In his book The Life You've Always Wanted, John Ortberg gives an interesting illustration. Imagine the telephone ringing insistently while you watch the evening news. The voice on the line says: "Great news! I'm calling you from the South American Olympic Committee, and we are looking for someone to run the marathon at the Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. Based on some records that describe your good performance in PE classes during college, we think you have the perfect bone structure to be the main runner of this marathon. We want you on the track because we believe you have a good chance of winning the gold medal."
You are surprised by this news. Of course, the fastest race you've run lately was from your bedroom to the kitchen, from the kitchen to the laundry room, from the laundry room to the children's bedroom. But as you think about this invitation, you are inspired by the idea of really running. You see yourself among the elite athletes, imagining how it will feel to stand on the podium with your gold medal after the race. You start to feel a sense of urgency and opportunity. This idea then, becomes part of your life. After all, this is why you were born!
However, you soon realize that it will be impossible to run, even if you try very hard. When the marathon is soon to start, trying doesn't help much. If you are seriously thinking about becoming a marathoner, you must develop a routine of daily training. If you want to run in competition, you need to train, not merely try.
This principle can also be applied to our spiritual growth. When it comes to running life's marathon, trying is not enough. We need constant, wise training so that we may really win. Our greatest challenge as Christians today is to make Christ the center of our lives, of our minds, and of our will. Running with Jesus is different. We all can win this race. For that to occur, we need to allow Him to be our coach. He wants to share with us His wisdom, counsel, and strength for the times when we stumble or fall down during the race.
How can we develop this kind of relationship with Jesus? How can we allow Him to be the main coach in our lives? Some strategies help. They allow victory to finally be ours, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our daily training.
Shirley Charlestream and Sammy Chilson are women who know many growth and training strategies. They suggest some sure ways for us to run a victorious race in Christ.
Reaffirm your love for Christ daily and ask for His direction. Make this your first strategy of the day. As you open your eyes each morning, say, "Lord, I love You. Thank You for another precious day of life. I want to live with You and for You today." Now you are ready to get up and start a new day in the presence of God.
Reserve time for personal devotions. I was alarmed when I read that the average American spends 28 hours each week 4 hours per day watching television. Four hours that could be used in personal preparation to meet Jesus.
Memorize the Scriptures. Carole Mayhall wrote, "If you don't want God to transform your life, don't memorize the Bible, for as soon as we start absorbing His words in our hearts, He starts to transform us." Those who can memorize one verse each week are off to a good start. When we decide to memorize Scripture, we will soon have a collection of texts that, when appropriate, we may share encouragement and faith with other people.
Keep a thankful heart. I once read a poem that said: "In happy times, praise God. In hard times, seek God. In peaceful times, worship God. In painful times, believe in God. Every time, thank God." To have a thankful heart is to live with happiness, even when times are tough.
End each day with a prayer. Imagine yourself in God's arms, and review your day with Him. Talk to Him, rest in His love, and sleep in peace; He is going to stay awake and take care of you!
We are starting the marathon of another new year. We don't know what obstacles we'll encounter. But by having Jesus as our spiritual and emotional coach, we, like Paul, can say: "Brethren, 1 do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13-14).
General Conference Women's Ministries Associate Director