Bill Gaultiere, Ph.D.
In 2009 I won a medal for finishing the “Surf City” marathon in Huntington Beach, California. I ran 26.2 miles in under 4 hours. It was actually the 5th marathon that I’ve completed and it was my slowest one, but it might be the one I’m the most proud of because I did it at 46 years old. The other four I did in the physical prime of my life, between ages 17 and 21.
You’re probably thinking to yourself: “I couldn’t run 26.2 miles!” Or maybe, “I wouldn’t want to run 26.2 miles!” Well, most of you, if you wanted to run a marathon you could do it – if you trained for it.
To finish my last marathon I trained for months. Every Saturday morning I did a long run. I started with a four-mile run that goes alongside the two lakes near my home. Each week I went a little farther, building up to a 20 mile-long run in the hills. I also did shorter runs or rode my bike each week. And I worked out with weights and the stair master three times a week.
My preparation enabled me to enjoy the race – until I hit “the wall” at mile 20! My overall experience of the race was that it was wonderfully inspiring to run on paths lined with people cheering me on as I made my way through parks and along the ocean. And then what a thrill it was to cross the finish line in under four hours with thousands of people – including my wife and three kids – cheering for me!
Running with Jesus, my Coach, is what I enjoyed most about my race and all the jogging I do. We read in the Gospels that Jesus went up into the hills to pray. So I run out the door of my house to follow Jesus into the hills near my home! I love to be alone with Jesus in the quiet and beauty of nature, meditating on Scripture and conversing with him about life in his kingdom.
Jesus is my Champion of Psalm 19:5 who is rejoicing to run his course in the kingdom heavens all around us. So as I run my life race I fix my eyes on Jesus. I listen to him. I keep in step with him. He is the author and perfecter of my faith (Hebrews 12:2).
The Apostle Paul taught us that the only way to run a good life race is to go into training with Jesus. “Train yourself to be godly,” he urged Timothy and us too (1 Timothy 4:7). Spiritually, we need to get in shape! Paul challenges us:
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 a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
Going into training with Jesus is the only way you can succeed at being his disciple. You can’t do algebra until you learn decimals. You can’t minister healing love to people until you learn to pray as Jesus prayed. And you can’t do all you do in your daily life as Jesus’ disciple without using disciplines to prepare yourself.
There are many spiritual disciplines that we can use as “means of grace” to help us to run a good life race with Jesus. In my Soul Shepherding ministry I teach people how to train with Jesus for their spiritual growth. For instance, you can learn to…
• Meditate deeply on God’s Word to renew your mind (Romans 12:1-2)
• Fast from food (or some food) for awhile in order to feast on the bread of angels (Psalm 78:24-25)
• Meet alone with Jesus in quiet to “Be still and know that he is God” (Psalm 46:10)
• Learn to serve others as Christ has served you (Matthew 20:26-28)