In 1 Corinthians 9:24 Paul writes, “run in such a way as to get the prize.” So many times when we think of wining a race, we think of being fast!
Yet there is a huge difference in what you need to do to win a sprint vs. winning an ultra-marathon. As it says in Ecclesiastes 9:11 “The race doesn’t always go to the swift…” In longer races where endurance is key, many times those in the lead at the start, finish last… if they finish at all. Pacing is so key!
When you’re talking about becoming like Jesus – it’s like the ultra- ultramarathon… one that lasts your whole life!!! And it is wise to take this into account when you are seeking to disciple someone.
I’ve seen people race to cover a different topic every time they meet (eg., scripture memory one week, prayer the next, one week on evangelism, then the next week on fellowship…) rather than slowing down to give time to process, consider the topic from different angles and let it become fully a part of someone’s life in a transforming lifelong way.
I’ve also seen people burn out racing to master spiritual disciplines! Thinking surely if I’m strong in this it will be all I need to live life well. But discipleship isn’t a position to be attained, it’s a way of life to be entered into and pursued all your days.
But even in this it’s vital to understand, no one maintains a constant uphill progression – there are bumps in the road, steps backwards, hard times come, people get sidetracked – this is life in a broken and fallen world.
Even more than this, it’s the reality of how God created things to grow. There are seasons we all go through. In Psalm 1 when it pictures a person who meditates on God’s Word day and night, it presents a tree planted by streams of living water which “bears its fruit in season.” Real fruit requires seasons to grow. I can’t stress how vital it is to help those you disciple understand this!!!
I’ve been reading a great book by Mark Buchanan that explores this concept in depth. It’s entitled Spiritual Rhythm: Being with Jesus Every Season of Your Soul. It’s so important that we teach and model this reality with those we meet. Throughout our lives “winters” will come on a regular basis and you aren’t going to run as fast during a winter season! Or bear much fruit. That’s reality. If you try to, you will only wear yourself out or worse, miss out on growing the way Jesus wants you to.
In Romans 8:28 we are given an amazing truth about the Lord. He “works all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.” So many times we stop at the end of the verse instead of continuing on to read it in its full context.
But vs. 29 is critical for understanding the good God is doing through all things, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of His son…” This is transformation – God’s children becoming more like Jesus! Do you realize for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose (talk about a great definition of a disciple!!!) God works ALL things for good. And what could be more good than becoming like Him?!
I’ll never forget taking time to chart my spiritual journey. I took four pieces of white card stock and taped them together, then drew a line across the middle of them. Starting at the beginning of my Christian life I placed on top of the line positive times when I walked with Jesus and below the line negative times when I struggled and went my own way. The more I struggled the farther down I placed that time, and the closer I was to Jesus the higher that went on the page.
Imagine my surprise when I connected the dots, to discover the times I struggled most in walking with God always preceded times of walking closest to Him. It was like being on a high dive where you turn around and walk backwards so you can get more momentum once you’re running forward again! I was totally blown away!
And you know what preceded many of those dives below the line? Pushing too hard when I was above the line – doing too much trying to either make myself grow faster or help others do so! It’s so easy during those times to stop answering Jesus’ invitations in Revelation 3:20 to fellowship with Him and Matthew 11:28-30 to come to Him and find rest. Those are both key parts of growing!
Remember being a disciple is about walking in step with Jesus. How do you follow someone if you’re running faster than Him? Consider what it says in 2 John 9 “Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. ”
Always keep asking, “How am I doing abiding in Christ? Is my pace compromising this?” And be sure to consider this for those you meet with too, “Am I asking them to run too fast?!”
Don’t be like a Hamster running circles in his ball – with lots of activity not getting you anywhere!
Just like in the story of the tortoise and the hare ~ slow and steady wins the race! Protecting time to abide, really is key for running in such a way as to get the prize! You may not look as impressive… until you finish strong!