Yesterday marked the first day of my marathon training.

While I've run a number of half marathon's in the past, the Chicago Marathon this fall will be my longest race by far. Although there are many months in-between now and October, it's still hard to imagine how I'll ever be able to run 26.2 miles! That being said, I know that I'm not going to get there tomorrow. 

When it comes to physical training, you can't force growth to happen - it takes time and consistent commitment. It's an everyday kind of thing. As my cousin (a perennial marathoner with an average time of 2.5 hours) described to me, all healthy development involves periods of exercise and intentional periods of rest. You can't simply do one long run on the weekend and then expect your muscles and habits to mature in positive ways throughout the rest of the week. You will get hurt. Additionally, you don't want to be doing the same thing all the time. Instead, by introducing different types of activities, such as strength training, you actually decrease the risk of injury and increase your speed and power. What can we learn from marathon training?

  • There Are No Shortcuts: Shortcuts don't work when it comes to marathon training. Why might we think this might work for us in our spiritual training? Maybe we find ourselves hoping that attending church on Sundays or even an ELI team session will alone sustain our growth throughout the week. Perhaps we seek out worship gatherings, conferences, or retreat weekends as our primary way to walk with God. These are all good things except when they replace the real thing, a daily and personal relationship with Jesus. The highs can be high, but the lows will be equally as low. The path to authentic, lasting, and eternal growth is not easy, however, it's the only one that leads to victory.
  • Schedule Rest: From the beginning, God modeled a picture of work and rest (Exodus 20:8-11). As ones made in His image, it's incredible to think about how our biology likewise speaks to this truth: we need rest. Out of the twenty-four hours in a day, we generally spend 33% of them asleep. In training, it is often during times of rest that the true growth occurs. In your marathon of life, do you schedule times of rest? What is restful for you; what allows you to be replenished, repaired, and restored? 
  • Don't Skip Leg Day: Do we approach our growth holistically? When we are focusing intently on working out our spiritual health, we should consider this creatively and also be working out aspects of our emotional, physical, relational, and intellectual health. Each of these health areas are intimately interconnected and like skipping leg day workouts, ignoring any area can result in a damaging in-balance in life and impact our ability to serve God's Kingdom well. Are there areas of your holistic health that you've neglected during your current season?

<< Test First Name >>, let's say "no" to quick fixes and living for the weekend. As followers of Christ, we live for the everyday. We are in this to finish strong, and we run for an eternal purpose:

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted" (Hebrews 12:1-2).

This Holy Week, let's really sit in the amazing reality of the cross and Christ's resurrection. Jesus has not asked us to do anything that he has not already overcome himself (John 16:33). Grace comes to us freely, grace cost God dearly. May this truth root our Easter celebrations this year as we pursue Him who is worthy of our praise and worship!