A while back, a friend and I talked about the importance of following the ‘rules’ of training. She is an elite athlete and competes at a very high level. She admittedly doesn’t like to rest. She likes to move. She is a two-time cancer survivor, a near-fatal car accident survivor, and a typhoid fever survivor. Now that she’s healthy, she wants to move! I understand her completely. I’m the same way.

The thing is, though her coach repeatedly tells her to pull back at times and keep some reserve in the tank for the intense days, she figures, ‘if I have it, I’m going to expend it.’ Again, I understand her completely, because I’m much the same way.

But in order for us to accomplish the whole of what God has appointed us, we must never consider ourselves an ‘exception to the rule.‘ If we run too hard without rest, we’ll burn out. If we live half-hearted lives, we’ll miss out. If we lose focus, we’ll lose purpose. This is the race of our lives, friends, and if we want to ‘run to win’ we need to play by the rules.

“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. 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. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-25

Let’s take a moment to consider the different aspects of ‘running to win’ as it relates to our physical and spiritual lives:

Run focused

Smart athletes keep their eye on the prize, on the goal. They say ‘no’ to many things so they can say yes to the race set before them. We have a destiny and a specific call of God woven into our spiritual DNA. We live on this planet, in this day, in our community for some very distinct reasons. How about you? What are your God-assignments? Have you said yes to too many good things, or even not-so-good things that have deterred you from your God-ordained purpose on this earth?

Stay nourished

Smart athletes nourish themselves regularly throughout the day. Their input has everything to do with their output. If they skip meals or eat junk food, their performance will suffer significantly. How about you? Are you feeding yourself throughout the day with the things of God? In this day, we have access to spiritual nourishment with the click of a button. There’s no reason in the world for us to be spiritual malnourished. Don’t let your taste for spiritual food wane, otherwise your life choices will follow suit.

Train hard

Smart-winning athletes put their time into training. They take initiative when everyone else is sitting in front of the TV eating guacamole dip (something I’ll be doing later on tonight). 🙂 Truly though, since the Bible likens us to an elite athlete, we need to look at our level of training. Do you consider heavy seasons as an opportunity to get stronger, or do you complain, whine, and drop the ball on your faith when you’re not getting your way? Are you earnest in prayer and do you take initiative to serve God every moment you think of it? We’re not here to dabble in Christianity, we are either all-in or nothing (Revelations 3:15-16).

Rest well

Finally, and this is perhaps the most difficult aspect of training, the truly smart athlete knows how and when to rest. We don’t necessarily rest when we feel like it. I can think of plenty of times I ‘felt’ desperate for rest and God told me to get up and run. In hindsight, I was thankful I did. Great fruit came from those times. We are called to rest as the Lord leads, on Sabbath, in-our-hearts-as-a-way-of-life, and during seasons when the Lord pulls us out of the rat race and puts us into a circumstance where we have no other choice. One thing we must remember: God-directed rest will always propel us forward. God-rest heals, restores, and replenishes. Lazy-rest rips us off and depletes us of the muscle and motivation necessary for the race.

“How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.” Proverbs 6:9-11

Take a look at your form today. Are you strong in one area and yet neglecting another? May the Lord speak to your heart and help you to make the necessary adjustments.

“And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels. Be prepared.” Ephesians 6:10-13

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