It’s that time of year again.
For fourteen years, Oklahoma City has come together to run and remember the lives lost in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building on April 19, 1995. Our city was forever changed, and we never want to forget those lost in the senseless act of terrorism.
Last year, I took on the half marathon—13.1 miles through the heart of the city. It was an amazing sense of accomplishment to cross that finish line. Despite walking into the race feeling somewhat unprepared, I surprised myself with a much better performance than I expected.
This year, I joined a team. Together, the five of us split the 26.2 miles into five legs. I was assigned the last leg—the final 6.2 miles straight south to the finish line in downtown OKC.
In Oklahoma, weather is always a potential issue. Few places experience the extremes that we do, especially in the spring. Having participated in the last six marathons, I know it’s important to watch the weather. We have run in beautiful sunshine, cold rain. We’ve seen the marathon delayed because of lightning. We’ve seen runners run while it was hailing. We’ve had beautiful, light breezes, and incredibly strong, gusty winds. We just have to watch and do our best to prepare.
For the last week, it has been obvious that weather could play a big role in this year’s run. With severe storms—even tornadoes—predicted for Saturday night into marathon morning, I’ve been watching every newscast to see what to expect.
Sure enough, the storms rolled into the state. However, it was actually early Sunday morning when they hit. The marathon was scheduled to start at 6:30—just as golf ball size hail, wind, and lightning rolled into downtown. Around 30,000 runners were forced to seek shelter as race officials made the decision to postpone the start. For nearly two hours, it was uncertain if the race would even take place. Finally, around 8:20, the runners began their grueling 26.2 mile run.
Although I was able to avoid the storms since I was running the last leg, the forecast called for wind gusts up to 50 mph behind the dry line—a typical Oklahoma day. However, I can barely even stand in 50 mph winds, let alone run 6.2 miles directly into the wind.
As I ran my leg, I struggled. Although I finished, I had to slow down to a walk several times. My time was nearly ten minutes slower than my six mile training run the weekend before. I realized that because I was only running six miles, I had last year’s half marathon success in my mind and convinced myself it would be no big deal. This time last year, six miles was nothing—but I simply didn’t train the way I should have. But, as always, I learned some valuable lessons.
Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne. Hebrews 12:1-2
Running can be grueling. This weekend, my body simply did not want to cooperate. I was tired, run down, depleted. As I began to run, I knew it was going to be a long, difficult six miles. About four miles into the run, my body was fighting against me and I decided to walk for a short distance. After just 50 yards or so, the crowd saw me struggling. I heard shouts of encouragement from “You can do this!” to “Just two more turns!” I again picked up my pace, returned to a run, determined to finish. It was only because of the spectators and their enthusiasm that I was able to endure.
That’s much the same way the Christian life is to be run. Not only should we make it a point to surround ourselves with godly friends here on earth, but we have a large crowd who has gone before us. They should serve as examples to us of how we should run this race here on earth. It’s a long race—much longer than a marathon. It requires endurance. If we are holding onto anything that might be slowing us down (like anger and bitterness), toss it aside. Focus on the finish line—the One who endured far more than we will ever understand.
Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, 5 in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another. Romans 12:4-5
I have so much respect for those who have the endurance to run the entire 26.2 miles on their own. There is no way I could have made it this year. As an individual, my 6.2 miles was all I could handle this year. However, when I was paired up with four other individuals each giving their best effort, together we were able to complete the entire race.
That’s how Christ meant for us as Christians to relate to one another. Not one of us has the ability or gifts to do it all. He created us to operate as a team, as one body. While I may have the gift of encouragement, someone else may have the gift of prophecy. Both are essential to the family of Christ. It takes all of us using our own unique gifts and strengths to make a complete team.
Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come….That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe. Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. 1 Timothy 4:7-16
Most people don’t wake up one morning, decide they are going to run a marathon, and then sign up for one the next week. It takes months of preparation, a determination to persevere, a mental mind-set that forces you to get up each day and train.
And yet, how many of us approach the Christian life with the same mentality, to focus so much time and attention on becoming who Christ created us to be? How many of us take the time to look deep inside our hearts and muster the courage to get rid of every hint of deception and lies planted in our souls? How many of us watch our lives and doctrine so closely that we are guarding ourselves from the deceiver? How many of us consider the example we are setting 24 hours a day, watching our speech, our conduct, our love, our faith, and our purity?
Right now, I find myself in an intense season of trials—some so difficult that I would rank this time right up there with the pain of adultery and divorce that I experienced five years ago. The difference is that I have been training—spending time with my Savior every day, begging Him to reveal His truth to me, asking Him to show me anything that is displeasing to Him. While the truth is sometimes ugly, while the training can be difficult, I find the joy of hearing Him speak to me daily. I sense His presence more than ever before in my life. Even though the fire is heated to a point so high, I find that I have a deep inner sense of peace and a confidence that my God is in control. When we train for godliness, we can experience Him—even when the storms of this life are ripping our lives apart.
Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:25
One of the biggest obstacles I faced this year was the wind. I was running straight south into the wind every step of my race. It tossed me. It threw me off step. I often had to put my head down just to keep moving.
That’s how life is when we choose to run against the Spirit. We find ourselves fighting the Him, trying to go against what He has planned. When we choose to run with the Spirit, to go the way He wants us to, we experience the ease of life. We experience all the abundance that He has planned for us. Our lives are marked by the fruit of the Spirit. The race is much easier.
Does running with the Spirit mean we never experience tough times? No. It is still a marathon, still a race of endurance. But when we choose to keep in step with the Spirit, He pushes us from behind. He gives us that extra boost that provides us the energy to keep going. He takes all the baggage that would slow us down, hinder our race. While He asks us to go in the strength we have, He promises to be the strength in our weakness.
How are you doing in this Christian life? Are you running a race to remember—a race that will leave a legacy to your family? Are you setting an example by your endurance in the tough things in this life? Are you running with the Spirit or against Him? Decide today that you will train for a life of godliness. It’s the best training you can do!