Picture this: you are standing at the starting line on race day. You have been properly fueled and hydrated and you are dressed well to run your race. The buzz sounds signaling the start of the race and you realize that despite all the excitement surrounding this day there was one vitally important thing that you forgot: training.

Jumping into a race can be a lot of fun, provided that you are prepared for what you are about to experience. Yes, there are plenty of people who run just for the fun of it and don’t bother to prepare, but that is not realistic and honestly, not the safest thing to do. Races are exhilarating, but they are also strenuous on your mind and on your body. And if you are not physically prepared for what you about to embark on, the results could be detrimental.

Spiritually, it’s the same idea. Scripture tells us that we are all in a race. So, as believers, whether we want to run or not, is not really the question. We will be running. But how well we run depends on how well we have trained. The third racing tip I have for you is this: Train Well (if you missed the first two, Stay Hydrated and Wear the Right Clothes, I encourage you to go read them first)

The key to training well is to progress slowly and to include variety. You first must walk, then run. You need to strength train. You have to cross-train. Everything together is what makes you a stronger runner. But don’t set out to do it all at once. Excel in one thing and then add another. Learn how to squat well and then add weight. When your legs are strong, add cycling. See what I mean? When you attempt to undertake it all at the same time, you are going to burn out and risk injury. Step by step. Strengthen your muscles and add variety. Spiritually discipline yourself. Learn to pray. Be consistent with reading your Bible.  Learn the Shepherd’s voice and how to follow it. Get involved with a local church.

Then serve.

Then teach Sunday school.

Then head up the hospitality committee.

Don’t get ahead of yourself and try to prove how good of a Christian you are to someone else. Satan wants you to fail. Satan wants you to get so burned out with your Christian walk that you give up on doing it all. He wants believers to get so frustrated with the basics of Christianity that they give up and quit growing. And he is very good at what he does. All it takes is a simple look around you, sometimes within your own family, to see how successful he is. Don’t let him win. Train yourself well. Slowly. Progressively. Permanently.

I love how 2 Peter 1:5-10 explains it, “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 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. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm our calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.”

The apostle Peter knew that all these qualities were necessary for a believer to be effective. They were the results of faith. The results of a desire to live a life of holiness. But he also knew that it wasn’t something that was going to happen overnight. First, he said add to your faith, virtue. Then knowledge. Then self-control, etc. Over time, all these qualities would work together and become second nature to the believer. They would naturally overflow in their life. Pursuing each of those things kept them strong, kept them alert, kept them growing as believers ought to grow. Once they were proficient in one thing, they could seek to add another. It was all part of a building block system meant to keep their spiritual fruit growing.

Part of growth also means adding variety to your routine. Squatting body weight is fine for a while, but eventually your muscles get used to it and it loses effectiveness. So what do you do? You add weight. It places new demands on the same muscles, which in turn, makes them get stronger. Running is great cardiovascular exercise. But it only uses certain muscles. What about all the others that need training? Cycling, HIIT training, Kickboxing, all those things will target muscles that running won’t. Variety is key in growth. Getting stuck in a pattern of comfortable is not only boring, it can limit growth opportunities.

As believers we can only be satisfied with milk for so long. Over and over in the New Testament you hear warnings of being immature in the faith (1 Corinthians 3:2, Hebrews 5:12, 1 Peter 2:2). Our bodies were meant to grow. Spiritually, we were meant to grow and produce fruit. But to grow, we have to get out of what is comfortable and do hard things. We have to take the basics that we know and are proficient in and add to it. We have to go through trials in order to produce perseverance (James 1:3). We need to suffer persecution in order to know how to defend our faith. Maybe we have to teach children’s choir in order to learn a lesson in patience. Maybe we have to live through a worldwide pandemic in order to learn how to genuinely care about people. Hard things are meant to make you grow. I’ve heard it said that 90% of fitness is mental and only 10% is physical. It’s all about perspective. You can do hard things. Set your mind on things above and pursue it with everything in you.

Training in righteousness is a progression. It doesn’t happen overnight. But training well means we are focused. We are determined. We are growing as we ought to be growing and are producing fruit that is definitive of the believer. As we get proficient in the basics, we learn something new. We safely train our muscles to handle more strenuous activity. And when we are strong and equipped well, then we can run well.

We’re hydrated. We’re dressed. We’re trained. There’s only one thing left to do, and that’s run.

Have a great weekend, friends!
Jennifer

Crafty Details
A few weeks ago, after receiving some new watercolor paints, I made a set of journaling cards just so I could play with my colors. For this project, I grabbed one of those cards and stamped the Grow in Grace mini stamp with my MISTI. I then added some texture to the background with Texture Tiles 1 in Picked Raspberry and Spiced Marmalade distress oxides. I colored in the flower with my Prismacolor pencils and wrote out 2 Peter 1:5-7 on the back. I clipped the card into my study Bible (which I don’t usually do) but wanted it there as a reminder that in order to grow in grace, we have to be diligent to pursue the Godly characteristics listed.

Running the Race Series:
Part 1: Stay Hydrated
Part 2: Wear the Right Clothes
Part 3: Train Well (currently reading)
Part 4: Run With Endurance

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