On Saturday, November 12, I checked off a bucket list goal: I ran my first-ever marathon!

While it was freakishly hot and I had to finish with an injured foot, I am super proud of my accomplishment and glad to be done. It wasn’t pretty but, to quote the Lord Jesus, “It is finished!” (Phew!) Why would any human, in their right mind, voluntarily and enthusiastically spend over $150 to seemingly torture yourself for hours on end?  Good question. I’m not sure I know the answer. But I will try to share my answer. For those that don’t know, here’s a quick backstory.

Four years ago, I weighed 220lbs. I had a few minor health issues – chronic acid reflux, snoring, sleep issues, and general malaise. I didn’t like how I looked or how I felt. On my 38th birthday, I made a wish and a plan, to get fit by 40. I changed my eating, my exercise, my habits, and soon, my life. It wasn’t always easy. It wasn’t always fun. But it was totally worth it. I dropped nearly 70lbs. To God be the glory!

In the process of adding some much-needed exercise to my week, I discovered the hobby that I have been looking for my entire life: running. Now, I know that running 30-40 miles a week sounds like torture to many people. I get it. I’m not saying it’s for everyone. But for those of you who do run and enjoy it, you know there’s nothing else like it in the world.

Running became a release. Running became a joy. Running became like a drug. The more I did it, the more I wanted to do it. I read about running. I studied running. I even dreamed about running a few times. (No joke!). I ran 5Ks, 10Ks, and 10-mile races. I signed up for everything that I could find within driving distance. Now that I could run, I would run.

Unfortunately, this healthy habit became an unhealthy obsession. In biblical terms, it was creeping into the idolatrous zone. You see, idols don’t have to be bad things like Buddha statues, cocaine, or pornography. They can also be good things that we want too much, like food, politics, or even a hobby. Running became that for me.

The Lord is a jealous God. He isn’t satisfied with second place in anyone’s life. So, it should not surprise you to learn that I soon got injured. It was nothing serious, but it derailed my running plans for about 9 months. I wore a boot. I had MRIs. I went to therapy. As a runner, it was torture; but as a Christian, it was sanctifying. I won’t say that the Lord injured me. But I will say that He sure used it to slow me down and force me to reconsider its place in my life.

Over the past year, and with the Lord’s help, I have been able to put running in its proper, balanced place. I still read about it and think about it, but I do now, in service to the Lord. God has been gracious to help me stay mostly healthy and disciplined this year. I’ve run lots of races and lots of distances. But I have yet to run the big one: 26.2. Since April, I have been training to run the Richmond Marathon.

The Lord has taught me many lessons through my running. It’s no accident that running is a common analogy used throughout Scripture. The parallels between a runner’s life and the Christian life are numerous. Let me share the three biggest running lessons that I have learned, over the years, and how they apply to all of our spiritual lives.

Lesson #1: Motivation is overrated.

These three words are my mantra. They have revolutionized how I think day-to-day. In short, if you always wait to do something until you feel like doing it, there’s a good chance you won’t – especially if that thing is running 7 miles in 35-degree weather at dawn. But discipline will take you where inspiration will not. Stop waiting to get motivated. As Nike would say, “Just do it.” As you do what you have to do (run 30 miles a week for 20 weeks), you are in a position to do what you want to do (run 26.2 miles all at once).

In spiritual terms, this is also true. 1 Timothy 4:7 urges us, “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” That word “discipline” is literally something like gymnasticize yourself. In other words, get to work.  In the verses that follow, Paul lays out a spiritual routine, a regiment, for young Timothy to follow. He tells him to teach truth (vs. 11), be an example (vs. 12), read Scripture (vs. 13), scrutinize himself, (vs. 16a), and keep doing these things over and over again (vs. 16b). He didn’t say wait for warm fuzzies or some spiritual spark, he commanded him to just do it. That’s how much of our sanctification happens.


Lesson #2: Consistency trumps intensity.

The number one mistakes that new runners make is breaking the rule of ‘toos.’ That means running too fast, too much, too soon. That’s a recipe for injury (as I discovered). In running, if you want to run faster for shorter distances, you have to run slower for longer distances. Weird, I know. It’s the compounding effect of day-in-day-out work that builds your muscles, your bones, your cardio, your habits, and your ability.

The Christian life works this way as well. Reading the Bible for 1 hour on Saturday is not a as effective as 10 minutes per day. Attending a two-day conference is good, but not as good as being part of a Sunday School class or small group week after week. We are a culture that enjoys binging TV shows or podcasts. But the Christian life is not bingeable. It’s more like the tortoise and the hare: slow and steady wins the race.


Lesson #3: The work never gets easier; you get stronger.

The first time I started running mile-repeats in my training was hard. Imagine running one mile as hard as possible, walking for 30 seconds, then doing it again and again. When I started this drill, I would run all out – straining, sweating, aching, and begging for that mile marker to appear. The first time I did it, I ran a 7:30/mile. Not bad. Each time I did it, though, it felt excruciating. After about 4 months, though, the strangest thing happened. I ran. I sweat. I ached. I burned. Then I looked down at my watch and I had run a mile in 5:48! The effort was the same. The pain was the same. The agony was the same. But the result was much different.

In spiritual terms, we should remember that sanctification is work. Resisting temptation will always be a challenge. Walking worthy of the gospel is not a cakewalk. But the more we follow Christ, the more instinctive it becomes. The more we do this, as Hebrews says, “we train our senses to distinguish between good and evil.” (Heb 5:14) Situations and hardships that would have devastated us as new Christians eventually become an obstacle course that God uses to grow our faith and love. That doesn’t make it fun or easy, but it serves a greater purpose that we can now appreciate more fully.



I didn’t finish the marathon as quickly as I had hoped – but I did finish. As Paul said, “I press  Hopefully, I accomplished at least one of those. Haha. Whether I finished or not, To God Be the Glory! He has taught me great things and I am grateful for that.