I am residing in a household with a living object lesson.
Some of you may not know that Rambo is training for an Ironman triathlon. The first weekend in November we will travel to Panama City, Florida so he can compete against other top athletes in a race that takes other races and eats them for breakfast. It begins at 7:00 AM with a 2.4 mile swim in the ocean, followed by a 112 mile bike ride, ending with a full-length 26.2 mile marathon. Competitors hurry to transition between phases of the race as quickly as they can, and there’s no rest anywhere. They are given 17 hours to complete the race, though Rambo hopes to do it in around twelve hours.
Each day he trains, usually getting up between 4:00 and 5:00 AM. Some mornings he heads off to swim practice at a pool thirty miles away (small town living does sometimes have its disadvantages), where a coach puts him through a rigorous set of exercises for an hour or more. Some mornings he heads into Cleveland, parks his truck, and takes off for a run where there are more lights and he is hopefully more visible. The distances he runs are nothing to sneeze at either, sometimes 18 or 19 miles, sometimes a breezy ten. Often he runs immediately after swimming. Cycling is his forte, and he frequently rides distances of 50, 70, or even 100 miles. There are no flat lands around here, and if you’ve ever been to camp then you’ve seen what mountains lie ahead of you if you turn to the right out of the front gate.
Along with all the physical training comes the necessity of proper food intake versus energy output. It’s just referred to as “nutrition” among athletes. To put it scientifically, you don’t want to bonk during a training session or race. When you run out of energy because you didn’t refuel properly, you bonk. Rambo has sought advice from all kinds of trainers and other athletes, and after lots of trial and error and tweaks, has mostly figured out how much water and how many calories and electrolytes his body needs for which efforts, and in which form they should come.
It’s amazing to see it all come together. His discipline is incredible. What he has been able to train his body to do is amazing. He was an athlete in high school, but until about three years ago his athletic side was in hiding. Real life (starting a business, having a sizeable family, etc.) has a way of taking up a lot of time and energy. Making the initial decision a few years ago to become healthy has lead to so much more.
The object lesson I see here every day is found in 1 Corinthians 9. “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.” Paul also says, “Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave…”
It’s impossible to have good results in a race without discipline, training, and dedication. Paul, though he may well have been an athlete (I’ve wondered if the “thorn in the flesh” he talks about is maybe plantar fasciitis or a heel spur), was not talking about a physical race. In verse 24 he he says, “Do you not know that in a race all runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” He encourages us all to have the discipline it takes to run our earthly race well. What does this mean for you? I believe that’s between you and God. Do you need to get up earlier to spend time with Him each morning before the craziness of your day sets in? Do you need to spend less time on self-serving activities and more in service to others? Do you need to re-balance your family’s schedule so you can be intentional about teaching and showing your kids how to have a true relationship with Christ? The “training” possibilities are endless. Just as Rambo has had a wealth of information to help him figure out how best to train and eat, each of us has a bottomless resource to help us with those things on a spiritual level. Our loving Father will let you know what to do, and will even provide the motivation it takes to do it if you just ask. In fact, a good place to start is just earnestly praying the prayer that says, “Lord, my motivation is lacking. Could you give me motivation?”
The entire passage in 1 Corinthans 9:24-27 reads:
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
Even though Rambo’s physical training and discipline will reap incredible results, Paul reminds us that even the medal he receives will not last. It’s been amazing to see first-hand what training can do. How much more will being intentional and staying in training spiritually not only qualify us for an eternal reward in Heaven, but leave here on Earth a “prize” for our children and the next generation as well! Choosing to be disciplined spiritually each day instead of letting the less important things of this world take over our lives lets us win the prize that lasts forever.
We’ll keep you posted on how the race goes in November. I’ll be praying in the meantime that we all make the choice to either begin or to keep up the training in our own lives.