Have you ever thought about running a marathon? For me, completing the Walt Disney World Marathon was an amazing experience! Many life lessons were learned over the course of every trial and every mile of my marathon training and racing. The Book of Isaiah explains, “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Throughout my experience, the Lord taught me what it meant to wait for His grace so that I could run and not be weary. Even if you have no desire to run on the roads of your town, you are running your own Christian race (Hebrews 12:1-2). Here are some lessons you can learn without logging all those miles.
1. Stretch Yourself. Completing a marathon is no easy undertaking. It requires months of preparation, measures of motivation, and miles of dedication. While running the Christian race, many Christians never challenge themselves to break out of their comfort zone. Ask the Lord to give you a goal that will stretch your spiritual stamina and force you to rely upon Him. Philippians 3:14
2. You Must Endure Hardness. I knew that training for and running the marathon would be tough. It took the commitment of time and energy, sacrifices both my family and I had to be willing to make. Serving God is often tough because it requires the same sacrifices. Make them. Striving for the finish line of God’s glory is worth it! II Timothy 2:3
3. Preparation Produces Culmination. Come race day, I was a mere 26.2 miles away from the culmination of months of hard work. Preparing daily for your Christian race requires prayer and Bible reading. Whatever monumental task the day may bring you, preparation through fellowship with God secures the grace you need to face any trial. Ezra 7:10
4. You Need Grace for the Race. To say that running is exhausting is an understatement. God gave me the strength to run when at times I felt like all I could do was crawl. In the Christian life, tough times can slow us down. God can give you the grace to run your race. Hebrews 12:1-2, 28
5. There will be Pain along the Way. After running for 3 hours into the race, discomfort turned into pain. My legs began to cramp severely, and I had to seek help for my injuries. In the Christian life, there will be pain along the way. Sometimes you will hurt yourself or someone will hurt you. It’s not fun, but you can always stop to get help along the way. Psalm 147:3
6. You Are Not Alone. There were times when the road seemed lonely. I was far from home, I didn’t know the other runners, and I was focused on meeting my personal goals. It was easy to feel lost in the crowd. I had to remind myself that I was surrounded by like-minded people who were excited to share this experience. In the Christian life, we can feel as though nobody understands what we’re going through. If we feel that way it’s because we have forgotten that there are other believers who are running this race with us. As you find other “runners” in this Christian race, take time to encourage them, share their burdens, and congratulate them on a good race. There’s no greater motivation than hearing “Great job!” “Keep going!” and “You can do it!” along the course of life. Hebrews 10:24-25
7. No Matter What Happens, Refuse to Quit. After visiting the medical tent to address my injuries, I knew I had to push myself if I was going to finish my course. Failure was not an option. As I went along, I’d thought about the pain I had to endure over the years. The similarities between my physical pain and my emotional pain were very real. I remembered how the Lord strengthened me. As I pressed on toward my marathon finish line, I knew that I must press toward my spiritual finish line. God hadn’t given up on me, and I wasn’t going to give up on Him or the work He was doing in my life. Philippians 1:6
8. Mark the Miles. Every mile marker along the race was a reminder of the success I had along the way. No matter how fast or slow, how powerful or painful, each marker was a sign of progress. I was still moving forward, still in the race, and still heading toward the finish line. One marathon spectator held up a sign with good advice, “Run, Walk, or Crawl – just do it!” What are the “milestones” of your life? What marks the victories of your life? Find ways to mark the memorable moments of your life. Take pictures, share your testimony, and reminisce with friends and family. If you’ve made through life this far, you can go the full distance. Numbers 10:10
9. Finishing by Faith. The Disney Marathon started with 17,500 runners, yet only 13,255 finished. No matter what you imagined about the race before you started, no matter what unexpected situations occurred along the way, you must have the character to finish what you have started. God called you to start, and He has called you to finish. God will be faithful along every step of the journey, and He is teaching you how to be faithful to Him. I Timothy 1:12
10. There’s No Feeling like Finishing. After all the struggles, pain, and times of doubt, I finally crossed the finish line. It was the moment I dreamed about every single time I ran in training. The big finish finally arrived, and I owed all my praise to God. The joy I felt has to be personally experienced to fully appreciate such emotion. In my spiritual life, I can tell you that it is a joy to be a Christian. We all face trials whether we are a Christian or not, but knowing that you have Almighty God working on your behalf makes each race easier to run. He gives strength and joy along life’s path. II Timothy 4:7
After this experience, I realized that my own life was a marathon, and that these 26.2 miles solidified vital principles that I had to learn in order to run it properly. Could this become the story of my life, a story in which victory could be experienced by the grace of God despite the trials and the pains? The lessons linger on in my life as I desire to finish my course with joy regardless of the circumstances. As the Apostle Paul said as recorded in Acts 20:24, “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” May God give us all the grace we need to run the race for His glory!