The other day I was enjoying some coffee with Raymond Singleton at the Deutsch Apple in Blanco when a man and a woman came in to get something to eat. They had spent the night at the Blanco State Park and were on there way back home riding their bicycles. The amazing thing was that their home was in the state of New York! Come to find out they had flown to San Diego, California and were riding their bicycles back home, and their route brought them through Blanco. He said that they rode six days a week and averaged forty five miles a day. Most of us have spent some time on a bicycle, perhaps it was in our youth or perhaps it's something we still in enjoy, but for most of us, a trip like this one, is beyond our comprehension.
Sometimes in scripture athletic events are used to make a point about the spiritual life. For instance in I Corinthians 9:24-27 the apostle Paul said, "Do you not know that those who run in a race run all, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I buffet by body and make it may slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified." Paul's comments suggest some important points about living successfully the Christian life.
The Christian life must be run with the desire to win. One of the themes of the book of Revelation is being 'overcomers'. The seven letters to the seven churches promised rewards to those who overcome. The Christian life is not without struggles, conflicts, and temptations. To imagine that it is, is to leave oneself unprepared for what is to come. Paul says you must want to win.
The Christian life can only be successfully lived with a good measure of discipline. Paul uses words like, 'self-control' and 'to buffet (discipline) his body'. Such words suggest exercising some will power for the purpose of proper training. They also speak of self-denial. An athlete often denies himself certain
luxuries in order to be at their very best. He trains when it is convenient and when it's not convenient. A spiritual couch-potatoes will make for a poor Christians. Worship, study of the word, and prayer, and deeds of charity, all exercise the soul for it's benefit.
As in any athletic endeavor it is important that one finishes what he starts. Jesus once said, "No one putting his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62). Christians are not called to perfection but to faithfulness. Anyone, if he so desires, can produce a book full of excuses for not being steadfast in his Christian life. In fact that is no unusual at all. What is unusual is the person who stays the course, despite the stumbling blocks, despite the temptation to get priorities wrong, despite all the lies we hear in the world, he still keeps on course.