August 31, 2008
We had some recording problems with the August 17 sermon, “Work Hard Yet Relax During the Race of Faith,” but thanks to Michael Black and Matthew Pinckney we now have a satisfactory version of the audio online here.
August 27, 2008
Many expected the Beijing Olympic marathon to be slow, as runner after runner would succumb to the pollution on top of high heat and humidity. So when this morning the leaders took off at close to world record pace, a number of runners – including the top Americans, Dathan Ritzenheim and Ryan Hall – decided around three miles that that was suicidal, and backed off, hoping to run a slower, more even pace, and pick off stragglers. Such tactics had worked well in a number of past Olympic marathons.
But not today. Sammy Wanjiru of Kenya had other plans. He had prepared for these conditions. When the day dawned quite clear for Beijing, he was confident he could run a fast pace all the way to the end.
And he did. With a little over two miles to go he picked up the pace – and immediately dropped his last competitor. Running smoothly, relaxed and strong, he entered the stadium with a large lead. The crowd roared, cheering him on. He celebrated as he ran the last quarter mile on the track. Sammy Wanjiru finished well.
Our question this morning: Will you also finish well?
To get the gold medal, you have to finish the race. The marathon is 26 miles 385 yards. If you stop at 26 miles, 384 yards, you do not win – no matter how far ahead you are at that point. Read more
August 22, 2008
(For a version of this devotion that is easier to print, follow this link.)
On Sunday we focused in part on Hebrews 4:11:
Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.
We noted the paradox of this verse: We are to work real hard to rest. And we showed that this does not mean, “Work read hard NOW to rest IN THE FUTURE.” Psalm 23 and Matthew 11:28-30 clearly show we are to be resting now, while we are working. Our rest in Christ is, instead, similar to a runner – a Usain Bolt, a Ryan Hall – relaxing while running the race of his life. He is working hard – yet, other than the specific muscles required for running, he is completely relaxed. In the image of Matthew 11, we are yoked together with Jesus. He gives us rest – simultaneous with our taking up His yoke. His power does the labor, the pulling, as we are paired with Him.
The Hebrews passage clarifies further how we are both to strive to rest, and to rest while striving. The author writes:
11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest . . . 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
The word “for” links the command to how we live out the command. And there is only one way to depend actively on God: Through His Word.
How does the Word help us do this? Read more
August 18, 2008
No one in the history of mankind has run 100 meters as fast as Usain Bolt did yesterday. And yet – did you see the head-on shot of his race? He looked completely relaxed.
This coming Saturday night, watch the men’s marathon. Ryan Hall will run over 26 miles, averaging well under 5-minutes per mile. That’s fast. Indeed, looking around, I don’t think there’s anyone here this morning who can run one mile that fast. Yet while making that long, sustained effort, his stride will be fluid and his face relaxed.
Are these two anomalies?
No: All good coaches teach their runners to relax.
When trying to run as fast as we can, we have a natural tendency to grimace, to tighten the mouth, the neck, the shoulders. But all that is counterproductive. All that slows you down.
In order to run fast, you must relax.
Why is this? It is actually quite logical, for two reasons. Read more
August 13, 2008
In Sunday’s sermon, I described the 1954 “Miracle Mile” between Roger Bannister and John Landy. Here is Bannister’s complete description of the race, which I excerpted in the sermon. It, in turn, is taken from p. 192-194 of his book The Four-Minute Mile, originally published in 1955 but now available in a 2004 edition from Globe Pequot. Sports Illustrated published a lengthy excerpt from the book in its June 27, 1955 issue; that article, which includes this race description, is available here.
We lined up for the start. Landy was on the inside. The gun fired and Baillie of New Zealand went straight into the lead. I stayed some yards back at Landy ‘s shoulder until he took over the lead at the 220-yard mark. Gradually he drew away, and I lay second at the end of the first lap in 59.2 seconds. Landy ‘s pace was too fast for me (58.2 seconds) and I had allowed a gap of seven yards to open up. In the second lap this lead increased at one time to 15 yards. I completed the half-mile in one minute 59 seconds, so I was within a four-minute-mile schedule! Read more
August 13, 2008
You’ve trained for years. Day after day. Season after season. Long runs. Interval training. You’re prepared.
Now the opening ceremonies are over. Your Olympic race day has arrived.
Over the course of anywhere from a few seconds to a bit over 2 hours, you must put into play all you’ve learned; you must put into effect all the strength work, all the cardiovascular work you’ve done. One mistake, one brief loss of focus, one moment of indecision could set aside years of training.
What do you need to remember as you race in order to run to win?
How will you run the race?
A number of you have run in events where place is completely irrelevant. You’re not so much running AGAINST others in the race, as WITH them. Your goal is not to beat others, but to complete the distance, or to achieve a particular time.
Not so in the Olympic track events. In these races, time is almost irrelevant. Your only goal is to win the race. If you can win in a slow time – that’s fine.
In order to win, you have to beat your opponents, either mentally or physically. So, particularly in events 400m or longer, every coach hammers this point into his athletes’ heads: Your goal is to make the race develop in such a way that others can’t catch you, or to make the race develop in such a way that those who can catch you think they can’t.
A classic example of this took place 54 yars ago this week, in the 1954 Commonwealth Games “Miracle Mile.” The Englishman Roger Bannister had run history’s first sub-four minute mile on May 6. The Australian John Landy broke that World Record six weeks later. No one else had broken the barrier. About seven weeks after Landy’s record race, the two runners met for the first and only time. Read more
August 12, 2008
This coming Sunday we continue our series on Running the Race of Faith by considering a paradox: When running a race all out, we must relax all muscles except those that are working hard.
The video below is a great example of this. Jeremy Wariner, the favorite in the men’s 400 meters in Beijing, wins last year’s World Championships. Look especially at his face and neck in the head-on shot of the last 40 meters, which begins about 1 minute into the video. He is quite relaxed – yet he is running within a few 10ths of a second of the world record.
Here are key verses to consider in drawing the parallel with the race of faith: Read more
August 9, 2008
In tomorrow’s sermon, I’ll be referring to the race that is shown beginning 3:25 into this video – the 1954 Commonwealth Games mile final, between the first two sub-four minute milers, Roger Bannister and John Landy. Look carefully at Landy’s head as Bannister pulls up beside him.
August 8, 2008
(For a version of this devotion that is easier to print, follow this link.)
In Sunday’s sermon (text, audio), I discussed my love-hate relationship over the years with interval training – running a set distance fast, repeatedly, with a short, timed rest between runs. In my high school and college days, I hated these workouts; I worked hard at them only because I knew they were necessary if I were to improve as a runner. Yet by the time I was 35, I had grown to love interval training. It was still painful – perhaps more so at age 35 than at 20. But I came to love the mental discipline of pushing myself through the pain, of maintaining good form despite tiring legs, of completing a hard workout well.
In our sermon discussion Tuesday morning, Albert brought up a particularly helpful application of this idea in our Christian lives: Many of us know that we should share our faith. We want to be people who witness. And yet we also don’t want to do so. We fear rejection; we think we won’t know what to say, or how to answer questions. So we too end up with a love-hate relationship with witnessing.
My attitude towards interval training changed when I began to see those workouts as a fulfillment of my identity has a runner. A runner is mentally tough. A runner does have control over his weakening legs. A runner will experience pain, but will nevertheless continue and overcome the temptation to quit.
We, too, need to see the sharing of our faith as the fulfillment of who we are as Christians, as those who delight in Jesus above all things. Consider: Read more
August 7, 2008
Will my children remember their mother reading the Bible consistently? Will they picture in their minds a straw basket with Bible, Valley of Vision prayer book, journal, and prayer notebook? Will they picture their mother swinging gently on the porch swing, Bible in hand or curled up in the wing chair in the music room, head bowed. Will it be a consistent memory?
It is certainly not just for the memory in my children’s minds that this consistency is important. Oh no. It is vitally important for now, for every day, for wisdom and discernment, for knowledge and understanding, for contentment and spurring on. It is as vital to my life as an Olympic athlete’s consistent training is. No, it is more vital. Because, unlike the Olympic athlete who may only take his gold medal as far as the grave, the benefits of consistency in walking with God are eternal.
Coty said in the sermon, “consistency makes a statement to yourself, ‘I am a child of God‘.” That’s who I am. Spending time in the word is simply what a child of God does, like running is what a runner does. I can’t live without it.