I took up running in the spring of my junior year in high school after a rough basketball season. A guy friend of mine twisted my arm and convinced me to try out for track. I figured before I tried out for the track team, I'd better give the whole running just to run business a whirl.
So I walked down my driveway and began to run. I barely made it half-a-mile before I was ready to quit. Thankfully, I was stubborn and wouldn't let myself quit so I kept going for another half mile...1 mile total.
As I look back on that 1st mile run, I can remember how ugly it was. My arms were awkward and flailing. My feet were heavy, nearly slapping the pavement with each step. My breathing was completely out of control...I had to stop often to gasp for air. Both mentally and physically, it was miserable from beginning to end.
To be honest, I'm not sure why I ever ran again after that first run.
But I did. And with each new run, I became smoother, faster, and more in control. I was determined to persevere and so I fixed my eyes on a simple goal of wanting to call myself, A Runner.
I ran track that season, although not very well.
I ran throughout the summer and my entire senior year.
Throughout college, I ran nearly every day with an average of 6-8 miles a day.
The fall before I got married I ran my first (and only) marathon.
I ran other shorter races after that.
I ran while I was pregnant with all three kids.
And to this day I take all three kids on runs with me (pushing two in a stroller and forcing one to ride his bike).
Its safe to say, I met my goal and can rightly call myself A Runner.
But lately where I once pushed myself and was determined to grow as a runner, I now have become a little complacent and satisfied with medocre running. I still run 4-5 times a week but I'm not nearly as motivated to grow and get better. And I'm pretty okay with running at a pace that is comfortable rather than pushing myself to run faster and/or longer.
The other day I was running around a park path while the boys played on the playground and a cross country team happened to be running their practice on the same loop as I was. As I watched their spry, young selves glide across the pavement determined to grow and get better, I realized something...I haven't ran with such determination in years.
I started to get that runners hunger again. I determined that I needed a new goal. So as I watched these young bucks flying past me I set a goal that I would push myself at least one run a week. Meaning that once a week I will care about my time and I will challenge myself to run a longer distance. And I decided that there was NO good excuse...too old (there are 70 year olds who run the Iron Man), too tired (everyone's tired), no time (make time)...that could justify my complacency or lack of growth as a runner.
This is true for us spiritually as well.
After awhile, we can become complacent and comfortable with mediocre faith. We can lose our determination to grow and get better at this loving Jesus and others commitment.
Hebrews 12:1-3 teaches,
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses [all of those OT men & women of great faith], let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."
Sometimes I can look around me and see other Christians running the race with a smoother and stronger stride. They persevere through trial after trial. They stay the course overcoming obstacle after obstacle. And they avoid entangling themselves up in sin by focusing on Jesus and the race He has set before them. They are like those young cross country bucks...smoothly gliding by me, persevering, and continuing to grow and get better.
God never wants us to settle for mediocre faith. He never wants us to become comfortable, complacent, and stagnant in relationship and service to Him.
Rather, He wants us to throw off everything that hinders us like excuses and sin and He wants us to run with purpose...pushing ourselves further and further out of our comfort zones.
Because when we persevere and run with determination we grow as Christians AND Jesus accomplishes in us all that He has planned.
"For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." Philippians 2:13
So let's ask God:
Are there areas of our faith where we've grown complacent or too comfortable?
Are we setting growth "goals" to push ourselves out of our spiritual comfort zones?
Are we growing in our knowledge of God's and His Word?
Are their habitual sins in our lives than easily entangle us, slow us down, or throw us off course that we need to throw off?
Are we determined to grow more and more like Jesus every day by running this Christian life with great perseverance?
We are without excuse.
For God will "equip you with everything good for doing his will" and he will "work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ..." Hebrews 13:21
I could care less if my children ever call themselves runners. But I desperately desire that they would call themselves runners in the race God has marked out for them.
Time to pray.
I pray that my children would be determined to run the race you have marked out for them. I pray they would run it strong and long. I pray they would run it with great perseverance, throwing off every excuse and sin that will easily entangle them. And I pray that after awhile they wouldn't grow complacent or comfortable, lacking spiritual growth; but rather that they would push themselves to grow more and more in the knowledge of You and Your Word. May their faith journey grow better and better as You equip them with all they need to stay on course and do Your will.