Start Running Today!

Simone Arianne Biles is an American artistic gymnast. Simone is the 2016 Olympic individual all-around, vault and floor gold medalist, and balance beam bronze medalist. She was part of the gold medal-winning team dubbed the “Final Five” at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Simone is the most decorated American gymnast. With her win in Rio, Simone became the sixth woman to have won an individual all-around title at both the World Championships and the Olympic Games. With four Olympic gold medals, Simone set an American record for most gold medals in women’s gymnastics at a single Games. Her accomplishments have led many of her peers as well as the media to refer to her as the greatest gymnast ever. After Simone’s all-around win, Nastia Liukin, an NBC Olympic commentator, declared, “Simone Biles is the best we’ve seen.”

However, there is more to Simone than the nineteen medals. Like so many children today Simone and her three siblings were near casualties of their parent’s drug addictions. These children were fortunate enough to have Grandparents who literally refused to lose these children to this disease of drugs. Grandma said, “you never turn your back on family. More than that, you never turn your back on God.” Through years of hard work and determination, Simone says, “she was relied on her faith and family to stay focused and positive.”

Simone’s story is truly inspiring. Her’s is a story of authentic faith and of a loving family. Too many times we don’t get the opportunity to hear the behind the scenes struggle of true champions, we only see the scene on the television. Too many times we don’t stop to understand the story of the person we are watching. In her book (Courage to Soar) Simone walks you through her story and it is truly inspiring.

However, inspiration is only one part of the equation; accomplishment and victory are quite another. And I am convinced that Simone would agree. Many begin! Few Finish! And the reason for this in so many cases is a lack of discipline.

We have all had the experience of being challenged to a new course of action, setting out with sails filled by the driving winds of motivation and inspiration.

“I’m going to read the entire Bible in a year!”

“I’m going to pray every day at 5 A.M.”

“I’m going to exercise three times a week!”

“I’m going to lose 20 pounds!”

“I’m going to learn to play the guitar!”

Chariots of Fire is a 1981 British drama, that tells the fact-based story of two athletes in the 1934 Olympics: Eric Liddell, a devout Scottish Christian who runs for the glory of God, and Harold Abrahams, an English Jew who runs to overcome prejudice. I always receive fresh inspiration to pursue excellence in my life, when I watch this movie. Invariably, however, I also revive a crazy fantasy that I must become an accomplished runner.

So, I go out and buy running shoes, I get out on the track and start running. I can imagine the band playing. I see Eric Liddell, Lord Lindsey, and the rest of the British Olympic Team running effortlessly along the beach. I can see it now, “60 year old pastor wins the Marathon.”

Well, that lasts for about a quarter of a mile. Then the harsh reality sets in; my breathing is labored, my side hurts, my knees are screaming at me, and I feel dizzy.

Unfortunately,  for many of us, these unrealistic fantasy’s become the disappointing reality, that further serves to discourage us. We begin an endeavor with a flash of brilliance but never quite get past the first mile stone.

“Many have ambitions which are never realized, goals which are never reached, aspirations for usefulness which are never fulfilled, visions which never materialize. While the failure may at times be due to limited ability, too often the deficiency is not in native endowment but in character. The capacity for grueling application is lacking. There may be the promising start, but not the discipline required to carry through.”

Every one wants to experience success and accomplish something significant in their lives. However, we need to realized that there is generally a cost to every victory. Every person wants to win and to achieve great things, but this does require the “appropriate application” necessary to bring to conclusion the desired results.

Every athlete knows that discipline is required to become truly a great athlete. In order to reach the prize of being a “champion” there will be years filled with hard work, sacrifice, inconvenience, denial of self, and doing things that you don’t really feel like doing, but you do them anyway.

Over the holidays I have watched a lot of the football playoffs and I couldn’t help but wonder, ….if there are so many who are willing to labor and sacrifice for “a crown that will not last,” how much more disciplined should we be as we seek “a crown that will last forever!” (1 Cor. 9:25).

Each one of us are called to be “disciplined disciples” of Christ who are committed to fulfilling God’s corporate purpose above and beyond the mere pursuit of our own personal dreams and ambitions. The discipline that I’m am speaking about is not legalism “…the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.(Gal. 5:22 NLT) “Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way.” (Gal. 5:23 MSG).

Discipline is a character, a powerful force in our lives that maximizes our potential and utilizes every ability that we possess, with the highest level of excellence.

I am convinced that “authentic Christian spirituality” revealed through our lives will effect change in our culture. A spirituality that is released through daily habits that shape our lives into the champions of Christ that we were created to be. It is possible. All things are possible for those who believe. And allow that belief to empower them to discipline their lives for victory.

There are practical things that we can do to cultivate a character of discipline! There are attitudes and actions that will significantly help you as you seek to achieve your greatest and highest potential. As we begin a new year I thought I would share a few of those things with you.

“Repent” of an undisciplined lifestyle! Yes, it is that simple. Own up to it! Confess it as sin and decide to change. And believe that right now through Christ’s power you can change! “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Phil. 4: 13). You are a champion!

“Commit Time” to the Word and Prayer as your number one priority. Jesus said, “…if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!” (John 1:7). The “Word” is more than a book. The “Word” is God. Live in daily fellowship with Him.

“Get Help” from someone else. “Two are better than one… if one falls down, his friend can help him up” (Ecc. 4:9,10). No one needs to do this alone. God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” Ask a friend for help! Go ahead, do it right now! Just ask!

“Start Small and Start Today.” David killed the lion,and the bear first. He did not start with Goliath. Exercise discipline in small areas of daily living first (make your bed, be punctual, pick up your clothes). These small things will breed success and confidence for bigger, and more difficult areas. William James said, “Take the first opportunity act on a good intention.” Don’t wait until tomorrow or next week. Do it now!

“Embrace the Truth” that discipline is a pathway, not a doorway! Discipline doesn’t just happen it is cultivated over time. I forget who said it but, “character cannot be made except by a steady, long-continued process.” We are not baptized into a disciplined life, we grow into it. We must constantly resist the “hurried pace” of this culture. There is an unhealthy craving for immediate gratification: “I want it, and I want it now!” The kingdom is sown and reaped one seed at a time, over time.

“Determine” never to give up. I’m sure there were moments when Tom Brady wanted to quit. I’m sure other people were telling him to quit. Throw in the towel. Forget it all. He did not! He inspires me because he has not quit. I am constantly encouraged in the midst of disappointment and discouragement by a brief speech of that Winston Churchill gave when he was Prime Minister of England: “Young men, never give up. Never give up! Never give up! Never, never, never, never!”

God’s destiny for our lives will never be seized with one single grasp. If we want to realize God’s best in our lives, no matter how insignificant they may appear, we must take daily steps forward!

The prize is reserved for the runner who has trained himself diligently for years; by going to bed on time, eating properly, and running regularly, day after day after day!

The race does not belong to the swift but rather to the disciplined.

1Cor. 9:24  ¶ Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!

1Cor. 9:25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.

1Cor. 9:26 So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing.

1Cor. 9:27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should

I suppose that Paul’s use of this metaphor is part of why I am continually inspired by Simone’s story and that of other athletes. I think that we as Christians can apply the same truths to our lives.

“The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses— behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.” —Muhammad Ali

Start running today!!!