I’m sure we’re all familiar with Mr. Newton’s laws of motion. His First Law states that a body at rest will remain at rest unless an outside force acts on it, and a body in motion at a constant velocity will remain in motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an outside force. This principal applies to physics, but I suggest it also applies to our spiritual lives.
When a habit is established, you follow through without a lot of forethought. When someone has been exercising frequently, it’s just normal to maintain a routine. Movement begets movement. But when someone does not have a habit or routine established, it takes a lot of forethought, planning, and motivation to begin something new.
Many of us live from a place of spiritual 50 yard dashes. Little to no preparation is required to run a short race or to face a small speed bump in life. I think it’s amazing if someone is a good sprinter and can run at a fast pace. But it’s downright jaw dropping to think about the dedication of marathoners and, woah Nelly, ultra marathoners. Several years ago, I read a book about a man named Dean Karnazes, who ran 50 marathons in 50 days in 50 states. I didn’t even know ultra marathoning was a thing. This guy ran 1,310.94 miles in 50 days!! Who does that?!? That’s craziness! But it’s also admirable because of the preparation required to accomplish something so grueling. It required Conditioning. Determination. Focus. Discipline. Endurance. Fortitude. Tenacity. Stamina. Strength. Dedication. Those qualities aren’t built over night. It required Mr. Karnazes to invest himself over a long period of time.
For most of us, who are not conditioning our bodies for the level of exertion that marathons require, we are in no condition to give a marathon a shot. We don’t have the strength built up. It’s just too much to go into a marathon cold turkey. I think though, that that’s what most of us do in our spiritual lives. We face things without proper conditioning. We jump in as spiritually cold turkeys. And not only that, we haven’t fueled up properly. If you’ve gotten to the point in your relationship with God that being with Him is no longer a thing to check off your to do list, you know that being with Him literally fuels you, sustains you and even propels you forward. Movement begets movement.
Those who prepare for a marathon are conditioned to take on the demands required of them. These people train for many hours a week. They have built up strength to complete those longer runs. Do you know how long it takes to complete a 15 mile practice run? We’re talking at least 2-3 hours a pop, repeating this several times a week for many weeks in a row. That’s some serious dedication. It’s pretty safe to say, most of us are not spending that kind of time on our spiritual formation. I’m certainly not. But wouldn’t it be amazing if we were?!
There’s a popular phrase that I’m sure you’ve heard before, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.“ This sounds like a case of, “I’m not gonna do anything strenuous unless I have to, but when I have to, I guess I’ll jump to it.”
I’m thinking this would be more appropriately worded: “When the going gets tough, the tough keep going.” Let’s already be in spiritual motion so we are ready when we face hardships. Let’s be in continuous preparation, now.
We all have our own pace. That’s why runners think about their PRs. PR means personal record. Runners keep their own individual best performances in mind and hope to improve those PRs over time. They aren’t so much concerned about who is going to beat them, as much as they are doing it for themselves to run their personal best. This same thing is true in our spiritual lives.
God is seeking spiritual marathoners. In order to sustain that level of discipline and intensity, you need the Holy Spirit, conditioning, and fuel. It reminds me of a Eugene Peterson book titled, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.Spiritual formation happens over a lifetime of obedience. What habits do you have or can you create in your life to achieve forward spiritual movement? To become better conditioned? How can you continue to fuel your relationship with God towards growth? How can you move from a “should” mindset to a “want-to” mindset? We can all be spiritual marathoners in our own right. Every one of us.
God says, “You’ve picked up the pace of your spiritual race. You are not competing with anyone other than yourself, but you are covering longer distances more quickly. You’re seeing more terrain and you are more aware of your surroundings. You have heightened awareness. Be watchful for others who want to cut in on you. (Galatians 5:7) Listen only to my voice and you will stay the course. Because when you are listening to me, I give course correction.”
Yes, Jesus, help me run my spiritual race in a way that’s pleasing to you. I cooperate with you by learning to move in the Spirit now. This will prepare me for what lies ahead. Help me listen for your course corrections and give me the desire to obey. I won’t look to the right or the left, monitoring others’ progress. I keep my eyes fixed only on you, Jesus. You are the author and perfecter of my faith. (Hebrews 12:2) Amen. – Vonda Sellers