Lessons From the Triathlon pt. 2: Are you running?

Thanks to everyone who had words of encouragement for me in regards to my last post. I hope that you are blessed and encouraged as you read.

Welcome to part 2 of the “Lessons from the Triathlon” series.

One thing that you should know about the Tris that I have participated in thus far is that they are non-competitive. This means that there is no official prize or recorded time. I was scheduled to do a competitive Tri last month, but I was injured in a soccer game and decided to sit it out (goodbye $60).

One of the benefits of non-competitive Triathlons is that you get people of all ages and skill levels competing. There are 12 year old girls, professional triathletes, mother daughter teams, and people in their 70’s all competing in the same event (in different groups for obvious safety reasons). 2 years ago, during my first event, there was a woman garnering a lot of attention. She was in her seventies and had participated in many other triathlons over the years.

In this particular event, I started in a group behind her, but ended up catching her on the run section.

Well… sort of.

You see, I had not sufficiently trained for the endurance aspect of the event and burned a lot more energy than I should have on the bike portion in an attempt to gain ground. By the time I got to the run, I felt like my legs were going to fall off and I started the “I’m tired, run/walk” thing. You know what I mean. So I initially caught her and passed her, but after a few minutes, I slowed to a walk, and she came jogging by, just a bit faster than I. After I gathered myself, I began to run and, of course, passed her once again. The next time I saw her, I was walking again, and as she passed me, I said something encouraging like, “you’re doing a great job!” Then, I heard her say something that I will never forget. Without looking over at me, she said these words:

“You’d be doing well too if you were running.”

And off she went once again. Needless to say, I didn’t spend much more time walking that day, and I have never walked during a race since then.

My question to you is this: Are you running?

The New Testament often refers to the Christian life as a race that we are to run. In fact, there are several times where the word run is used to describe this very thing. On top of this, the words “race”, “goal”, and “prize” are used to reinforce the language.

In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Paul compares the perishable goals of an athlete in training to the imperishable prize awaiting the one who runs his race with self-control until the end.

In Philippians 3 Paul says that he never dwells on what is past, but continually looks forward to the “prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (3:14).

Toward the end of his life, Paul says in 2 Timothy 4:7 that he has fought the good fight and finished the race, and then he explains what that means by saying that he had kept the faith.

But the clearest picture that we are given of our faith as a race is in Hebrews 12:1-2 which says this:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

In my last post, I mentioned this passage as well, but that shouldn’t be a surprise, considering the subject matter. Also, it’s a passage worth looking at from different angles. The key here is twofold: “run with endurance” and “looking to Jesus.” You see, I didn’t have much to motivate me to finish strong in that tri. My exhaustion outweighed any amount of incentive I had to keep running, but we have an infinitely worthy incentive. Christ is our goal. That is why we must keep looking to Him. With our eyes fixed on Christ, our ability to run the race with endurance is sustained.

Why does looking to Jesus sustain us for the race?

He is the Founder of our faith – He is the one that provides the faith we need to place our hope and trust in Him. Through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17) faith is born within us that we might fix our eyes on Him. The NASB translation says that He is the Author of our faith, that He wrote it on our hearts. He is the originator of faith and has graciously given it to us as a gift.

He is the Perfecter of our faith – We are sanctified by His Spirit as we run the race. This sanctification produces continued endurance and increased strength of faith, and it is not complete until we reach the goal of Christ forever. We experience this perfecting until we meet Him and become like Him. (1 John 3:2)

He endured the cross and despised the shame – Looking to Jesus gives us the strength to continue because He endured the most difficult parts of the race for us. He endured the parts that we could not. He went to the cross for us. He took our shame and God’s wrath so that we would not have to. We now bear His burden, which is light (Matthew 11:28-30), and any affliction that we encounter as we run the race is not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed to us when we meet Him face to face. (Romans 8:18)

He sits at the right hand of the throne of God – The outcome of the race is predetermined. We win! Christ sits at the right hand of God because He has completed the race for us. Some of the participants in the Tri race as a 3-person team, with each person doing a different section of the race. In this case, we race on the same team as Christ, but He does all the events and finishes first, securing our prize. So we run with endurance not because this race relies on our finish time, but because we look forward to the finish where we meet Him and receive our prize.

We talk a lot about the Christian life being a walk, and that is a beautiful picture of the intimacy that we have with God in Christ. But this life is a race and we must run it well, never taking our eyes off of the greatest of all prizes. Christ Himself for eternity.

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