Running for the Prize

while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way…
(I Timothy 4:8 (ESV))

This Saturday I will be running a half marathon in the Marathon to Marathon.  It’s been 6 years since I’ve done a half, and while I don’t doubt my ability to complete the course, I’m still a little intimidated at the prospect of 13.1 miles.  The race has preoccupied me this week; I’ve found it hard to really concentrate on anything else.

As I’ve said before, I run to lose weight and stay physically fit.  It’s not that I’m against other forms of exercise, or believe that running is superior to other activities.  The truth of the matter is, I’m not coordinated enough to do anything else.  In 6th grade basketball I scored for the other team on a rebound, and my shoe flew off and beat me down the court – all in one game.  Trust me, I’m safer running on a dirt road than anywhere else.

I also run because I enjoy it.  I realize that this is a foreign concept for many, some won’t run unless they’re being chased, but I find great joy in everything about running.  I love the prep time, the camaraderie when you meet another runner on the street, figuring splits and pace per mile.  I love running on a country road on the crisp cool morning, watching the deer watching me, while the moon sets and the sun rises.  I love turning onto a road you’ve never run on before and the adventure that awaits over the next hill.

Even better, I love the way that running makes me feel.  Sure there are the little aches and pains, but they are nothing compared to the feeling of strength, vibrancy, alertness and energy that a good run gives the rest of the day.  Running helps me discipline the rest of my life as well, I eat better because I am always thinking, “how will that make me feel on my next run…”  I even sleep better, a) because I am tired, and b) I go to bed earlier knowing I have to get up in the morning for my run.

All that being said…

The Apostle Paul writes, “Train yourself for godliness; 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 Tim. 4:7-8).

In other words, while my running has some value, my greater focus needs to be on training in godliness.  My running has value now, I am healthier and stronger for it.  But its benefits pale in comparison to the benefit of growing in godliness.  There was an article in the paper this week that said, “The CDC reports that those who exercise regularly have a 50% less risk of dying.”  I’m sorry to have to break it to you, but those who exercise have the same mortality rate as those who don’t, it’s still 100%.  Running, swimming, biking, walking, even jazzercising, while they may make your days healthier, they won’t add one single minute to the time that God has allotted for you.

But when you train yourself up in godliness, which includes both believing right (orthodoxy) and living right (orthopraxy), you are making an investment that benefits you in this life and in the life to come.  Training yourself in godliness involves holding fast to the faith, the doctrines of the church and your absolute trust in the righteousness of Christ for your salvation.  Training in godliness also means the daily work and toil of prayer, study, and service.  That is to say, if we live in faith by the power of Jesus Christ, we have the promise of his presence to strengthen, comfort and cheer us in all that we face today, as well as the assurance, the guarantee, of all his promises in eternity.  That is of greatest value.

Don’t neglect to train your body; get out and exercise, it does the body good.  But never forget the superior value of your training in godliness.  It does, both body and soul, the greatest good!

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