One of my favorite things about running is that the results are tangible. Growth can easily be measured by time and distance. Just five months ago, I competed in my first half marathon. This weekend, I will be racing in my second. I can’t begin to tell you how different it is training for this race versus my last one. Distances and speeds that were once difficult, are no longer as hard as they used to be.
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In my first half marathon, my goal was simply to finish. When beginning my training, 13.1 miles seemed like an incredible distance… one that seemed nearly impossible. I achieved my goal, but not without my fair share of physical and mental exhaustion. It was hard. Not to say that training for my second half marathon has been easy, but it has certainly proven to be less exhausting. 13.1 miles doesn’t seem quite as daunting this time around.
I have heard it said, “To be in the best running shape of your life, you have to do something you’ve never done.” That statement couldn’t be truer. In order to improve as a runner, you have to be willing to push yourself. The goal is always to run a bit faster or a bit farther than before. You have to be willing to challenge yourself to a time or distance you’ve never done before.
I believe the same to be true in our Christian walk. The goal is never to simply maintain a relationship with God. Instead, we should be aiming for growth. In order to grow, we have to push through barriers, step out of our comfort zones, and “do something we’ve never done.”
Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord. – 1 Peter 2:1-3
In order to grow in my relationship with God, I have to set my mind on Him. I have to crave “pure spiritual milk.” I can’t just live my life day in and day out and expect growth. I have to want it.
Just as physical growth can’t happen without a challenge, spiritual growth needs to be challenged as well. We can’t expect to grow as an athlete by sitting on the couch, just as we can’t expect to grow spiritually without ever having to use our faith.
Our faith grows when we face the impossible and overcome it.
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. – James 1:2-4
Leading up to a long race, my body gets tired and sore. There are definitely times when I want to give up, but I am always glad I persevered. There is nothing better than crossing that finish line; and I find that the harder I had to work for it, the more rewarding it is.
When things get tough in life or when the enemy comes at you with a challenge, don’t give up. As the enemy tries to discourage us and make things difficult, God will use these challenges to build our faith.
We simply have to choose victory over defeat. And every time we choose to push ourselves towards victory, we build endurance to finish the race.
When we cross that finish line in victory, it will all be worth it.
Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. – James 1:12
*Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.