Late last summer, a buddy (who will remain unnamed but see above picture) and me convinced ourselves that it would be a good idea to sign up for a marathon. I'm not sure what compelled us to even want to attempt this. I've never run a marathon. I'm not a runner. I'm not built like a runner. I really don't even LIKE to run. But, I do like the idea of saying that I ran a marathon. I like the results I get from training. So, I paid my money and signed up. I downloaded a “beginner” plan and begin to prepare myself mentally. I was all fired up and emailed the plan to my friend.
……Then, he bailed! The 18-week training regimen lay before me like a big, ugly dragon to be slayed. Reality was setting in. Each week the distances would go up. The days would get shorter. The mornings would get darker. The air would get colder. I was going to have to do it alone. Signing up is easy. Training is hard.
It's a principal that holds true with any endeavor. Your hobbies, your career, your marriage, your relationship with Jesus. But, if we're honest, many of us wing it. At least some of the time. We settle for "pretty good" or "better than the next guy". Our results aren't what we want them be and eventually we're on to the next thing.
Men, hear me on this. Maybe that's ok with fly-fishing or bow hunting or yard darts or whatever hobby you choose. It’s not going to cut it in your relationship with Jesus. Don't confuse my point here. I'm not suggesting that you have to perform for Christ. What I'm absolutely saying is that Christ has a plan to use you to advance His kingdom and He doesn't expect you to simply sign up to follow him. He REQUIRES you train hard so when the time comes, you will be useful and effective. There's no room for half stepping. Too much is at stake. He paid too much.
The bible speaks clearly in many places regarding training. Here is a passage I recently spent some time on:
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:5-11
Did you catch it? “MAKE EVERY EFFORT”, “IF THESE QUALITIES ARE YOURS AND ARE INCREASING,” “BE ALL THE MORE DILLIGENT”.
Signing up is easy. I think most would admit that when they first understood the gospel, it was pretty easy to put our faith in Jesus. When we finally saw our sin wrecked lives for what they were, it was easy to accept the work Jesus did on the cross, ultimately setting us free. We signed up. We had faith.
Training is hard. Now the work begins. Supplement your faith with virtue. The word here means excellence. So be excellent. In all you do and strive for excellence. Next, add knowledge. How do you get knowledge? You attain knowledge through prayer and study. Spend some time in Proverbs and see what it says about knowledge and how to get it. Add to this list self-control. In all areas, be self-controlled. Easier said then done, right? Then, steadfastness. And to steadfastness, godliness…. Training is hard work.
In March I'll line up at the starting line for the marathon. I'll have my race number on. I'll have on running shorts and shoes. A cool running watch. I'll look like a runner. Everyone there will know that I signed up. It's what I do in the next four or five hours that will tell the story. It will be simple to tell. I'll either finish or I won't.
The same is true in your walk with Jesus. There will come times in your life when you have to line up for the race. The question is, did you just sign up for the race or have you been training for the moment?
Do the work. Train hard. Your families need you. The Church needs you. The world needs you. Jesus died and rose again so you could sign up. Do the work.