C.S. Lewis said, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” Because God is the Creator of everything in the universe, therefore everything that I can observe relates directly to God. Training and running a marathon has caused me to think about how it relates to God. Here are my thoughts that have developed over 407 miles of running in 61 hours while burning 60,778 calories.
1. Christianity begins with an invitation. My friend and pastor asked me if I was interested in training for a marathon with him. I had no interest and no desire to run a marathon. He showed me a training plan which laid out a four month regimen of running to prepare for it. At first I thought it was ridiculous. Stupid. Yet over the course of two weeks the idea I once thought as ludicrous became more appealing.
For anyone who truly is a Christian, life in Christ began with an invitation. It could have been an invitation from a human being or words on a page, but it was an invitation that communicated what the gospel was. God created a rescue plan through Jesus Christ so that we could be forgiven of sins, justified before God, and given his Spirit. The plan is to be received by grace through faith. For Christians, the plan was rejected for weeks, months or years. Yet at some point what was once stupid seen as stupid is now seen as gloriously appealing.
2. The Christian life is one of study and learning and doing. My first training run was on the morning of March 3 and the temperature outside was -10 zero. I knew little about how to run long distances or how my body would react to running those distances. By working through the training plan, reading articles about marathon training and asking questions from others who had run marathons I began learning how to pace myself, where to shop for running shoes, how to properly fuel my body, and what to expect on race day.
Paul commands Christians in I Timothy 2:15 to study to show ourselves approved unto God. James commands Christians in James 1:22 to not only be a hearer of the Word but a doer also. Christians are meant to study God’s Word, learn from it, and delight in it. They are also meant to do something with that knowledge. They are to go out and share it and obey it and live by it. Thinking and doing are not separate entities but a package deal according to God’s design.
3. The Christian life is not a lone ranger endeavor but a community effort. I had a lot of help from all different sources that played a factor into completing a marathon. My wife would always welcome me home from my long runs with a smile, a protein shake and a cheerful “How did your run go?” Dave, an experienced runner, would answer questions that I had or give advice on how to work through problems. Several of my long runs were done with him. On race day my family came up to Duluth to cheer me on throughout the course. People I didn’t know would see my name on my bib and cheer me on by name.
Trying to live the Christian life without being a part of a local church is like trying to run a race by yourself. We shouldn’t forsake the regular gathering together of saints to exhort one another on in love for God and a pursuit of holiness (Hebrews 10:25). Left to our own attempts and thinking we will falter, fail or walk away from the faith. God has created the local church to be a way in which he shows his children grace.
4. The Christian life has ups and downs. It require discipline. There were days when I had good runs, average runs, and downright awful runs. Sometimes I would finish my runs and feel great physically while other times I simply wanted to climb into a coffin and turn the lights out. Cold, heat, snow and rain were factors. Good preparation or lack thereof were factors. Yet each run required discipline to not give up but to get back out there and run the next day or run the next mile or even take the next step.
Paul uses the metaphor of running in I Corinthians 9 to describe the Christian life. He said he didn’t run aimlessly but but disciplined his body to keep it under control. In Hebrews 12:1 he calls Christians to run with endurance the race that is set before us. This means that we will have days where sin beats us up and we will have days when we kick in the teeth of sin. In all of it, by the grace God provides, we are meant to keep running the race until we give up that last breath, die, and than see Jesus face to face. As Lecrae said, “Run boy, run boy, run boy, run!”
5. God’s glory is shouting at us in his creation. Each day we sit at the front porch with a full view of God’s glory shouting at us through a bull horn. It is his creation. It is easy to overlook and become bored with it because it is in front of us everyday. I was able to spend hours running on snow covered roads and ice coated streets which eventually and slowly gave way to pot-hole filled streets and dry, paved trails. I was able to feel the icy grip of subzero temperatures and the sweat pouring off my head on hot, humid, sticky days. I felt my heart pump life giving blood through my body and had my thirst quenched by cold water and Gatorade. I saw wildlife and wild animals and took my kids on some of the runs with me in the stroller or on their bikes. All these things were a gift from God and were shouting to me how glorious he is.
6. Run your race. When the race began I knew I would have to hold myself to the pace I had trained at. Starting out to quick would come back to collect a price tag later in the race and my times in the last few miles would be significantly longer. Starting out too quickly was tempting as many people passed me. I wanted to keep up with them but I kept telling myself, “Run your pace, Kyle. Don’t speed up.” As the race progressed and single digit miles turned into double digit teen miles I began passing people that were slowing down or walking.
Paul tells us in Hebrews 12:1 to run the race that is set before us with endurance. The Christian life is not a sprint. It is a marathon. Christians can be in danger of rusting out because they are sedentary; not actively seeking to become more like Jesus. They can also burn out though- trying to do too much; trying to run too fast. We need God’s wisdom to help us find the right pace in our Christian discipleship so that we run with endurance and do not burn out too soon.
7. Finish the race. The first 20 miles of my marathon were downright pleasant. I didn’t have any pain and I locked myself in on a comfortable pace. After mile 20 I ran up Lemon Drop Hill and it all changed. I hit a mental and physical wall and the last six miles became progressively worse. Each step became more painful and I could feel my pace getting slower. My mind began focusing on the pain of it all and my eyes continued to drop down to my feet as I put one foot in front of the other. As I ran around the last bend of the race and could see the finish line it was a most pleasant sight! The feeling of completing the race was an amazing feeling.
One day I will stand before my Father who will, by his grace, say “Well done, Kyle. Well done.” The marathon reminded me to keep my mindset focused on that day. When life gets difficult, pain increases, sin gets the best of me, or I feel like forsaking the faith, focusing on the joy of finishing my life well is a fantastic motivator. It is what Paul said when he got to the end of his life and he could feel the sentence of death resting upon him. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (II Timothy 4:7).”
That’s what I want to say at the end of my life. The reward will be incorruptible, the glory unsurpassable and joy unbelievable. Fight the good fight, finish the race, keep the faith. All 26.2.