Whether or not you run physically, we can all benefit from spiritual exercise. Read on as Trillia Newbell leads.
Running the Race - Sacred Endurance
By Trillia Newbell
My love for physical fitness began when I was a young child, as I adored my father's presence and involvement. He would do things like race me in the parking lot and cheer me on in races on the track. This grew into a lifelong love of sports, including gymnastics, dance, track and field, cheerleading, cycling, and more. When I became a Christian at twenty-two, I discovered a new dimension to my favorite activities. Paul wrote, "For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come" (1 Timothy 4:8). He knew that training in good doctrine and discernment required diligence and efforts - as does physical training. As a seasoned fitness professional, I can tell you that there are many benefits of exercise: a healthier body, a happier mood, clearer thoughts, deeper sleep, and more. But there are also spiritual benefits. There's a potential for Christians to better appreciate our God-given bodies, our efforts, and God's creation. The disciplines involved in exercise are similar to those we have in the Christian life. In both, we need to build endurance to finish the race. As I was growing up, fitness was centered on me - on how I felt and how I performed. Now I realize that I can bring God glory, enjoy him and his creation, and serve my family well while enjoying the physical activities themselves. God uses the idea of training, running a race, and enduring as a way to direct our attention to our faith. It's no surprise that physical activity reminds me of the race set before me and of God's goodness in it. In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul uses the example of a runner who disciplines his body to run the race well. Paul's point is that if we discipline ourselves for something perishable, we ought to discipline our bodies all the more, for we have an imperishable reward. Paul tells us we need to discipline our bodies for more than fitness and work. We need to run the race the endurance and discipline our bodies for godliness (1 Cor. 9:27). We don't practice spiritual disciplines because we think we'll earn God's favor for them. We practice them to help us finish well and to enjoy the Lord while we run the race. We discipline our bodies through prayer, Bible reading, fasting, solitude and a host of other means, expressing our delight in and dependence on the Lord. That's how we build muscle that will last!
Trillia Newbell is director of community outreach for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. A frequent conference speaker, her writing has appeared in Christianity Today, Desiring God, the Gospel Coalition, and more. Her latest book is Sacred Endurance: Finding Grace and Strength for a Lasting Faith. She is also the author of Enjoy, Fear and Faith, United, and God's Very Good Idea. She and her family live near Nashville. Connect with her at trillianewbell.com. Taken from Sacred Endurance by Trillia Newbell. Copyright (c) 2019 by Trillia Newbell. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com