Saturday, May 13, 2017

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 

Last week, Kenyan Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge nearly made history in his attempt to complete a marathon in less than two hours. Although he beat his personal best time for the 26.2-mile race, he still finished 26 seconds short of the goal at the Formula One race course in Monza, Italy. 

Completing such a grueling competition (let alone winning it) involved much more than practice runs and stretching exercises. Successful marathoners also adhere to a special diet to ensure that their bodies have enough fuel to carry them the distance. They understand that eating the wrong foods can mean the difference between crossing the finish line and dropping out in exhaustion with miles still left to go.

For Christ-followers, this principle applies Runnerbecause our faith-journeys are also marathons. The difference is that our racing fuel pertains to the spiritual foods we consume through our choice of friends, movies, music and other media. On the way to crossing life's finish line, we should strive 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 on 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 fail to consume the right spiritual fuel for going the distance.

As the Apostle Paul told 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 runner in an Olympic marathon--needs to prepare for the long and demanding race ahead of them. But rather than carb-loading to maximize the storage of energy in our muscles, we should instead follow a determined spiritual routine that will help see us to victory.

First, let's 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 must 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 staying alert for traps and obstacles that could run us off the track. It's in 2 Timothy that Paul writes about the payoff for his own faith-journey through a rigid spiritual diet and rigorous training regimen: 

"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, consume only the life-giving fuels that will take you the distance and over the finish line. 

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