I heard a talk by Kathy Keller once in which she described her realisation that, rather than humans inventing a God who is like things they understand, (fathers, shepherds, etc.) God created a world full of things that that humans can understand so that we can start to understand Him. The world exists as a living metaphor (an incarnate metaphor even..?) for the express purpose of God revealing Himself to us. In a way, life is one long sermon illustration.
This piece is to reflect that, here in the context of a good ol’ midweek run. It’s just for fun related also to the idea of getting some more Bible in your day, to understanding the Bible by experiencing the world.
This isn’t a thing about how to be better and try harder. It’s just for fun. Did I say that? Think of this as a Nike Running Club style guided run.
Read: Hebrews 12:1-3 (or all the way up to 13 if you like)
Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the road marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him, who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. If you can, try to memorise it.Hebrews 12:1-3
Hebrews is all about sticking with Jesus through hardship, and here the writer uses a powerful image – that of a runner- to help us to steel ourselves to persevere.
(Also warm up physically. I basically never bother because I just want to get going and warming up feels like a waste of time. Just being honest.)
Get Dressed: As you don your running clothes, consider that when you put your trust in the Lord you received a new identity, joined a new team. Just like your suitable footwear and comfortable clothing will help you to run, you are now clothed with Christ’s righteousness which will equip you to persevere to the end. (Colossians 3, Galatians 3:27). Also, as you get ready to run, think about verse 1 of Hebrews 12 and don’t tie a rope around your ankles. That would be silly. In your life right now, what feels like something that hinders, or a sin that easily entangles? How might you go about throwing it off?
Plan your route: Or, plan how long you are going to run, or how far. The Lord has a literal and metaphorical ‘race marked out for you’ but as you set out you might not know exactly where your feet will take you. Just like in life.
Let’s run. As you run I want you to do three things:
Fix your eyes on a point up ahead that you are determined to run to. It doesn’t matter how far away it is. Think about the image from Hebrews 12 of how we fix our eyes on Jesus who is the Pioneer and Perfecter of our faith. He has gone ahead and He has won the race for us. An even better image would be if you could get another person to run just ahead of you who could set your pace and keep turning round to smiled encouragingly. Even as I write I realise that for some reason I’ve always picture this verse to mean that Jesus is somewhere far away in the distance but there is no reason not to think of him as a runner who is really close to you; a coach even. The wonderful thing is that Jesus is both at the finish line and running alongside us by His Spirit.
Push yourself at some point during the run. If you’re a good runner already maybe put in a hill sprint or fartlek (tee hee). Remind yourself of the physical feeling of endurance. Then remember a time in the past (or present) where spiritual endurance was/ is hard. Persevere. Think of verse 3: “consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Visualise the reason or reward for your run. It could simply be the sweet, sweet endorphins that kick in when you’re done, or a relaxing shower or, a big slab of chocolate cake and a cup of tea. It could be a longer term goal or purpose to your run – increased physical fitness, a better sense of well-being, keeping up with your kids. Consider Jesus: “for the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” I’m not comparing Jesus’ death on the cross to thigh-burn but the point is that we can put up with, embrace even, something difficult when we know it’s for a purpose. We can bring glory to God by persevering in faith until we reach our final wonderful Home with Him.
Read Hebrews 12:11:
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on however it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”Hebrews 12:11
Maybe your run wasn’t that painful (although it should have had something difficult in it, see above). But it has produced something. The same is true of trials and difficulties, however big or small in our lives. Now shut your eyes and try to re-live moment by moment the whole of your run. Impossible. But at the time you experienced it with all of you and at times it hurt. If the run is a metaphor for our lives, try to imagine how different things will look once we reach our Eternal Home.
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all2 Corinthians 4:7
A fellow athlete, the apostle Paul wrote of his life as it drew to an end that it was like he had finished a race:
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.2 Timothy 4:7-8
Paul’s life wasn’t an easy jog round the park on a sunny day. It was a long, arduous slog, closer to an ultramarathon in a thunderstorm. He knew suffering and hardship. It knew what it was like to think you just can’t put one foot in front of the other. He also knew that it was worth it to finish the race and stand before our Lord in victory.
So there we have it: mediative running. I hope it stayed, mostly, just the right side of cheesy. I’d like to recommend a book called A Beautiful Work In Progress if you’d like some inspiring stories about running which partly cemented my decision to write this post.
I wonder what other activities of everyday life could be enriched by taking a similar approach… Washing up? Catching the bus?