I know that I don’t look like your typical Ironman triathlete. There is a good reason for that. I'm not one. The last 10K I ran was twenty years ago. Just thinking about riding a bike for 100 miles, running for 26.2 miles and then swimming is crazy! Before I mow my 1/5 acre lot with an electric push mower, I ask God that both the mower and I will still be working when we finish. BUT, there is one marathon race that all of us must run. That is the endurance race God has planned for our life on earth.
We are planners, some of us plan more than others. We start at a young age. By the time I was eighteen, I had a detailed blueprint of my future, career path determined, milestones established. I knew what my future wife would look like, and how we'd raise our family in an ideal home whether she liked it or not. To one extent or another, we're all planners. Getting back to my plan, it was just that, my plan. It was not God’s plan for my life. In fact, one year earlier, I felt called to full-time ministry. But, that's another story.
The Bible is full of examples of people who experienced change and adversity on a catastrophic level. Some leaned into God and his teachings. Others relied on their own instincts and talents. Moses had not planned to spend decades in the wilderness. Joseph could not have imagined being sold into slavery by his own brothers. While facing adversity their actions affected the lives of millions of God’s people. In spite of these unexpected trials, tribulations, and delays, both of these men played a large part in the history of our faith.
All of us have had our plans for life interrupted, delayed, changed, or just blown up. The fact that we are church facility managers is proof of that. None of us were sitting in a high school class dreaming of being a church facility manager. As CFMs we are forced to plan for the future at the church we serve. Then our staffing and budgets are based on “the” plan. We have all seen plans blow up in our face. And then, there are our personal lives. Four years ago, my plan for life was detoured when I lost my youngest daughter and my wife of 36 years. To say my personal life was in a crisis is a vast understatement. How we prepare for and react to unexpected adversity will often determine our future, and affect the lives of those around us. A pastor shared a blog written by Anne A. Wilson, who coaches Ironman Triathletes. She offered “10 Gems of Wisdom for the Triathlete”. Ms. Wilson takes quotes from some of the great thinkers in history and applies them to endurance racing. While the quotes and comments are secular, there are biblical principles that apply to all of them.
“You lack the season of all natures, sleep.” (Macbeth) — William Shakespeare (1564-1616) author & playwright
One of the most important facets of your triathlon training regimen is adequate rest. Of course, Shakespeare would get this right.
God’s emphasis on rest, starts in the beginning, literally. He rested after six days of working to create our world. In Exodus 20: 8-11, God codifies the importance of rest on the Sabbath. Jesus tells us in Matthew 11:28 that true rest for the weary and burdened will come from casting their cares on Him.
“It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.” — Confucius (551-479 BC) philosopher
For sure, Confucius would have been an IRONMAN had he been born 2,500 years later.
Any forward movement is progress toward a goal. This is good advice to new Christians when facing adversity. Don’t stop moving toward Christ. Paul wasn’t worried about how fast he was moving on any given day. In 2 Timothy 4: 7 Paul says, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."
“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after the other.” — Walter Elliot (1888-1958), Scottish politician
This is the endurance racing mindset in a nutshell. Taking tiny bites of the elephant…
These short races are the seasons of our life. Some seasons are more difficult than others. James tells us in chapter 1, verses 2-4, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”
“If you are going through hell, keep going.” — Winston Churchill (1874 – 1965), former British prime minister
Got to love Mr. Churchill! When you hit mile twenty in an IRONMAN run, keep this one in mind.
Remember, King David was walking through the valley of death. The Bible did not say he was tarrying there. He was not vacationing there. When life places you in an earthly hell, seek God and keep moving.
“Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there someday.” — A. A. Milne (1882-1956), author, Winnie the Pooh
It’s understandable that triathletes want to be fast now. But the thing is, it takes time and consistent training. Do this: Lay the proper foundation in your base training, and you’ll get where you want to go.
Proverbs 21 is a great example of this. Verse 1 says, “In the Lord’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water that he channels toward all who please him.”
Verse 5 advocates the slow and steady route over taking shortcuts, “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty."
“Courage is not having the strength to go on; it is going on when you don't have the strength.” — Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), 26th President of the United States
Another IRONMAN born a century too soon.
I think of Joshua here. The Israelite nation was physically, emotionally, and spiritually drained after wandering in the desert for decades. Here is Joshua, who has just lost his friend and mentor, Moses. Joshua is chosen by God to lead His children across the Jordan River into an unknown land.
“Failure is often that early morning hour of darkness, which precedes the dawning of the day of success.” — Leigh Mitchell Hodges (1876-1954), journalist and poet
I think this describes every triathlon I’ve ever entered.
I have heard many testimonies where people have described how close they were to giving up when prayers were answered. A former pastor of mine preached against giving up hope before the miracle from God arrives. In Galatians 6, we are told, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” — Maya Angelou (1928-2014), author, poet, civil rights activist
Triathletes, this is how we roll.
There are many examples of great men in the Bible that failed mightily on their own. Abraham failed multiple times. The flesh defeated King David. Moses killed the Egyptian. Still, they overcame the defeats through obedience to God.
“When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you… Never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” — Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896), American abolitionist and author
We all know how badly we’d like to stop at mile ninety on the bike.
It seems like we always notice when we are running against the wind. Do we pay attention when God has the wind at our back? In 2 Corinthians chapter 4, it says, “We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”
“If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.” — Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), author, poet, philosopher
Had a bad race? Learn from it and move on.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore, I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
Acts 20: 24
However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.
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, 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.
Disappointments and adversity come in many forms. Some are just difficulties we face every day. Others will rip our hearts out and destroy our dreams. I had planned on growing old with my wife, Jeannie. I planned on walking my daughter Raven down the aisle. All of us have suffered setbacks that crush our will to continue. How do we react? Do we curse God? Or do we run toward him seeking refuge in his strength and mercy? Do we try to carry our burdens alone? Do we reach out to our brothers and sisters in Christ? CFMs are independent by nature. All too often, we kick into our crisis management mode, reluctant to share our trials with those around us. Satan will convince us that our grief is unique to us, when others have been there and survived and then thrived. Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” There is strength in numbers.
Blessings to you my Brothers and Sisters in Christ,