And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (Rom 5:3-6)

Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord GOD of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel. (Psalm 69:6)

Monday, April 15, 2013

From Couch to 5K, Running to the Glory of God

In July of 2012 I attempted to do the impossible. I attempted to run.  When I ran as a kid it resembled a slow motion video of a penguin losing traction and balance. People thought I was attempting a humorous demonstration: I was simply expressing the full limit of my athletic ability.  Other than golf or fishing, athletics have always been out of the question for me.  As a matter of fact, one day while horsing around with my kids I developed the persona, Girth, Compressor or the Davenport.  However laziness is nothing to joke about.

I am convinced that the care of one’s body is essential to representing Christ and being fully available to do ministry.  However, this belief was not supported by works of righteousness.    As it says in James, (and ill paraphrase the Wes translation) if you say you believe but don’t back it up, you have no proof.  Also, to know what is right to do and yet not do it, is sin.  Thus, I confess, I knew what to do but was sinning against God and my own body by being lazy.

Any excuse seemed justifiable; not enough time, other priorities, exercises hurt, outdoor temperature, indoor temperature, and oh something shiny….. all took priority over my need to follow what I knew was the right direction to go.  It all came to a head in the spring of 2012.  While doing yard work I would become winded and weary.  My body rebelled.  It wasn’t old age, it was years of sloth. 

Convicted that I was not honoring God with the physique I had been given, I developed a plan to change.  This plan was not based on will power or motivational prods, It came from scripture, thus eliminating my excuses.  To overcome the lack of time to get to the YMCA,I calculated that I could at least run the length of my street each day.  That way, if I had a heart attack in the process someone could find my limp body.  I set a date to begin and a goal of finishing one mile.

While at Southern Seminary that fateful July day I began to run.  Donning my Saucony running shoes, orange t-shirt and not so embarrassing running shorts, I took off for the student athletic center. Wanting to avoid injury, I rode the elevator to the third floor running track.  It was now or never: I took off running.  Lap one came easy, this was going to be easy. On lap two a young child remarked loudly to his mother, “Look mom that man looks like a penguin who’s gonna fall.”  By lap four I was gasping, lap six had me trembling.  Lap seven never arrived.

This experience opened my eyes to how neglect can creep up on a person, how excuses are easier to contrive than beneficial living, and that obedience to God would be costly.  I was down cast, but not defeated.  Defeat would be to quit. I found that God was encouraging me through the scriptures to press on, to trust and obey.  

Thus, day after day for months, I would attempt some sort of run.  Some days were harder than others.  At times my asthma would kick in.  Other days found the euphoria that athletes draw upon as inspiration to press on.  And as I obeyed God and ran, I found parallels to the Christian walk in my successes and failures.  Every effort to run needed the help of God for my attitude, my values, and my heart worship of striving to exercise for His glory.

Two days ago, I ran my first ever 5K, and did not die.   I was passed by a woman with two canes, a 400 pound man who was gasping like a fish, 3 women with strollers, and a chain smoker.  I have never been fast.  But this slow motion penguin ran the race in 42:57, finishing in the 1205th place, 49th for his division.

Looking back, these last several months taught me many things. As a matter of fact, the journey from oxygen deprivation to race finisher has opened my eyes to spiritual truths.  These truths are not just analogies; they are simple evidences of God at work.

·         I ran that God be glorified.  This is the greatest reason to run.

·         Excuses are easy, obedience is hard.

·         There are days that everything is against you, facing the opposition is where God is most glorified.

·         It is God who gives the strength to press on, you learn to love Him more when you abide in this truth.

·         Some days it is best to rest, we don’t have to run to impress.

·         To reach the goal of running a 5K I had to work through failures.  Likewise, when we put off bad habits and put on new ones there will be setbacks and failures.  We cannot let this distract us.

·         The true goal was not to run a 5K, or to even walk it.  The goal was obedience.  Too often we idolize goals rather than enjoy the simple pleasures of obeying God on a daily basis.

·         The race you run is not to be compared to others.  The winner of the 5K ran it in 16 minutes.  My race was to do my utmost with the body and abilities I have been given.  God holds us accountable to glorify Him with what we have been given, not with what we do not have.

·         My race isn’t over. Like fighting sin, I must daily pursue the goal of abiding in Christ.  At this point in life, I must keep on running.

·         As a biblical counselor and pastor, I can learn from my struggles to obey God in order to help others in their struggles to obey God.

·         Obedience brings humility, thereafter; success brings you closer to God.


Press on for the upward call of Christ.  My next race is in October, I hope to finish another 5K in under 40 minutes.