in your mind, the voice telling you to quit.
If we’re running this spiritual race for the rest of our lives, that’s going to take a lot of endurance and perseverance. And the only way you can receive that is through training and strengthening those “spiritual muscles.”
When we encounter the bumps in the road such as persecution, doubt, laziness, or life circumstances, we’ll be equipped to handle them. Our knowledge of God’s Word, having it hidden within our hearts, will help us overcome those “mental blocks” we receive while running. Not only this, but the more we exercise those spiritual muscles and principles while training, the more prepared we’ll be when we encounter larger ones during the race.
So what does the application look like for us as Christians as we embark on this life-long race?
- Find a coach to train you – The guidance and mentorship of a fellow Christian who is further along in life provides wonderful insight into the challenges you will face. They will push you to grow when it hurts. They will correct you when you don’t want it. They will teach you as long as you’re willing to submit yourself to their wisdom.
- Train consistently – As I mentioned previously, you’re not going to perform like The Flash on race day if you’ve never trained a day in your life. To build up that strength, memorize Scripture. Not only that, but meditate on it throughout your day. Apply it to your life. When you allow God to work in your life and let His Word into your heart, you will see how much you grow, and how that growth affects your actions.
- Find your cheerleaders for the race – I’m not talking about Christians who are going to say “great job, buddy!” no matter what. You want cheerleaders, but not the ones that will cheer you off the edge of a cliff that you’re running towards, not wanting to say “look out!” Find the cheerleaders that will encourage you to grow in your faith and support you in times of challenge, but aren’t afraid to speak truth into your life.
When we begin to strengthen our spiritual muscles and train for the long-run, we’ll be surprised at the results we’re able to achieve through God’s help. Ultimately, the prize that we seek will be more rewarding than anything we can receive on this earth. All it takes is perseverance and endurance.