Running is hands down (or perhaps feet down!) one of my favourite ‘me moments’. It is when I get to pull on my trainers, put in my headphones and tune out the rest of the world for 40 minutes or so, a time when I am no longer wife, mom, leader, writer but just me. In the past year I have taken steps to improve my health and fitness more seriously through running and I have come to love these moments of solitude, not least because in the absence of other distractions this is often the time where God meets me to drop some little pearls of wisdom into my journey.
Today was no exception.
As I ran up the hill alongside some shop fronts, I caught sight of my reflection in the window panes on my left and my reflection surprised me. I had not long started out on my run, and although heading uphill, I felt I was running strong, head up, arms and legs pumping but my reflection suggested otherwise. As I glanced across I saw that shoulders were sloped, my back rounded and my feet were far from flying high above the ground as I had imagined. I instantly pulled myself up, drawing my tummy in to my spine, rolling back my shoulders and lifting my knees higher to resume the running style I had mistakenly believed I was running all along, and guess what? It was much harder work!
You can run as many miles as you want, but unless your core is strong you are not using your muscles correctly to maximise your workout, God whispered into my spirit.
As this revelation dropped into my heart, I was quite stunned by the simplicity of God’s message yet its sheer importance in our lives. Sure you can run 10k, that’s great, but if you don’t engage your core muscles correctly then you will not engage the rest of your musculo-skeletal system, and will therefore not achieve the maximum fat burn and muscle growth you hoped for. In fact, not only will your fitness improvement plan take longer, but you can actually hamper it by running with incorrect form and posture as this puts additional strain on your body and can result in long-term injury.
That’s how it is with us in our spiritual lives. We can attend church, sing praises to God every Sunday and we can hang on the preacher’s every word during the sermon, amen-ing in all the right places, but unless we have a personal core faith in Jesus, strengthening us daily, we will not be running right. After the Sunday service, our posture will be gradually slipping a little more each day, those slumped shoulders struggling under the weight of our circumstances, those feet flailing as we try to find secure footing on uncertain paths, or the stitch of grief, depression or financial difficulties crippling us as we reach for the next milestone in our journey.
Faith in Jesus Christ is the ONLY way to our Father God in heaven. But it is not just enough to believe in Him, we need to know Him, walk with Him, talk with Him and read God’s word. God wants us to have a relationship with Him but He knew we could never live a perfect life, and this is why He sent His only Son, Jesus, to earth to die for us so that we could be made right with God and come to Him as His forgiven sons and daughters.
But there is someone else fighting for your attention. Someone else who wants you distracted, depressed, demoted during your time on this earth. Whether you like it or not, the devil is real, he is an enemy and he will spin you every line in the book in order to avert your eyes from the one who made you. God knows that we are weak, however He promises that in our weaknesses He is strong. Jesus himself was tempted by the devil and so He knows the power and pain of the enemies lies. But Jesus also knows the awesome power and sovereignty of His Father in heaven, and so He overcame the devil.
And Jesus knew He could rely on this power and authority in heaven because His core was strong.
From an early age Jesus devoured the scriptures until they were written on His heart, He talked with His heavenly father day after day and He was obedient and faithful so that He would always be strong. And we can do the same. We need to get fit and strong, both physically and spiritually to endure the twists and turns of life and not crumble every time a curve ball gets thrown at us.
Paul summarises this brilliantly in 1 Corinthians 9;
“So I run with purpose in every step, I am not just shadow boxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should.” 1 Corinthians 9:26-27 NLT
Each of us has a God-given purpose and destiny on this earth. We are not here just to enjoy the ride of life, we have a job to do during the race of life. If we want our physical bodies to be strong we need to train hard, bear weight and keep correct form and the same is true of our spirit. We cannot build muscle without putting pressure and strain on our muscles, and so to improve our core faith and relationship with Jesus we will have to endure hard times that force us to rely upon Him even more. In order to run the race of life strong, resisting temptation, overcoming hurdles and achieving all that God has set out for us then we need to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and keep His word fixed in our hearts.
He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired and young men will find exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:29-31 NLT
Do you feel like you are struggling on your journey? Feel that the load is just too much to bear? Don’t panic and don’t give up. This is your core strengthening exercises and your mind, body, soul and spirit WILL come out of this stronger, fitter and closer to God than ever before.
Let’s start that core work and get ready.