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. 1 Corinthians 9:25
I’ve been a member of various gyms over the years. Each time, after that initial enthusiasm of “this time I’m going to become a flat stomached, toned armed, no jiggle mama” I fell into a boring workout routine. And then I found excuses to not go to the gym – I was tired, I worked late, I didn’t sleep well, my kids needed me for something, etc. Next thing I knew the gym was making money off a person that wasn’t even using their services.
For some of us, at one time or another, our faith life and studying and living out His Word fell into that same pattern. There were times when my on-line giving to my church showed up a heck of a lot more times than my physical body.
Running is a fitting pace for a believer. Jesus Christ deserves that we should run for him.Charles Spurgeon, The Unwearied Runner
How many of us got up this morning and thought, “I need to get in my God workout today so I can be ready to win that race!”? We may not see our studies of His Word like a workout but that’s what it really is. The “prize” is the ability to carry through the days of our lives as Christians who take full advantage of the fruits of His spirit.
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 9:26-27
There are a few keys to successfully training for a big race or event and those same keys work for keeping our faith life active and effective.
Have a Plan
A plan is not, “I’m going to study the Bible” or “I’m going to be a good person today.” A plan IS something that is measurable and specific. For awhile I thought the Bible was something I just opened up to a random spot and expected to be told all the answers to a problem. And although God does set before us scripture we need we also need to be able to figure out the true meaning. A specific plan might be to pick one book of the Bible and find a five week study on it and do the study at a certain time each day. Another plan might be to commit to one God-directed behavioral change like smiling and saying “have a great day” to 10 people each day for the next month. Ask God to help you with your plan and He will surely answer!
Any devotee of fitness will tell you that consistency, consistency, consistency is what builds endurance. So even when you go on vacation you find a way to stick with your plan. Just last year I started packing my devotional book when I travelled. I brought my Bible study booklets on the plane to keep up with the chapters. Each time we want to make an excuse for falling off our plan we need to remind ourselves of the benefits. When I don’t want to go for a walk I remember the feeling I have when I am done – happy and satisfied that I cared for my body. When we don’t want to take the time with God we must remember how that centering time helps us throughout the rest of our day.
To run is to be diligent. We should hardly call that running in which a man starts and stops, and starts and stops again. In some Christian works we are painfully conscious that the persons undertaking them, if they ever run, run only for a very short time.Charles Spurgeon, The Unwearied Runner
Shake it Up
When I was training for the Susan B. Komen Breast Cancer 3-Day I walked five to seven miles a day five days a week. Occasionally, I would throw in a 14 mile walk. I set aside most of a day to accomplish that walk. And in our faith lives we need that same occasional change. It might be that we go to a different church that has different music. Maybe we move our morning devotional to the outside and watch the sunrise. Or we write out our prayers for the day on sticky notes and put them around the house.
Don’t Try to Do It All at Once
A good overall workout plan focuses on different parts of our body on different days. My daughter once was on a swim team. Some days were “land days.” On those days they ran. In the pool they practiced endurance on certain days and others it was technique. I have a lot of behavioral changes I need to make to align myself closer to Christ. And if I think about fixing them all at once it’s overwhelming. So, I ask God to help me with just one thing at a time.
There are always rest days in a workout routine. Time to let our muscles re-group. The same is true with studying the Word. You might think that’s Sunday – but that’s another day of study, isn’t it? Hearing the Word from our pastors, taking notes, and being challenged to go out into the world is part of our workout plan. For me, my rest from study is Saturday. I’ll read a devotional to get me focused for the day and that’s it. Yes, I put into practice the different lessons I’ve learned for the week. But I also just rest in the beauty of God.
So run that ye may obtain. So run that the great cloud of witnesses may applaud. So run that the King may say, “Ye did run well.”Charles Spurgeon, The Unwearied Runner
Our days here are short. If we chose to lollygag and be distracted by the world we miss out on all the glorious wonders of God. If we strengthen our spiritual muscles through a consistent plan we can be God’s instruments for the day. He will look upon us as fit warriors, ready for any heavy burden, ready to stand firm, ready to be his standard bearer.