Find Your Focus and Toe the Line

***This is a re-post. The original seems to have disappeared from my feed.***

Not long ago I completed a half-Ironman.  In the months leading up to the race a quick look at my training calendar would tell you that my training was more like a part-time job.  I was averaging around 20 hours per week.  I was able to direct my focus powerfully because I had a very clear goal, I understood the obstacles to success and planned out how I would overcome them.  I clearly scheduled every workout, and I cut out other activities that consumed valuable time (fortunately, I could piggyback Netflix with my cycling indoor trainer!).

Just as in the race, I had no quit in my training.  Failure was not an option.  My time, my training–physical and mental–my diet, my rest, everything was meticulously planned and executed so that I could arrive at the start line peaked and prepared to race.

For five months I politely declined social events that would in any way alter my training plan.  Church volunteer opportunities were passed if they would overlap planned training time.

To say that I was consumed with my goal would be an understatement.  Despite the things I had to give up, I wouldn’t trade that time for the world.

“…godliness is of value in every way….” 1 Timothy 4:8b

Paul was a great father figure and coach to Timothy.  He set a great example for him and he gave great advice as well.

“…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. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God” –1 Timothy 4:7a-10a (ESV)

My half-Ironman training had value; my spiritual training has infinitely more.  Our hope and focus should be “set on the living God.”

Paul was pretty intense.  I recently re-read 1 & 2 Timothy several times as I was working on this post.  Fresh from my Ironman experience, my senses were attuned to language that Paul used in trying to get the young Timothy focused.

In 1 Timothy 4:15 Paul tells Timothy to “Practice these things, immerseyourself in them” (ESV). The NASB is even more pointed, “Take pains with these things, be absorbed in them.” (Italics mine for emphasis).  That’s goal-oriented, obsessive-type stuff!  Our spiritual walk is not intended to be some casual-when-I-have-type kind of endeavor.  It’s not just a Sunday thing; nor is it something we do at bedtime or mealtimes.  In chapter 6 verse 11, we’re told to “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness” (ESV). Think “going for them with gusto, with passion”!

Paul is acting as Timothy’s cheering section.  He finishes by letting him know that his race is over.  His prize is at hand.  Timothy must pick up where he left of and fight his own fight.  Finish his own race.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” –2 Timothy 4:7-8 (ESV)

It’s time to see our spiritual journey as a race.  We must train seriously and ferociously for this race.  It’s not a sprint; it’s not a one-time-and you’re done kind of thing.  Our spiritual endurance race begins at the altar and doesn’t end before we receive our own crown of righteousness.  Coach Paul is calling out to me and you, “You’ve got this! Toe the line and give it all you’ve got.  Don’t quit!”

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