Six miles and 15 minutes later, I’ve not moved one foot. Pedaling at a steady almost methodical pace, the sweat is now streaming off my head; the air enters my lungs in bursts. I keep peeking at the screen to see how much longer I need to push myself. I like to use this time to review verses or prayer, but I find myself distracted by both the TV in the corner and a lack of oxygen in the room.
I ask myself for the umpteenth time, why am riding this exercise bike that is literally going nowhere? Immediately the passage in 1 Corinthians 9 comes to mind;
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.
I ruminate on the passage for a few minutes. The thoughts “run to win” and “Paul believes even he can be disqualified,” skip through my mind, but my brain wave that takes root on “strict training.”
As I think back on my five decades of walking with Jesus. Certainly, there have been times of “strict training” for the sake of the cross. But what about in 2020? Now 2021? Have I become lazy spiritually? Has the “lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16) taken root in my life? As I contemplate setting goals for the new year, what areas of my life do I need to ‘get in shape’? Our ‘6-packs’ not only become spare tires, but the heart and mind atrophy as well.
Olympians are more than gifted athletes; they have entered into a period of “strict training” to win the race. The gift of His Spirit is present, but am I willing to endure the strict training that is necessary to win in His race? As I get older, the distractions and comforts increase. Strictness becomes radicalness – not the normal Christian life.
So often we seem to encourage one another to finish well. But Paul stresses our goal should be to win the prize. So as we contemplate the new year and those things we wish to change in our lives, for Jesus’ sake, let’s encourage one another to run, not to finish, but to win.