Just Keeping Running
A devotional by Amy Odland
“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 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 so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” –1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NIV)
Now that we’re six months into dealing with COVID-19, I have seen more and more people commenting lately on social media about being tired and weary.
The initial anxiety and stress we all felt when everything locked down back in March has led to months of wondering, watching, and waiting.
Wondering what will change from day to day with laws, regulations, and our health as well as the health of our loved ones. Watching as political unrest grows, racial tensions widen, and natural disasters increase. Watching as leaders say one thing and do another. Waiting for a break from the stress, for a relief that never comes. People are still arguing about masks, some basic supplies are still hard to find, and distrust in the news, our friends and family, and in pretty much everything is multiplying as fast as rabbits do in the springtime.
Have you noticed the race we run as Christians has gotten a lot harder in this short amount of time? Anxiety and hardships have increased; convenience and comfort have decreased. Plans have been rescheduled, cancelled, and completely ruined. Relationships have been strained beyond what they can handle. Truths have been warped beyond recognition. We’re now running uphill on an unmaintained path, huffing and puffing and feeling a burn in our muscles like never before. We’ve maybe twisted our ankle a little on the uneven ground or lost our footing and cut our knee on a rock along the way.
We want to quit.
I’m tired and weary and want to quit.
Paul knew we’d be tired in 2020 when he wrote these words. He knew we’d be ready to throw in the towel and flush relationships broken by the turmoil of this year. He knew we’d want to block people on Facebook as another election approaches. He knew we’d want to just numb out and watch Netflix instead of washing the dishes, AGAIN, because our dishwasher is still broken after almost 8 weeks of waiting for the backordered part needed to fix it that can’t be found ANYWHERE due to COVID-19. (Ok, maybe it’s just my dishwasher that’s been broken, but you get the idea.)
Olympic athletes train for hours day after day, month after month, year after year in preparation for competing every four years for either a gold, silver, or bronze medal. In comparison, some of us who call ourselves Christians aren’t even willing to read the Bible for 5-10 minutes a day. How little effort we put towards striving for that eternal prize of being with God. Yet the prize we will receive for our effort is much more valuable than what the Olympians receive!
Yes, salvation by the grace of God is a gift. The “prize” we’ll receive someday is not something we can technically earn. But the appreciation of and continuing development of the grace we have received is not as apparent in our lives as some of us think. We need to be more purposeful in our running of the race, this thing we call living and witnessing and growing in sanctification.
We need to be purposefully reaching out to God, learning about His ways, and listening to Him more than we do. We need to avoid growing complacent to our surroundings and comfortable with our sins. We need to be purposeful in our actions. We need to keep going when we’re tired and want to quit.
Here are three ways to be more purposeful in your race if you’ve grown lazy in your faith:
Way #1: Plan
Long distance runners make plans: training plans, recovery plans, day-of-race plans, meal plans, equipment plans. Someone doesn’t just become a prize-winning long distance runner by accident. Make plans for how you’re going to grow in your faith. Get the materials you need. Find Bible reading plans. Get an accountability partner to help you stay faithful. Try new things too, like memorization or joining a prayer group as doing the same thing all the time creates stagnation, just as a runner who only runs without doing alternate training activities risks injury or muscle exhaustion.
Way #2: Act
Once plans are made, you have to follow through and DO them. You have to open your Bible and read it. You have to pray. You have to show up. Missing a day isn’t the end of the world! Don’t throw the plan out just because you were derailed by an unexpected crisis. Pick it up where you’re at when you can and don’t look behind you and beat yourself up for past failures. Doing something, no matter how small, is still a step forward toward growth.
Way #3: Pace
A long distance runner doesn’t run the same pace the whole race. There are times when a slow, steady speed is needed to conserve energy for the sprints that will be needed ahead to gain ground and a lead. A slower pace at different times in your walk is not bad. Don’t make rest your enemy! It is your friend and is needed between big bursts of high-energy seasons in your life. Just don’t fall into a consistent habit of rest and laziness. Even runners who have injured themselves have miraculously still finished a race. Your “injury” is not a valid excuse for always neglecting your God.
Make a specific plan to grow in your faith, act on that plan, and adjust your pace as the terrain requires. If Paul had written those words today, he may very well have added a “just keep running, brothers, just keep running” to the end.
Rest and slow your pace if needed, but just keep running, friend.
Amy Odland has been serving in church ministry as a volunteer leader for over 16 years, in various worship, prayer and women’s ministry roles.
Her passion for helping women stems from her own struggles and lessons learned in her journey as a Christian since first deciding to follow the Lord in 1994.
Amy’s priorities after her faith include her family — husband Rick, and their four kids — as well as extended family who all live close in proximity and the many friends she’s made over the years.
In addition to a love of teaching and helping her husband with the bookkeeping for their many businesses, Amy has recently expanded her stay-at-home work to include leading author’s book launch teams for publishing companies like Baker, Revell, Barbour, and Lifeway.
She also enjoys teaching new authors about platform building, self-launching, and online marketing.
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