Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Olympian Christian

"...let us run with endurance the race that is set before us..."- Hebrews 12:1

Athletic activities are probably the best things since sliced bread. I mean think about's fun and it's healthy! In particular, I like to run. Something about deeply breathing and absorbing the sites around me in silence makes me automatically start having alone time with God. So there's three, running is fun(well not so much to my best friend Kate), extremely healthy, and pleasing to God. Another thing about running is that it can be so awesomely compared to the very essence of the Christian life.

With my favorite time of the year coming up, the Olympics, I started thinking about the passage in 2 Timothy where Paul compares the Christian to an Olympian athlete. My favorite events in the Olympics are outdoor running events. Have you ever watched those men and women run? Have you seen the stark determination embedded in their sweating faces? Their muscles are clenched to capacity and strained beyond. By simple observation, you can see that their only goal is to win the race and receive the medal(or crown in Paul's time). Sadly, I don't see the same determination in Christians these days. We aren't straining to finish the race. We barely ever acknowledge that we're even in one. You know what I've noticed during the Olympics? The athletes that show no determination or endurance are usually the ones who lose.

Kate and I are reading an amazing book together called "The Disciplines of Grace" by Jerry Bridges. In one chapter, Bridges talks about two kinds of ways to approach obedience in the Christian life. The first, and more predominant approach is what he called the "cruise control" obedience. Cruise control is where in an automobile, when the driver reaches the desired speed, they can enact this feature and take their foot off the accelerator. Imagine if an Olympian runner did the same. The runner reaches the desired level of speed and remains there. What will happen? The closest runner will speed up, pass him, and win the race. When we reach the level of obedience we desire, perhaps the level where everyone around us is, we turn on cruise control and take our foot off the accelerator. That's nothing but a wasted run ran by a lazy runner. That's nothing but a wasted Christian life lived by a lazy Christian. The other approach was race-car obedience. I don't watch much races but I know for a fact that no race car driver would ever put on cruise control! That'd be asking to lose the race wouldn't it? Well so we should be. We should run top speed from start to finish.

We must forsake this attitude of complacency and run full force to win the race that is set before us. Then when we finish, we'll be able to rejoice with Paul in saying, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." Then and only then will we be able to hear those wonderful words from our sovereign Coach, "Well done, good and faithful servant!"


Ben Makuh said...

This stuck out to me: "The athletes that show no determination or endurance are usually the ones who lose."

In athletic pursuits, that's usually where I am. I'm not very athletic at all, partly because I don't like sports and partly because I don't think I can. I end up avoiding it as much as possible, or at least not trying so as to not look like I'm a failure.

In my Christian life, I know that there is much more to learn, much more to see, and myriad more souls to tell about Jesus. I guess I'm kind of the opposite of my athletic self- I try hard to achieve for Christ.

I don't know if Christianity is quite a race, but it definitely has a goal and a path towards such. I think God's calling for me in life is to encourage and exhort those runners who, like I, don't want to be embarrassed and thus don't exert themselves.

Good post!

Ashley said...

Thanks for your thoughtful comment Ben. Oh and I meant to tell you earlier that Kate's mom bought us both Do Hard Things and I just read the first section. You were right, the historical background was unbelievable.

Christian life being a race? Well in a certain way I suppose it isn't..seeing as you aren't competing with other Christians. It's the determination, endurance, and passion found in racing that should define the Christian life. In that sense, I believe it's very much like a race.