It’s a scorching 106 degrees in Temecula, California. My good friend, Adriana, and I have this ambition to run the Spartan Beast. It’s a 13+ mile course with 30+ obstacles and this one is in the California desert where there is steep terrain and record breaking heat waves. The excitement of trying something new is fueled by the energy of the music playing and athletes from all over California lining up to get their racing bibs.
As we begin to run up and down endless hills, temperatures start to rise. I start to long for water and begin to wonder where the muddy obstacles are. When can we get to a mud pit that provides cool water and puts me out of my misery? My mouth is dry, my feet start to hurt, and the sun beating on my skin is starting to cause dehydration. Adriana and I put one foot in front of the other and block out the pain and discomfort.
Fatigue and disappointment start to rise with every hill we climb. Was this such a good idea afterall? It was when we started, but now I want to quit. I am not sure I can, or even want to finish this race.
Four hours into the Spartan, I see in the distance a sign that says FINISH. Excitement wells up within me. A sudden burst of energy ignites my drive, and I keep my eyes focused on the end goal because we’re almost there. I hear the music of celebration playing and see the flags flying high. But my excitement and hope quickly fade when I realize the finish line is not on our side. It’s on the second half of the obstacle course. We’re only half way through the race.
At this moment time almost stops. Quitting becomes such a desire, I contemplate taking a picture with Adriana under the flags and tell everyone we finished the race. I’m not sure I have what it takes to complete the second half, much less the motivation to finish what I started.
Starting and quitting are easy. Whenever we start a new workout and nutrition program, isn’t it exciting? The beginning of something new promises the hope of change, getting the results we want, and because of that we can give it a few days. But then excitement begins to fade, something new turns into routine and because we don’t see results quick enough, we quit. How many times do we jump from one diet fad to another? How many times do we vow to go to the gym only to keep paying for a membership we hope to use “one day”?
Someone recently told me it’s easy for me to workout because I’m a disciplined person. It’s never easy to hear my alarm clock going off at 5am (and sometimes 4am) to go to the gym. It’s never easy to meal prep my food for the week so I make sure to stick to my nutrition plan. It’s hard to deny myself all the oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and cupcakes I want to eat so I can reach my fitness goals. Discipline doesn’t just happen; it’s developed over time.
One of my favorite verses is 1 Corinthians 9:27. It says, “I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should.” Some translations say, “I beat my body into submission, making it my slave.” Doesn’t that almost sound scandalous? Beating my body and making it my slave? Paul is saying we control our bodies and we make it do what we want it to. When my alarm clock goes off I’m tired, but I drag my body out of bed and I make it get up. I don’t always feel like working out, but if I listen to my body, I wouldn’t be this far into my fitness journey.
It’s the same thing when it comes to reading our bibles, praying and training our spiritual man. If we want to know God on an intimate level, it requires the discipline of training our souls. There are plenty of days when I do not feel like getting up early and praying. But just like I force my body out of bed when I’m tired, I discipline my body to pray because the reward of knowing God and having answered prayers drive me to connect with Him on a deeper level.
A friend of mine was getting discouraged because she reads her Bible daily. She said she doesn’t feel anything or get the insights she needs when it comes to knowing God on a deeper level. She wanted to quit. But God doesn’t always work like we want Him to. He does things a little different. Isaiah 28:10 says, “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little.” As we read His Word, God builds on us. He works in us a little here, a little there and in due time we see change, growth and a deeper walk. It WILL happen! That’s how He works!
Adriana and I finished that Spartan race. Little by little we put one foot in front of the other and we made progress with each step. It was easy to start when we were excited. It was easy to want to quit when we were exhausted, but progress happens in the effort we put into the task a little here and a little there; both for the physical and the spiritual change we seek.
We should take comfort in the knowledge that God never quits. He never starts something He can’t finish. Philippians 1:6, “Being confident of this, that He who has began a good work in you will carry it to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.” If you have given your heart to God and wonder if He’s still working on you, I want to encourage you to remember this verse. And because He is determined to finish the work He started in you, I hope you will continue to seek Him as eagerly as you did when you first met Him. There is no way to finish strong in this race of life without Him.
I learned something the day we ran the Spartan. Discipline isn’t doing something when we feel like it. Being a disciplined person is when we don’t feel like doing it, we do it anyway. And sometimes life is like the Spartan Beast. It has it’s ups and downs. Sometimes we want to quit, but if we discipline ourselves to keep going, we’ll make it to the finish line. There, an eternal prize will be waiting on the other side. So, let’s finish what we start, and maybe we can stop and enjoy the mud pits along the way!