Here are some plans to help you get started in the race! Good luck!
In our small groups we are learning to the “pronounce it” method in bible meditation. That means to dissect each word in a scripture to find the deeper meaning or as Pastor Rick Warren say, “digesting like in a process of rumination.” For anyone who doesn’t know what this means, let me explain. Rumination is a process in which cows chew their cud. Nice, huh? They chew on their food, swallow, and then bring it back up to chew on some more. Sorry for the visual, but it is what it is.
One of the first verses we used this method was in Colossians 3:15, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” My dissection was this, “Allow the comfort of Christ to be number one in my heart.” The next thing we were challenged to do was to apply it to our lives today. My question I asked myself was how can I enable the Lord to sincerely rule in my heart? It know it doesn’t just happen overnight. I believe some of the steps I must take are similar to what might be involved in running a marathon. First, there is a training period; secondly, there is the actual race; and last, the finish line.
Training period: This is where I develop a desire, the discipline, a plan and a commitment. I must first have the desire to run a marathon, but the desire alone will not give me the strength to finish. I have to put on my shoes on and start running. In other words, if I want to be a marathon runner, I have to start running, not just talk about it. Next, in order to properly train for the marathon, I have to have a plan. I have to figure out how much I want to run and when I will run. This also requires me to be committed to that schedule/plan, even in the midst of ups and downs. I have to understand that there are going to be some days that will be great and others that will really stink. I may be even have doubts about whether you can actually do this, but I will. How is all this training like my spiritual life?
In order to develop a deep spiritual life, my desire must be there first. Since God is the source of this desire, I need to begin my journey of faith by praying for this desire to increase and flourish in my heart, but I will have to pray for this desire everyday! It is a grace that God will gladly grant. Also, if I want to develop an honest relationship with God, I will have to do some work. The work, the training of the spiritual life, is consistent prayer, and letting go of sin. I have to have the whole package, and I am fooling myself if I think I can be holy if I am not willing to put in some time and effort. I know it involves a lot of sacrifice and will power. It takes leading a disciplined life.
The second part is about the actual race, and it is very cool. The day of the marathon (March 3, to be exact) I will go to pick up my registration packet, where there are lots of people and this big expo. I will get a really excellent t-shirt, and I will start to get the sense that maybe all this work really was worth it. Then there is the actual race. I will line up with thousands of people all doing the same thing, so there is this bonding thing happening. During the race there will be thousands of people lining the streets cheering for us. I must admit, it’s a charge. It is a great experience to share with others, and it is definitely more fun to train and run with someone. It will be a long race though, and what frequently happens is a runner will hit a “wall,” which means you pretty much run out of fuel. All you want to do is to stop. But you don’t, because you’ve made a commitment to finish this race without stopping and that’s very hard to deal with emotionally and physically.
In relation to my faith, after I set a foundation and am consistent with these practices, I will enter a new stage, the race. This is where it all starts to pay off. I will then find that my life is directed by Christ. My life changes will begin and I will encounter all sorts of people who hold the same beliefs and support me in my life. For instance, my ladies bible study, small groups, my friends and family. I will discover more joy in my life and enjoy the person I have become. It is totally worth the work. But, I must also be on guard that I may hit a wall. There may come a time when I will be greatly challenged to continue this path. It may come in the form of tragedies where we question God. It may be dryness in prayer where I don’t experience the joy I once did before. I have gone through this before, but it will be more challenging now that my faith has grown. This is when I must realize that I must keep pushing. God is giving me opportunities to mature in my faith, to have a more mature relationship, and to love him no matter what the outcome. So I must learn to persevere because to me, it is worth it because it brings me much closer to the finish line.
And last, there is the finish line: Crossing that finish line was another brand new experience for me last weekend. It was a mix of emotions of relief, joy, a sense of great accomplishment. Words cannot give it enough justice, but it was definitely worth all of the training. It was a unique experience and a unique reward.
I know that this is nothing compared to what awaits me when I cross my final heavenly finish line. The joy is unimaginable. Some of the great heroes in the bible have tasted what heaven is like while they were here on earth. There have been great examples of men and women who have been willing, not only to lead a committed life in Christ and run the race to their best ability, but were willing to die in order to cross that finish line. I want to make sure I make use of my time so I may say with the apostle Paul, “I have run the good race, I have fought the good fight, and now the Lord truly rules my heart.”