A few years ago, I coached a middle school track team. Most of the kids were there to flirt, or gab, or…Okay, so I have no idea why they were there, but it certainly wasn’t to improve. During endurance training, they’d jog (or should I say, walk-shuffle-jog-shuffle) when I passed, only to resume their turtle pace as soon as I was out of view. Or so they thought. I suppose they never realized the span of our peripheral vision.
The lack of drive in most of the students irritated me, or perhaps confused me would be a better term, but honestly, I didn’t give them much thought. Instead, I focused on those that clearly wanted to be there–to learn and improve.
There was one boy in particular. He puked after every turn-out. Every one. At first I was concerned. I searched the internet for nutritional information, then relayed what I learned to him and his dad. Perhaps it was a salt deficiency. Maybe he was hungry, or hadn’t fully digested his food.
One by one, every reasonable explaination was eliminated. So, I began to watch him closely, then it made sense.
The boy gave his all, 110%, each and every practice.
I ran track and cross-country in school, and know what it feels like to cross the finish line spent, nauseas and trembling from exhaustion. In fact, most coaches would tell you if you’re not spent at the end of the race, then you didn’t give your all.
There’s nothing worse than standing on the other end of the finish line knowing you could have done better. Only now the race is over.
The Bible often equates our life to a race. In Hebrews 12, we are told to run with perseverance and to endure rigid training, knowing every tear, every struggle, every exhausting disappointment and panic-invoking computer crash, has a purpose.
1 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 race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. 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. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
God Disciplines His Children
4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 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.
12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.
When I coached, I focused most on the athletes that worked hard. If they were going to give their all, I’d give them mine as well. And I pushed them hard. I ran along side them, saying, “Faster! Faster! Faster!” during our sprints. I watched them closely, pushing them to their brink, then allowing them to recover just long enough…but as soon as they caught their breath, I pushed them again.
Can we expect any less from God? Would we really want less?
Athletes know there’s no middle ground. You either go after the gold with everything you’ve got, or you get out of the race.
What race has God mapped out for you and how diligently are you training? Are you giving it your all or just trying to squeak by?