We all have our physical limits. As someone who has no hardship when it comes to running, I also know that I have limits. The more I run the higher that limit becomes as I am training my body to respond to that kind of distance or speed. To try to run the 100-yard dash at speeds beyond my capabilities would tear at my body and cause me pain. Running a marathon without any training would be unobtainable. If my mind was set on these tasks yet I was unprepared I may be devastated by my results. Paul likened the Christian faith to a race, and he knew we must strive to the finish line, yet he also was quite aware that we all are moving at different paces.
Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
We train spiritual very similar to how we would train for anything else. Sure, I would love to walk out my door and run as fast as Usain Bolt or Andre De Grasse, but I can’t and to obtain their speed I would need years of training. I know that I can run around 5 km without any trouble, that is what I can attain. We tend to walk out our doors and set unattainable goals for our lives. This sets us up for failure. For me to walk outside and plan a 10 km run when the best I have done in the past is 5 km will set me up for failure. Once I have hit my 5 km I start to see the goal as a far way off, I may push an extra 1 km out, but I start to slow down and lose sight of the goal. I may just quit, why bother.
We do this in our faith as well. Maybe your prayer life is lacking and the sermon on Sunday invigorated you to spend more time in prayer. That is awesome we all need to be motivated. But we set unrealistic goals that truly are unattainable in our current state. We walk out saying we will spend 1-2 hours a day in prayer focused on God when just the day before we were lucky to have spent 5 min. This jump from min to hours will drag on a believer and make them feel like they just don’t have what it takes. Instead, they need to gradually work their way up. Adding more time each day or adding smaller sessions to break it up. God isn’t looking at the act of prayer but the heart behind it, I can pray for an hour but if my heart is elsewhere then was it worth the hour? Same as reading the Bible, many will jump in and start reading many chapters in a day but that too will fade if they are not used to it, they will miss a day and feel defeated. Joining a plan on a bible app or buying a plan at the store can help focus your thoughts and provide the training to increase.
I do not believe Paul is telling us to settle for where we are at in our faith. As we read in just a few verses earlier he reminds us to ‘press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus “ 14. What I believe he is trying to tell us is we need to prepare ourselves to do what is next. One cannot expect to become a believer one day and preaching to a congregation the next. Even Paul took time alone with God, two years or more, preparing himself to go where God called him. How is God preparing you in your race? What is he calling you to do? Are you preparing yourself? Have you been comparing yourself to others in the faith only to fall over and over again? Look and see how God is using you, how your race is different than any other and that you are growing. Use your training to reach others with God’s love. Using what you know will propel you to grow even more.
Father, many times we try to outrun what we know and are prepared for. I pray today that you will show us how to reach people with what we know. We are not all at the same level in our faith but what we know about Jesus love and grace is enough to change the world. For those discouraged, I pray that they will see that you love them where they are at and that you don’t play favourites with your children. Propel them forward in their faith, help them to grow at a pace that will starch them but not break them. Let us take what we know about you and reach those around us that need to experience your love. Amen