Running On Faith: How My Attempt at Being a Runner Reminds Me of Our Walk with God

Running on Faith

They say if you want to be a runner, say to yourself “I’m a runner,” and you’re a runner. But is it really that easy? If so, I guess I’m a runner. That’s a lot like faith, in a way. When you first have an encounter with the Risen Savior, and you believe that He died for your sins, you accept Him into your heart and just like that Christ is in you. That’s certainly how your walk with God begins, but isn’t there more to this thing we call faith?

OK, I may have oversimplified being a runner just a bit. If you really want to be a runner, you need to get off the couch and actually start running. If you want to be a strong runner, then there are other steps that you need to take to achieve success. Again, this is like faith in the way that there are things we can do as Christ followers to grow along our journey in faith and become stronger in our daily walk with God. So, as we lace up our Asics for the journey ahead, here are some ways that running reminds me of growing our faith in God.

Sign Up for the Race

Read any running magazine or website, and they will tell you that the best way to motivate yourself to stay on track is to sign up for a race. When you make a commitment to something, it becomes much easier to remain focused on your training. The same is true of our faith journey. You can’t grow if you haven’t made a full commitment. You need to give God every part of your life and dedicate yourself to walking with Him each day. Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” If you want to have a living and vibrant faith, then you need to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37).” Commitment is the key, but how do we stay committed in a world that seems to get busier by the day?

Set a Training Schedule

Being a good runner doesn’t just happen by accident. It’s a deliberate commitment to training your body on a regular schedule that helps you achieve the results you desire. Most runners find a preset training schedule online, work with a trainer, or build the schedule themselves. However you choose to do it, growth just wouldn’t be possible if you only ran occasionally and sprinkled in some cross training once in a while. Our faith journey works in much the same way. If we want to grow in our faith, we need to set aside time with God each day for prayer and scripture reading. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 we read, “All scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” We can’t neglect to feed our spirit with the word of God, spend little time building our relationship with Him, and then expect to grow stronger in our faith. That brings us to the next point.

How You Nourish Yourself Matters

Most ultra-successful runners will tell you that the key to being a great runner is how you nourish your body. As the adage goes, “You are what you eat.” I’ve learned this rule by trial and error. McDonald’s doesn’t make good run fuel, and you can’t expect to have much success on race day if it happens to fall right after taco night. If we want our faith to be strong, we need to nourish ourselves with the right things. Philippians 4:8 instructs us to fill our minds with, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.” There is a lot of “teaching” out there, especially in the technological age, but not all of it is aligned with the truth of the gospels. Test everything by what you read in scripture, and don’t be convinced of things that don’t run parallel to the true nature of God. Find a church that teaches through the scriptures, join a small group that is dedicated to seeking the truth, and engage a mentor who may have more knowledge than you currently do. It takes time to grow your faith, and that’s why this next point is important.

Going Slow Helps You Eventually Go Faster

It seems counterintuitive, right? If you want to run fast, start out by going slow. I thought it was crazy at first, too. I won’t bore you with all the detailed science behind it, but basically you need to build a base of cardiovascular strength so that your body won’t give up due to exhaustion during the first thirty minutes of your run. Put another way, you need a strong foundation before you can begin to build on top of it. Faith is no different. If you’re a new believer, you can’t jump right into the harder to understand aspects of theology. 1 Peter 2:2-3 highlights this point by saying, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” As humans, we want it all right now. I know I do, at least. But that’s not how a faith journey works, and that’s why it’s called a journey. God will bring you to spiritual maturity, in due time, but He wants you to take it slow and savor what He is teaching you in this season. He doesn’t want you to become overwhelmed and give up on seeking Him because some things are just too hard to understand. He will open your eyes to those things, but you just need to take it slow. Now, let’s talk about what happens when the time does come to grow.

But Make Sure You Stretch

Stretching is an important aspect of any exercise routine. This is especially true for runners. If you want to remain healthy, and help your muscles grow, then it’s important to stretch at the right times. Just like running, the time will come for you to stretch your faith. Hebrews 6:1 says, “Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teaching about Christ and be taken forward to maturity…” Once you’ve built the foundation that we talked about in the last section, there will come a time when God calls you to greater understanding. You will know this time has come when you feel a tug on your heart to go deeper, and you hunger and thirst for more knowledge of the scriptures. God has given us His Spirit to guide us, and to open our eyes, ears, and hearts to things that we need to understand, at the times in our lives when we need to understand them. Like any good father, He will give you just what you need. If you feel the urge to move into the deep end, don’t be resistant, but just let God show you the wonders He has in store for you. There is nothing more exciting than growing and stretching our faith, but what about the times when we feel stagnant?

Some Runs Are Better Than Others

Anyone who runs long enough knows that not every day is the same. Some days you’re ready to sign up for the Boston Marathon, and on other days you’d rather be running up the charges on your Netflix bill. When it comes to our faith journey, we call these seasons. Some seasons seem blessed by God, as we float through life exuding the fruits of the Spirit with our every need attended to by angelic beings, while in other seasons we can’t seem to feel God’s presence no matter what we do. The key to not falling into despair and totally giving up—in running and our faith—is consistency. Sometimes you just need to put one foot in front of the other. Keep seeking God, keep trusting in His promises, and eventually you’ll come into a new season where your faith begins to grow once again. As Galatians 6:9 teaches us, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” God is faithful and will be with you through every season. As the scriptures promise in Galatians, “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” In addition to leading you Himself, God will also put people in your life who will walk through both blessed and challenging seasons with you.

Running With Others is More Fun

Let’s be honest, running on your own for long periods of time is really, really boring. It’s kind of like throwing a ball against a wall over-and-over again for hours. You may be growing individually, but you have no one to encourage you, challenge you, or pick you up if you fall (or hit yourself with the ball!). Life was never meant to be lived alone. God wants us to live in community, with and for one another. Galatians 6:2 urges us to, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” We need friends to laugh with in the good times and cry with in the depths of despair. We need a faithful church family, and a small group of loving, like-minded people. Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” In community, we strengthen one another and help each other grow. It’s a necessary component of our walk with God, and of this journey we call life.

It's a Lifestyle, Not a Destination

Running is a lifestyle, and if you want to be a consistent, lifelong runner then you need to treat it as such. There is no point in your journey to becoming a runner when you say, “I’ve learned all I’m ever going to learn.” You’re always striving to get better and attempting to grow in your knowledge of the sport. Day by day, week by week and month by month, you put in the work and the results will speak for themselves. The same is true of our faith journey. As followers of Christ, our ultimate destination is eternity in Heaven with our Creator, but while we live on the Earth, we should never stop trying to grow our faith. In the book of Colossians it says, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” There is no point in our walk with God where we go, “I’ve reached the end. I know all there is to know about God. I’ve accomplished all there is to accomplish in my faith journey.” The reality is that God is too big and His wonders too vast to fully comprehend. That doesn’t mean that we should stop trying. While you still have breath in your lungs, there will always be more to learn about our wonder working God, and more to accomplish for His kingdom. If we treat our faith like a lifestyle, rather than a destination, then when the time comes, we will be able to finish strong.

Fix Your Eyes on the Finish Line

After all the training is done, and you’ve put in the miles on race day, there is no greater reward for a dedicated runner than the finish line. From the time you sign up for the race, through the miles and miles of early morning and late evening runs, your focus should always remain what lies just beyond the finish. This is a great picture of the reward for a faithful life. In all that we do here on this Earth, we should continually keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, who is our great reward. In Hebrews 12: 1-2 we read, “let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so greatly entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” As we stated in the last section, our ultimate destination and desire is to spend eternity with the God who loves us. When we’ve lived a life of dedicated service to Him, and our time has come, He will say to us, “Well done good and faithful servant.” And like Paul as his life neared its dusk, we will be able to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award me on that day.” Until that day, every moment of our faith journey should be lived with a focus on the eternal.

So, go run your race! Go all in and commit yourself to a life of faithful service to our good, good God. Be dedicated to spending time with Him, growing in your faith day by day, and stretching yourself when the time is right. Stay positive on the bad days and store up strength on the good ones. Remember that life is meant to be lived with others, and that like running, faith is a lifestyle, and it will take us a lifetime to reach our destination. And always, always keep your eyes firmly fixed on Jesus, who loves you more than you can even fathom, and who’s worth more than all the finisher medals and crowns you can acquire on this Earth. I’ll see you at the finish!


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