I’m a terrible runner. I’d like to think of myself as a runner, but the reality is that I’m inconsistent and the fruit of that is evident to every other true runner around me. Don’t get me wrong; like many others I come to the run with energy, enthusiasm, and a strong desire to do better than the time before. However without discipline to back up my determination the result will be much the same; willpower is not enough and I’m inevitably betrayed by my own body.
I reach that point in every run when my body begins to tell me that it’s not too happy with the current state of affairs; it would much rather not be moving so fast or working so hard, thanks very much. When this point is reached there is a next-level commitment required; my will fights against my body to keep going, even though it tempts me in ever-increasing volume in my head “Rest. Just a little bit“. I know that once I rest, my momentum is likely irrecoverable, and the run will be twice as hard. All too often and all too soon, my body wins. I know the solution, I tell myself about it every time I come to that stop. It’s my hope that through continued discipline I will reach this point later and later into each run, and eventually it may be silenced entirely.
There’s another battle I fight that bears striking resemblance to this struggle of body and will; my war against sin. When it comes to being a disciple of Jesus Christ, I know (and am still coming to know) how I am called to live in light of his saving grace towards me. I can find in my Bible a Christian worldview and ethic that is relevant for my circumstances today. However when tragedy strikes, when persecution or false accusation comes, when situations seem beyond control then temptation rears its ugly head and seeks to seize the opportunity for harm. Here’s the rub: sin isn’t something ethereal around me or something waiting to pounce from behind me, nor is it sitting on my shoulder waiting for the chance to whisper an evil suggestion in my ear. No, sin is inside me. It’s part of me. Sin is part of my fallen nature, and as such I participate in a constant struggle against my own body for the strength and determination to choose the good.
When it comes to walking in the path of obedience, this isn’t something I want to leave to chance. Like running, I need to train if I want to see significant positive improvement. I need to discipline my body by regularly subjecting it to the kind of activity I want it to be doing better – and coincidentally if I want to be holistic about it, this also means removing things that would hinder my progress – thus hopefully winning the body/will battle more often. When it comes to the obedience of faith, Jesus made it simple to understand when he said
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life;
whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life,
but the wrath of God remains on him.”
By putting believes and obey in the same sentence, Jesus articulated clearly that loving him means obeying him, and obeying him requires knowing how he wants me to live. When it comes to the struggle of obedience over sin, I don’t win the battle nearly as much as I wish I did; but I know that the Bible contains everything I need and the Holy Spirit gives me the strength to walk in that obedience, if I put my trust in him. Finally, when it comes to removing things that would hinder progress, I keep Daniel 4:27 in my mind to combat the temptations that come my way every hour: “break off your sins by practicing righteousness”.
When I substitute sleeping in with running often enough, I beat my fastest times. When I substitute a sinful opportunity with a Godly activity, I break off that sin and become more like the disciple of Jesus Christ I’m called to be.
Whatever your struggle, trust God for your strength, then choose to run.