OK, this will the last ‘running’ themed blog post for a while - I promise! But one more thing has been on my mind as I think about the parallels with our life with Jesus…
In every race I’ve run, there are always ‘hydration stations’ along the route. Every couple miles, there are tables with several of those big, orange Igloo coolers and tons of cups. Volunteers are lined up, filling up and handing out cups of water and Gatorade to the runners. There’s usually a guy with a big yard rake sweeping up all the cups that get thrown on the ground. That’s great – I’m glad they’re thinking of us.
It just doesn’t really work.
I mean, the first time I grabbed a cup and tried to drink it as I ran, I had more water up my nose and in my eyes than I did in my mouth. There have been times when I’ve missed the ‘cup-to-runner-transfer’ and the cup and its contents went spilling to the ground. Other times I couldn’t get over to the side to the volunteers’ outstretched hands because too many other runners had the same idea. One time I was reaching to grab a cup and another guy swooped in and grabbed it before I could. No water for me! And you can’t stop and go back. You’ve got a race to run!
I can also remember my first experience with the little packets of ‘energy gel.’ I hadn’t ever seen that before, but about 2/3 of the way through one of my longer races, they handed out these packets. I guess they’re full of good sugar and good carbs to give you a boost of energy as you run. The consistency is weird, and some of the flavors take some getting used to, but it helps you from getting depleted during a long run.
The reason those race organizers provide water and Gatorade and gels is because they know that strength doesn’t last forever. Races are hard, and people run out of energy. Runners get depleted. So it matters what you’re using to fuel your body.
And what’s true in a race is also true in our spiritual lives. Life is hard, we get depleted, and it matters what we’re using to sustain us as we run the race.
When I first started running, I never thought much about what I was eating. My mindset was, “I run, so I can eat whatever I want.” I’d have as much ice cream and pizza and fries and whatever that I wanted, and I was still losing weight. Over time, I’m realizing that’s not sustainable, or healthy. It matters what you eat, especially in order to perform well.
And if you and I are ever going to run the race of life well, to be growing closer to God and living for Him, what you’re using to fuel your spiritual life matters. You can spend your time and attention on life’s ‘junk’ food for a while, but it’s not sustainable. You won’t keep growing closer to Jesus if you’re not fueling your spiritual life.
Since there are no ‘spiritual energy gels’ or ‘holy Gatorade,’ what is that we can do to fuel our lives with God? I think the answer lies in personal spiritual habits woven into the fabric of the daily rhythms of our lives.
Are you spending time in prayer every day? If not, start! Your life with God will not be healthy without daily time talking with God. Get up 10 minutes earlier. Go to bed 10 minutes later. Turn off the radio on your commute. Have a conversation with God. It’s life-giving!
And read the Bible! Even if it’s just a few verses or a chapter a day, are you filling up on God’s truth? You won’t run your race very well if you’re not feasting on God’s Word. The best way to get to know God, find direction for your life, and get your spiritual questions answered is right there, in the Bible. So open it! You can use tools like the YouVersion app! Develop a reading plan. Let God fill you with life and energy and truth from His Word.
Another great, sustaining practice is gathering for worship with the Church. It seems to be common today to think that gathering with God’s Body, the Church, is optional, if nothing else comes up. But it’s essential to sustaining you as you run the race of life! Worship! Receive encouragement from other believers! Learn from God’s Word together! Serving others and helping them grow! These things are essential and they have to be part of your weekly spiritual rhythms of life with God.
There should never be a question in your mind as you get up each morning, “Should I pray today? Should I take time to read God’s Word this morning?” And on Sundays, it’s not a question of, “Should I get up and go to church?!” Any fully devoted follower of Jesus will have all of those disciplines and more as basic, fundamental practices for sustaining them – it’s spiritual fuel as they run the race of life!
I guess it’s like David wrote in Psalm 34:8: “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed are those who take refuge in him.” These spiritual habits help us draw close to God as we run our race.
In the same way that we wouldn’t expect anyone to run a marathon without water or Gatorade or other sustenance, we cannot expect to complete the marathon of the spiritual life without habits that connect us closer and closer with the God who made us.
Not too long ago I decided I wasn’t going to just rely on water cups from random strangers to fuel me during a race. I bought a belt with 2 bottles that clip onto it and I strap that on when I’m going on a long run. I fill one bottle with water and the other with Gatorade. Then, as I head down the road, as I feel the need, I don’t have to stop. I don’t have to wait until the next ‘hydration station.’ I can refuel when I need it. And it’s made a big difference in how I run my race.
What habits are you strapping on that help fuel your walk with God? Share in the comments…