The Christian Walk...It's Not a Sprint or a Marathon

​I exercise pretty regularly, but I am far from a person who lives for exercise. I do it to maintain my attitude. Just ask my family. If I go more than a couple days without exercise, I am a totally different person. There is just something about the endorphins that are released during exercise that calm this mind.
 
Before you go on thinking that I am some super human exerciser, I am going to make a confession. My exercise level is something short of athletic and I have honestly no desire whatsoever at this present moment to ever be a marathoner or a triathlete. None. I hesitate to say, “never” because whenever I say that word, it usually comes to be so I’ll leave it at “not right now.”
 
My idea of working out is interval training. I get on the elliptical several times a week and press the “interval” button and I hang on. You see, the interval training allows me to work really hard for two minutes and barely work for two minutes (in order to get my heart rate down of course). This kind of training allows me to burn the fat that so easily seems to stick to me these days. Yes, I am building muscle and endurance, but I am more concerned with burning away that gross stuff we call “fat” on my body so I can still squeeze myself into my six-year old skinny jeans.
​Recently, I have been reflecting on the fact that interval training is much like a Christian’s walk. I am sure you have heard many times that “the Christian walk is not a sprint; it is a marathon,” but I am here to argue that it is not a marathon either. No, it is interval training at its best.
 
Sprinters…they are lean and mean. They run really fast for a short period of time and that’s it.
​Marathoners…they run long distances without ever getting a break.
​Interval trainers….they peak and rest…peak and rest.
 
Look closely at that list, which one do you honestly think you can maintain for a long period of time?
 
I hope you said interval training!
 
The Apostle Paul loved to liken the Christian walk to a “race.” In his letter to Timothy, he stated, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7) In 1 Corinthians 9:24, he told the church, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.”
 
The pastor in Hebrews 12:1 told the crowd, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”
 
We have a start and a finish. Our Christian start begins the moment we accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives (of which each of us must make this very personal decision) and we finish our race when we leave this earth and ascend to heaven.
 
But, in any race, there are stumbling blocks…pebbles and bumps in the road, weather changes, inclines and declines. It is rare that the conditions are always perfect. This is why picturing our Christian walk as interval training is much more accurate.
 
God rested and He wants us to rest too.
 
In the beginning, when God was creating the heavens and the earth, He was busily working for six days, but on the seventh day He rested.
 
“By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.  Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.“ (Genesis 2:2-3)
 
He was God and yet, He ceased from working. In the Old Testament, the word for “rest” is shabath and it means, “to cease, desist, rest, sit down, sit still.” The word “rest” appears in the Old and New Testament a combined 504 times. Clearly, God was trying to tell us that it was okay to rest a while.
 
Even Jesus knew rest was needed. In his human flesh, He knew physically that rest was needed for our bodies, but rest is also needed for our minds and our souls. In Mark 6:31, Jesus tells His disciples, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.“ The disciples and Jesus were doing a lot of work, good work, and people wanted their attention. But Jesus told them that it was necessary to rest for a little while. The Greek word for rest, ἀναπαύω, means “cease, refresh, calm and quiet.” Jesus did not scold them this time because they needed rest (that came later in the Garden of Gethsemane when they were supposed to be keeping watch because they were in the “work” mode, not “rest” mode) because it was a time for rest. King Solomon said, “there is a time for everything under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 3) and this includes rest.
 
How much time are you taking to rest when Jesus is telling you to take rest? How much rest are you taking when it is time to work?
 
Sometimes we forget how much work we do in certain seasons. I hear all the time, “I have no idea how you get all that you do done.” I sometimes chuckle, but I sometimes say, “I know during similar seasons of your life you were working just as hard or harder.” There are certain seasons when we must work. If the intensity of my workout did not increase during my interval training, I’d be working my heart some and maybe even burning some calories, but I certainly would not be burning that pesky fat. Thankfully, I know that the “work” only lasts two minutes. I can endure two minutes (most days at least)!
 
Variations of the word “work” occur a combined 707 times in the Old and New Testaments. Work is an active word. It represents the fact that something is being done, performed, toiled and it causes weariness, profits, results and tiredness. It is God who establishes the work of our hands (Psalm 90:17) and we should work unto the Lord and not to man (Colossians 3:23).
 
If my Christian walk were a sprint, it would have been over as soon as it started. If my Christian walk was a marathon, I would have given up by now because I would have worn out somewhere along mile marker ten. But my interval Christian walk is manageable and doable. There are seasons where I am exhausted, but Jesus beckons me often to come away with Him and rest for a while. That rest sometimes comes in the form of physical sleep, but usually His rest is best when it is He and I alone, reflecting on Him and His glory and all that He is doing in my life and through the work of my hands. I find great rest during those quiet times through worshipping Him, praising Him and reading His Word. Those moments calm my anxious and tired being until the moment He tells me to gear back up and get busy doing the work He has called me to do.
 
The Christian walk is not impossible because through Him all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). Allow Him to be your interval trainer. Allow Him to lead you through moments of rest and work, rest and work. That kind of life allows for godly things to be in place and burns off the things that would try and rob you of joy because your focus is always on Him. An interval perspective also gives us insight into the fact that the Christian walk has moments of highs and lows, mountaintops and valleys, and victories and battle.
 
So my question to you today is, what kind of race are you running and why?

Erin Olson

Founder and CEO of Sandalfeet Ministries

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