Saturday, April 30, 2011

Racing Fuel

Are you so irrational? After you started with the Spirit,
are you now finishing up with your own human effort?

-- Galatians 3:3

Winning the Boston Marathon is arguably one of the greatest athletic feats in all sports. Hosted since 1897 by the City of Boston, this 26.22-mile race is held each year on the third Monday in April. It also attracts about 500,000 spectators, which makes the Boston Marathon New England's most viewed sporting event.

Nearly 27,000 runners entered the 2011 Boston Marathon. Kenyan Geoffrey Mutai won it in just over 2 hours and three minutes--an effort recognized by some authorities as the fastest marathon ever run. But whether or not Mutai's performance was a world record, completing the grueling race (let alone winning it) involved much more than practice runs and stretching exercises. Effective runners also adhere to a special diet to ensure that their bodies have enough fuel to carry them the distance.

In her Runners World magazine article The Healthy Runner's Diet, Liz Applegate recommends a regimen of seeds, fruits and vegetables, plant foods with their skins intact, milk and milk products, foods originating from cold water (like fish and other seafood), and meat, poultry, or eggs from free-range or grass-fed animals. These powerful foods, says Dr. Applegate, promote good health and peak athletic performance for long distance runners. And what many marathoners well-know is that eating the wrong foods can mean the difference between crossing the finish line and dropping out in exhaustion with miles left to go.

Since our faith journey is often called a marathon, this principle also applies to Christ-followers. But not so much with physical food, but the spiritual food we consume through our choice of friends, movies, music, books or other media. As Christ-followers, we want our lives to produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. But if we're constantly feeding ourselves with negative influences, we shouldn't be surprised if we follow our old sinful natures from time to time. Expressions of jealousy, bitterness and frustration are common examples of what can happen when we're not taking in the right spiritual fuel to go the whole distance.

As the Apostle Paul explained it to the Galatians, "Our sinful selves want what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit wants what is against our sinful selves. The two are against each other, so you cannot do just what you please."

It's obvious that every Christ-follower--just like every entrant of the Boston Marathon--needs to prepare for the long and demanding race ahead of them. Rather than carb-loading to maximize thestorage of energy in our muscles, we should follow a determined spiritual regimen that will help see us to victory.

First, we need to start with constant prayer and a continual awareness that we can't make it without the Holy Spirit living within us. Rather than living one day at a time, we're to proceed moment-by-moment. Second, we need to deliberately filter our thinking. Do the movies we watch, the websites we visit and the friends we make feed our spirit or our sinful nature? And finally, we must die to ourselves every day by always being on the lookout for traps and obstacles in our lives that could run us off the track. In 2 Timothy, Paul writes that his own spiritual diet and rigorous training regimen paid off for his faith-journey.

"I have fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith. At last the champion's wreath that is awarded for righteousness is waiting for me. The Lord, who is the righteous judge, is going to give it to me on that day. He's giving it not only to me but also to all those who have set their heart on waiting for his appearance."

The old saying is true: you are what you eat. So whether you're a brand-new Christ-follower or you've been a believer for years, choose only the life-giving fuels that will take you the distance and over the finish line. 

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