I ran today. And as my feet hit the pavement, my lungs were filled with explosive hot air. In, out, left, right. I climbed the hill in front of me, silently praying to Jesus I would make it home without dying in the middle of the road.
And the image probably wasn’t the prettiest, but there I was trying my best to put one foot in front of the other just to make it home. My legs hurt, my mouth was dry, and every part of my body wanted me to stop. Just rest. Walk. Pause. But I knew that to build endurance means to keep going— past the hurt and the pain; through the hot breaths and gasps. To make it farther next time, I had to endure this time.
The hill seemed to become a 90 mile hike as I climbed. Eyes to the road beneath me, I trusted that still small voice within that told me to keep going. And out of nowhere His voice came front and center. Mid gasp for air, I heard Him loud and clear.
He spoke of my decision to run and posed a question I can’t seem to get out of my mind: Have you ever trained spiritually as hard as you’ve trained physically?
Has my training for the eternal things ever made me uncomfortable? Has my pursuit of my Father ever brought me to a place of total breathlessness? Made my knees bend in exhaustion? Brought tears of joy to my eyes? Created an endurance to take me farther tomorrow?
And as I ran my mind cleared to really think on what He just said.
Because the answer was no and we both knew it.
“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” -Philippians 3:12-14
I’ve never taken spiritual training as seriously as my physical training. Now don’t get me wrong, I love my Jesus with everything in me and I long to become more like Him with each second that I breathe, but I have to say I’ve never pushed myself to points of breaking only to be rebuilt by Him.
They (the amazing science types) say when you run and lift weights and push your body to its max, small muscle tears form. The muscles within begin to break slightly in response to the training without. But as you continue and as your endurance builds up, the small tears begin to form and shape an even bigger muscle.
Allowing us to push farther the next day. And the next. And the next. Until our entire body is transformed because of the small tears.
In all honesty, I have to say that my head has never hurt from reading too much Scripture. My hands have never ached from writing lengthy prayers. My knees have never scabbed from kneeling at His feet. I have never overextended myself in the pursuit of my King. Not because I couldn’t. Only because I haven’t pushed myself enough to reach the small tears.
And, true, our God is the God of all comfort, but to follow Him means to lay our comfort aside for His glory. He never promised us anything other than His Presence.
So my mind has been caught up today wrestling with this apparent obstacle in front of me. And now that I’m aware, will I push myself further? Will I lay myself at the mercy of the spiritual elements, only aware of His face as I press on?
“Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales. Instead, train yourself to be godly. ‘Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.’ This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it. This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers.” -1 Timothy 4:7-10
And while the rest of the 21st century wastes time on Instagram and Facebook, drugs and sex, hookups and breakups, likes and dislikes, let us be the ones to be different. Let the followers of Jesus rise up as never before, training ourselves to be more like Him— like Him in His love; like Him in His grace; like Him in His forgiveness, His passion, His boldness, His faith, His patience.
Let us be like Him in all we do, training ourselves, pushing ourselves, stretching and breaking ourselves for the hope that we will resemble Him more today than we did yesterday. And let us relish when the small tears come, for we know that small strains today mean abundant growth tomorrow.
And so we propel and we push; we fight and we battle; we clammer and we gasp; we reach out and reach up all in the Name of Jesus. Father, please help us in this adventure of training to be more like You. We know that to stand for You and push to be more like You will invite persecution. We understand that we may face physical punishment, emotional hostility, and spiritual warfare. But, above all, we know and believe that to train ourselves in the eternal things is what You are truly after.
For Your army must be ready because the battle is already here.