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Train Hard! Work Hard! Expect the Blessing!

Train Hard! Work Hard! Expect the Blessing!

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Run to Win the Prize – Eternity, History, & Present

April 11, 2010

Ed Barnes

One Liners:

· I have to exercise early in the morning before my brain figures out what I am doing.

· I don’t exercise at all. If God meant us to touch our toes, he would have put them further up our body.

· If you are going to try cross country skiing, start with a small country.

· I joined a health club last year, spent about $400. Haven’t lost a pound. Apparently you have to show up.

At one point in my life, I was a runner. I still consider myself a runner, even though my knees prevent me from it…I guess that’s because of the knowledge and wisdom I gathered from putting down the miles. There are some huge lessons in exercise. Let me give you a few of them below.

I remember my first year in Cross Country. Coach T gave us our “meet schedule” and then proceeded to tell us our training regimen. I thought this will be ok. No problem. When I arrived at the first practice, we stretched. I figured that running would be tough…but I quickly found that it’s fairly easy to work up a sweat when you stretch correctly, like an athlete would.

We then began running. We started slow. When we asked coach where we were headed, he would just say, “Follow me.” About a ½ mile into the first practice, we new recruits were feeling like death. There was so much pain. I had cramps in both shoulders, and my gut. My ankles hurt. My feet felt like they were on fire. My lungs felt like they were going to explode. And I swear I had already lost 5 lbs of sweat. It was at this point that coach said we were going 3 miles. We were speechless.

To say the least, “us” new guys made it. It might have taken us an hour, but we did it. That night I felt so good that I had ran three miles! However, the next morning, I realized the pain I felt while running had nothing on the pain you feel the day after your first running experience. My legs felt 10 lbs heavier…each. Sitting down hurt. Walking up stairs was nearly impossible. And then when we got to practice, coach said, “Ok, today we’re going 4 miles.”

Exercise hurts, but it’s how you get better. It’s how you get ready to compete! Without training, you’re not prepared for what competition brings. When you train, you prepare physically and mentally. Yes, there is mental prep too in physical training. You have to learn how to push through. You have to learn what pains are ok to feel and which ones you should listen to out of risk of injury. You have to learn how to have a game face. You have to learn how to go when you can’t go anymore (yes, it is possible).

I’m going to let you in on a secret. This is something you’ve probably heard about before. The term is “runner’s high.” There is such a thing. I remember the first time I felt this. It was a 10K (6.2 mile) race here in Canton. I had seriously trained for this one. It was the first annual event for the group organizing the race. I figured there’d be good competition there…people who I could learn from. I ended up being one of the top runners…and I’ll tell you why (not bragging here). About the halfway mark, my body gave me a blessing. Things worked perfectly. Yes, I was in pain. Yes, I was tired. Yes, I had a cramp in my side. But, as I began running through the Canton Center (Mellet Mall) parking lot, the “runner’s high” set in. The pain went away. My breathing leveled out. I really couldn’t feel my legs. It felt like I was running on air. The only way I can describe this is…it’s like turning on cruise control on a straight road with no traffic. I ran the second half faster than the first and ended up being 3rd in my age group. I medaled!

When I learned how to get to that point, I became a better runner. I learned, however, that to get to that point, I had to get through a lot of pain through training and pain through mental learning. It was not easy.

Christianity is that same way. Paul knew it. I’m assuming that as competitive as Paul sounds in his books, he loved “sport.” I’m even thinking he was a runner…or studied running or physical training. He understood that the competitor went through a lot while competing for a prize that would not last. Hours of time and sweat and tears would be spent for a single race…with no guarantee of a medal or crown. And if there was an award, it was one that would probably fade away or deteriorate with time.

Paul encourages us to train. Christianity is not something that you join up for and then God just makes you better. Christianity takes practice. It takes failure. It takes training. It’s painful. It’s tiring. It takes eternal patience. There are pains that you run through. There are pains that make you stop in your tracks. But there is also a point when everything comes together and you feel like you’re running on air…the light comes on…you have the “a-ha” moment…you have a victory…you pass on the blessing and someone accepts it. Those are the “WINS.” And in the end, you receive a prize that lasts forever. You cross the line and God is the first one to tell you “great race!”

Expect pain. Expect the blessing. If I never expected the “runner’s high” in a race, I would have never ran to get it. In those races when I didn’t expect the runner’s high, I didn’t do as well. When I expected it, I ran my heart out. Run your heart out for Christ. Expect the blessing. It’s a promise.

Say Paul’s words over and over, “…I will not be disqualified for the prize.” (v. 27)


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