Posts Tagged ‘training’

Marathon Runners

February 22nd, 2012

“Let us run . . the race God has set before us.” Hebrews 12:1 NLT

“The life of faith demands the effort and endurance of a marathon, not the enthusiasm of a sprint.”

My thoughts and comments today are about “marathon runners.”

Amy, our daughter-in-law, mother of four and avid runner the last several years, decided she wanted to run a marathon. She has now successfully concluded two marathons in San Antonio and Houston in recent months; that’s 26.2 miles of sheer determination, endurance, and mind-numbing physical and emotional anguish. I cannot imagine the regimen of training, mental strength, and physical stamina that requires. It is safe to say that not just anyone is able to accomplish such a physical achievement.

Like other serious runners, she must have grown weary with the discipline of training. She experienced soreness, strains, and exhaustion during relentless hours of training. She sacrificed precious hours she could have used in a busy family, and expenses for proper clothing and equipment. There were some things she gave up in order to achieve a greater goal.

Along the 26.2 miles every runner stares down the possibility of failure, times of struggling with their own limits as faster runners pass with more strength and experience, moments when others quit along the way raising doubts of their own ability to finish, and a weariness to the core of one’s being – until seeing the finish line requiring just a few more steps and last ounces of strength. A runner’s success does not come easily nor without sacrifice; real success in any demanding effort never does! Your best effort must endure until you cross the finish line.

Finishing the race requires stringent training, settled determination, physical stamina, mental toughness, demanding perseverance, and a superseding goal that inspires and empowers your best effort. I am reminded of the Apostle Paul’s words, “I consider that what we suffer at this present time cannot be compared at all with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18 TEV.

I would suggest that every follower of Jesus is in a marathon of even greater importance, one of eternal consequence. The life of faith demands the effort and endurance of a marathon, not the brief enthusiasm of a sprint. Dare we expect minimal demands or marginal sacrifices to be sufficient? There are mile markers along the way, but the journey is measured in days, months, and years rather than miles. Anything short of the finish line is too soon.

Following the most amazing histories of faith and perseverance (Hebrews 11), the writer speaks to us, “Therefore, since (you) are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, strip off every weight that slows (you) down, especially the sin that so easily hinders(your) progress. And run with endurance the race that God has set before (you) . . do this by keeping (Your) eyes on Jesus, on Whom (your) faith depends from start to finish . . so that you don’t become weary and give up.” Hebrews 12:1-4 NLT.

My helpful reminder is this: “Remember in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize. You also must run in such a way that you will win . . They do it to win a prize that will fade away; we do it for an eternal prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NLT. See Acts 14:22 NKJV. Run to win; the finish line is in sight. May you be as confident as Paul as he faced his impending death, “I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me – the crown of righteousness.” Read 2 Timothy 4:6-8 NLT.

My prayer for you today is that you never lose heart or hope short of hearing God say, “Well done!”

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February 4th, 2011

“Train yourself to be Godly . . Godliness has value.” 1 Timothy 4:7 NIV

“Godliness that is born of faith produces a lifestyle that honors God in ordinary ways.”

My thoughts today are about “Godliness.”

How would you describe Godliness? Many descriptions often are somewhat negative, such as: other-worldly, heavenly-minded, impractical, prudish, joyless and boring, disapproving, judgmental, and other similar but inaccurate notions about Godliness. Or people assign idealistic expectations like perfection or never failing, traits that are unreachable for most and far from realistic for any.  Usually such negative ideas come from observing the less than flattering characteristics of a few who profess themselves to be Godly, but really are just religious.

Not surprisingly, the Bible offers a vastly different view. Paul affirmed, Godliness with contentment is great gain.” 1 Tim. 6:6. Peter urged, “Make every effort to add to your . . perseverance, Godliness, and to Godliness brotherly kindness.” 2 Peter 1:5-6 NIV. Such a positive view is normally held by those who have personally known someone whose spiritual life reflected an admirable measure of humility, devotion, integrity, kindness, care for others, and love for God . . not perfect people at all, just redeemed. Redeemed; that’s what distinguishes a Godly person from merely a good person. Godliness that is born of faith produces a lifestyle that honors God in ordinary ways.

Clearly, God values this quality more than man seems to understand it. Who comes to your mind when you think of a Godly person? What about them makes you think of Godliness? Such a quality of spiritual life does not just happen; The Apostle Paul wrote to young Timothy, “Train yourself to be Godly . . Godliness has value for all things, holding promise of the present life and the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:7 NIV. Training to become Godly – living in Truth, following the Lord, and listening to the Spirit – is nothing like trying to seem Godly by being religious.

Training seriously is not easy, requiring dedication, determination, and discipline. The Bible says, “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening; it is painful! But afterward there will be a quiet harvest of right living for those who are trained in that way.” Hebrews 12:11 NLT. You do not try to seem Godly in order to be accepted by God; you train to become Godly exactly because you are accepted by God! Godliness is a right response to grace, in which you have been “accepted in the Beloved,” and therefore live in a Godly manner. Read Ephesians 1:3-8 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that you will not struggle to be good, but strive to be Godly.

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Your Personal Trainer

September 16th, 2009

“Train up a child in the way that he should go.” Proverbs 22:6

“You have the privilege of a personal trainer to get you fit and keep you in shape”

My thoughts today are about “your personal trainer.”

It would be easy to comment about the practical, parenting counsel of today’s verse. I heartily commend it to those who are parents, or to others when they become parents. However, I would prefer today to take the principle that is being shared and apply it to how the Father’s parents us – you and me.

Consider with me that if the Bible teaches a parent to follow this counsel, wouldn’t it be consistent and practical that Heavenly Father would follow His own advice. I think God would never be found guilty of a cavalier attitude evidenced by, “Do as I say, not as I do.”

In recent years, there has developed a growing popularity of personal trainers – the accent being on personal. From what was once the province of only the wealthy who could afford the luxury or celebrities who required that to be at their best and most fit, it seems that almost anyone can have a personal trainer.

Clearly, a personal trainer would better customize routines and exercises that more particularly address the unique needs and individual goals of one person. To me, the individual and concentrated attention of a professional would seem to be much more time efficient and effective.

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.” 1 Timothy 4:7-8 NIV. No one need argue the value of physical fitness, but there is an even higher value and priority for being spiritually fit. The difference is between “some value” and a “promise for this life and the life to come.”

Who can deny the need for spiritual fitness, or the need for significant guidance and help to accomplish that. Does it seem to you that is not as easy as it sounds? “Everyone who competes goes into strict training.” Read 1 Corinthians 9:25-27 NIV. What if you had the privilege of a personal, spiritual trainer to get you fit and into shape?

Jesus promised just that – a personal trainer to get your lazy soul up and active, and your wimpy spirit healthy and set on things above and eternal! Read Colossians 3:1-4 NLT. The disciples were astonished when Jesus said to them, “It is actually best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Counselor/Comforter won’t come . . when the Spirit of Truth is come He will guide you into all truth.” Read John 16:7-14 NLT/2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV. Your personal trainer is the Holy Spirit, which Jesus considered essential to your well being. He knows precisely how to train you personally “in the way you should go!” Trust Him; listen to Him; do as He says. You will be the better for it!

Your Personal Trainer does not merely live with you; He lives within you, constantly directing you in the ways and will of Godprotecting you from danger and invisible but real attacks – and correcting you in the wrong that so easily befalls you, “the sin that so easily hinders your progress.” Hebrews 12:1 NLT.

Now here is the unvarnished truth: getting fit takes discipline and hard work. It is not easy and does not happen overnight. “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening. It is painful! But afterward there will be a quiet harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” Hebrews 12:11 NLT.

My prayer for you today is: keep your heart set on Kingdom priorities and eternal realities.

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No Pain, No Gain

September 1st, 2009

“Discipline yourself for the purpose of Godliness.” 1 Timothy 4:7 NAS

“Discipline requires saying yes to some things, which demands your saying no to others.”

My thoughts today are about “no pain, no gain.”

You have heard the expression every athlete knows from experience, “No pain, no gain!” In the spring our son, Bruce, decided to prepare himself for his first mini-triathlon. I am in awe of his dedication to a regimen of a healthy diet and training in the three physical skills that were required – swimming, cycling, and running. Whether early mornings before work or in the evenings before bed, he could be found practicing and improving his skills to reach his goal of fitness and achievement.

He successfully finished his first mini-triathlon, and two others since then – because he embraced the necessary discipline. It was time consuming and hard, but essential. He learned the Bible principle, “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening – it is painful! But afterward, there will be a quiet harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” Hebrews 12:11 NLT.

The athlete who desires to be their best embraces the discipline of time and effort needed to perfect the skills of their sport. The student who wishes to excel academically understands the required discipline of hours upon hours of study when tired or even when preferring to do less. Others may; you cannot. The musician who wishes to master their instrument devotes themselves to the necessity of countless hours of practice and years of learning. The craftsman that takes pride in their work devotes a lifetime to its exercise and mastery.

A disciple is one who willingly embraces the training and disciplines of another, choosing to enforce upon themselves the self-discipline required. Discipline requires saying yes to some things, which demands your saying no to others. If you are to be a disciple of Jesus, you must welcome the discipline essential to shape your heart, renew your mind, conform your will, and train your spirit to know and walk in the truth, that you may daily be conformed to the character and conduct of Jesus. Read Romans 8:28-29 NIV.

The Bible has much to say on the subject of spiritual discipline, teaching that God’s discipline is only and always rooted firmly in His love for you. “Those whom He loves, He disciplines . . and corrects.” Read Hebrews 12:1-13 NLT. There is no reason to bother with the discipline of someone for whom you have no regard, no plans for their well being or future. God has your best at heart, not your harm – your gain, not your pain – your growth, not your loss. See Jeremiah 29:11 NIV.

The Word of God demands a discipline of understanding. The will of God imposes the discipline of obedience and boundaries to your freedom. The Spirit of God provides specific instruction and direction for everyday life. To be a true disciple of Jesus Christ spiritual discipline cannot be optional. Jesus said, “If any man will be my disciple, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” Luke 9:23 NIV. Self-denial, sacrifice, and obedience are the spiritual disciplines necessary for spiritual growth and maturity.

My prayer for you today is that your discipline be directed to a noble purpose, Godliness.

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Getting In Shape

August 27th, 2009

“Spend your time and energy training yourself for spiritual fitness.” 1 Timothy 4:7 NLT

Time in the gym with little or no time in church will not get you in shape for eternity.

My thoughts today are about “getting in shape.”

Fitness is important for your health and well being, but fitness does not just happen, even if you wish it did. It is always the result of training, and training is repetition and hard work – done again, and again, and again.

For recent months, I have been getting up earlier and swimming a gradually increasing number of laps in our pool. I have no illusion of grandeur – Michael Phelps I am not! –  but I do hope to be more fit than I was and healthier as well. I feel better and have more energy through my day when I make the time and effort to regularly exert myself physically.

Lance Armstrong, seven-time winner of the Tour de France, and maybe one of the most fit athletes of any sport recently raced in the Tour de France after three years of retirement and still was able to finish third in the grueling event. He models the level of fitness required for exceptional achievement, and the training and discipline necessary to achieve that fitness.

Tom Landry, legendary football coach of the Dallas Cowboys, said, “My job is to get men to do what they don’t want to do, in order to achieve what they’ve always wanted to achieve.” That’s kind of the way real life works, isn’t it? You have to do what you don’t want to do in order to achieve what you always wanted to achieve.

Visit any health club or exercise center and see the place busy and packed with people of all sorts sweating and working intensely rather than playing and enjoying themselves – all working for the simple goal of fitness – people with a vision of themselves, better, stronger, more fit than they’ve been.

I cannot imagine how much discipline, time, and effort some people are willing to give in order to be physically fit, yet how little priority, time or consistent effort is given for spiritual fitness. More time in the gym with little or no time in a church will not get you in shape for life everlasting. You may look good in this life when you go, but not so hot when you arrive – in eternity!

Getting in shape physically will unquestionably profit you for a while, while getting in shape spiritually will benefit you much now in your lifetime, and eternally even more. Here’s the Bible’s advice: “Spend your time and energy training yourself for spiritual fitness. Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next. 1 Timothy 4:7-8 NLT. Best not to neglect either.

Training for spiritual fitness requires untiring, life-long commitment, dedication to spiritual exercises, and continuing diligence in God’s Word. If you will, God will work you into shape.

“God is doing what’s best for us, training us to live God’s holy best. At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it is going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.Hebrews 12:10-11 The Message.

My prayer for you today is that you never be casual about things that are eternal.

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