With my husband, Pat, at my side, my confidence level at an all time high, great expectations set for myself and a heart full of determination, out the door we went. Following the programs schedule we completed the five-minute warm-up walk and then, I imagined the "ding" of the bell and the man's voice telling us to "start running" and that's what we did. Pat had his stopwatch and we took off for our eight-minute, or longer, run. However, after just a short time I had a revelation. This was hard. In fact, it was much harder than I anticipated it would be. I said to Pat, "Wow. This is much tougher than I thought it would be. I don't think I can run as long on the road as the treadmill. I don't think I can run eight minutes straight." His reply? "Of course it is harder. You don't have the treadmill beneath your feet moving you along. You have to do the work out here." He is such a smart man. I hadn't even considered the fact that it might be more difficult once I was out on the road. I thought I was prepared and ready to go. I assumed that if I could run eight minutes on the treadmill, I would run eight minutes on the road. I could not run the same distance and you know what? As I thought about that I also began to see some of the similarities of my Couch to 5K experience and my Christian walk. Here is what I saw...
In the same way that I had prepared myself and increased my endurance in running, God calls His children to do the same. We are encouraged in Hebrews 12:1 to "... lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us" (NKJV). Building up endurance is hard work. When I began the work on the treadmill I could not run for two minutes straight. But as long as I was faithful to do the work, each time I got on that treadmill, I was able to run longer each time. This reminded me of the early years when I began my walk with Christ. My endurance time was pretty short. We attended church, here and there, but we weren't faithful church attendees. When we were at church, my mind was usually more focused on the pressing issues of the moment rather than anything that came from the pastor's mouth. However, the more faithful I became to church attendance, the more faithful my ears were to tune in to the message. My endurance time for church, and the Lord, grew as I stopped looking at the clock, and refused to allow my mind to wander. Then I began to discover life from the message of the Word.
Another way I found them similar was the shock that it was much harder than I expected it would be to run the race outside. I truly thought I was prepared for the road. But, as Pat said, I didn't have the treadmill doing the work of moving me along. That happens in our Christian lives as well. Running the race can be easy when we are surrounded by other Christians who help us "move along" in our Christian walk. But what happens when we get outside the church walls and others don't believe as we do? What happens to our Christian walk when we are with our friends who don't understand why church is important? What do we do when we are drawn into situations that we know God opposes in His Word? It was always easy for me to be a "Good Christian Girl" when I was around other Christians; but there were always moments when my attitude and behaviors changed when my associations changed. I realize now that running on the pavement is much more difficult than running on the treadmill, just as, living according to the Word of God among opposing viewpoints is much more difficult than when surrounded by others with the same beliefs. We can sit in a church service on a Sunday morning and hear a great word that builds us up, but when we walk out the door, the race is on and the running can be strenuous. 2 Chronicles 27:6 tells us that King "Jotham became mighty, because he prepared his ways before the Lord his God" (NKJV). Be prepared!
My expectations were really high when I put my shoes on and walked to the end of the driveway. I thought the time had come when I could run with ease. I was ready to go the distance! That can happen when we make the decision to go to church, and we hear the news of what Christ has done for us. We understand that our need for Jesus is great and we surrender our hearts to Him. Now we believe that life is going to immediately take on a new form. All our troubles and problems are going to simply fade away and happiness will abound forever more in our lives. No more pain, no more sorrow...just a life of love, joy and peace. But then reality sets in and we realize that we still live with the same mate, our kids still push and pull the same buttons, the workplace still has the same people and our mind still thinks the same thoughts as always. The checkbook still carries a negative balance and every appliance in the house may crash and burn within a week. We must be careful that we don't allow our expectations of what we thought would happen to overshadow what really happened. We quickly forget that while our circumstances may not have changed, our heart has. 2 Corinthians 5:17 confirms to us that we are new. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." Once we give our hearts to Jesus, we have become new, unfortunately the new man still has the mind of the old man and that takes time, along with discipline, to change. As we attend church, read the Bible, spend time in prayer and with other Christians, our minds are renewed and transformed. Don't allow yourself to set your belief on your circumstances. It's easy to believe that if things are going well, God is Good but if things are bad, then God obviously doesn't care. Set your belief on a God Who is bigger than your circumstance and can help you handle the circumstance in a manner that brings glory to Him. Put your expectation on the Lord.
While I might have been discouraged with my failed attempt to run a great distance, I am pleased at the progress made and am determined to press on. A goal has been set and I intend to make it happen, no matter how long it may take me. I will continue building up my endurance and won't easily give up just because my expectations are not met according to my timing and plans. With that in mind, run your race with the Lord building up your endurance each and every day. Philippians 3:14 reminds us to "...press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Surround yourself with like-minded Christians who can help you "move along" in your walk, but don't expect anyone to do the work for you. Even God won't do the work for you. He is looking for you to do your part. Maybe you need to become faithful in your relationship with the Lord, work on your attitude, or change some associations. Do you need to spend more time in prayer and the Word? Set your expectations on the Lord. Don't allow your circumstance to dictate your relationship with Him. Seek Him for help and guidance on how to handle the circumstance. Life is hard race to run. Remember, running outside is much more difficult than on the treadmill. Be prepared.