Friday, July 5, 2019

Outdoor Object Lesson 103: Train For God

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"Don’t you know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run like that, that you may win. Every man who strives in the games exercises self-control in all things. Now they do it to receive a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible. I therefore run like that, as not uncertainty. I fight like that, as not beating the air, but I beat my body and bring it into submission, lest by any means, after I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected." 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (WEB)

Trail running is one of the more elite forms of running sports. It requires a high level of fitness and nimbleness. In fact, any form of running requires a high level of fitness compared with many other sports and recreation activities. Some of the longest and most grueling foot races in the world involve trail running. The Barkley Marathon held in Tennessee, USA is only 100 miles long but one of the hardest races in the world. Participants climb approximately 54000 feet of elevation, just less than twice the height of Mt. Everest. Since it began, over 800 people have attempted the race and only 15 have ever finished in the required time limit. Another, The Dragons Back Race takes place in Wales along the spine of a mountain range. It is about 186 miles long and includes 51000 feet of elevation gain throughout the five-day race. The fastest racers run for 18 hours a day.

One unofficial foot race is to complete the Appalachian Trail fastest. The AT is one of the longest trails anywhere in the world. From time to time people attempt to break the standing fastest known time. At 2189 miles long, this is one of the longest trail runs anywhere in the world. It also includes more elevation gain than the Continental Divide Trail through the Rocky Mountains or the Pacific Crest Trail on the west coast of the USA which are both longer.2 Currently the fastest record on the AT is 41 days, 7 hours and 39 seconds held by Karel Sabbe.3 Completing this trail at a run is certainly a feat.

Trail running requires a lot of commitment and perseverance. It requires constant training and a willingness to keep going, no matter how you feel. It requires endurance, fortitude, and tenacity. To be good at trail running, it must be more than a leisure pursuit, it must be a lifestyle. You will never succeed at winning, or even finishing any of the races mentioned above if you only run once in a while. The lifestyle of a trail runner is all-encompassing. Every aspect of your life impacts your performance including what you eat, how much you sleep, how often you train, how you train, and what you wear. What you listen to and read also affect your performance. The best trail runners and athletes in the world know that what you listen too and read affects your thoughts and your thoughts greatly impact your performance.

This is why Paul compared our spiritual life to that of a runner. Trail runners understand his metaphor perhaps even better than the rest of us. Of course, anyone, athlete or not can understand what Paul is trying to illustrate. But trail runners experience each of the parallels made to running intimately. They practice the self-control Paul talks about in every area of life.

Pauls main point is that we need to live our spiritual lives like just like trail runners. Our entire lives must be centered around our one goal --heaven. Our spiritual lives should be as disciplined as that of a trail runner. Every single thing we do impacts our performance. What we eat and drink spiritually, whether we rest completely in God, even what we think about all affect our performance.

Salvation is a gift of God. Nothing we do can will earn us salvation. But, once we accept that salvation, we are called to live to a higher standard (Romans 12:2). Jesus says in another place, we must daily take up our cross (Luke 9:23 NET). And in another, Paul admonishes us to put on the full armor of Christ (Ephesians 6:10-20). Accepting Jesus means you are entering a struggle. Jesus will give you every single thing you need to win. He is your trainer, your coach. But you must be faithful in following him and everything he says to do. When you fail, go back to Jesus your coach, admit your fault, and get back on your training schedule. That is the only way to win the race of life and win the incorruptible crown.


Do you enjoy running or think it is an evil form of torture?

How does what we think about affect our performance spiritually?

Does what we eat and drink affect physically our performance spiritually? (The answer is yes, think 7 deadly sins)

What will you do to improve our spiritual training today?


1. Merrill, "The 10 Longest Races in the World," Sports Management Degree Hub, (January 5, 2017), assessed June 11, 2019 from

2. Tee Corley, "5 Reasons the AT Will Be Harder than the PCT,", (March 17, 2015), accessed June 11, 2019 from

3. Adam Ruggiero, "Karel Sabbe Smashes Appalachian Trail Record By 4 Days,", (August 29, 2018), accessed June 11, 2019 from

Written by David F. Garner
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