What Does Endurance Training Have to Do with Spiritual Life?
During one of our conversations, a massage-therapist friend of mine brought up an interesting topic. Knowing that I participate in triathlon endurance events, she asked, “What concepts from your training do you carry over into the rest of your life?” Some of the answer is obvious: It brings structure, discipline, awareness of the need for better nutrition and rest, and so on. If we dig just a little deeper, even more profound principles can be found that are life changing if we choose to integrate them into our lives.
Without a doubt, there is a spiritual side to anything we do with our bodies, whether we are feeding it, resting it, or exercising it. Ancient philosophers would debate about the relationship between the body, mind, and soul. The Bible seems pretty clear that they are inseparably linked. What we do with our bodies affects us emotionally and spiritually, and vice versa. The concepts of endurance training, therefore, apply not only to the body but to the soul as well.
The biblical writers capture this vividly in Hebrews 12:1-2, 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, and Acts 20:24. In these passages, the encouragement regarding the spiritual life is clear: To follow Jesus Christ is to live the Christian life with endurance in order to share God’s grace with the world.
The words we translate as “endurance” (Hebrews 12:1, NLT) are rich in meaning. They mean perseverance: continuing to follow Christ in the face of difficult situations or conditions. Another way to put it is “to be strong in order to hold up under pressure.” Sustaining the pressures of life involves long-suffering patience without resentment, not only with circumstances but also with people. In reality, it is the hard work of simply putting up with something or someone without feeling the need to fix it or get even.
We often look at the Christian life through cultural lenses. The perspective from there can make it seem as if Christianity should be about God blessing his people with wealth and problem-free lives. The truth is that the Christian life is full of problems. Followers of Christ are just given an alternative way to see them and handle them—with integrity.
Endurance doesn’t have to be drudgery. In fact, the Bible presents it as a great joy. Steven Argue, the life development director at Mars Hill Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, probably understands, better than anyone, the seamless relationship between endurance training and faith. To read what he has to say, follow him on Twitter (@stevenargue).
One final note: It’s called a race because there is more than one person participating. Knowing that there are others in it is a motivation to continue, do our best, and finish. As you train for and run the race of life in Jesus Christ, it is vital to be involved in a community of others who also are running.
Enjoy the race. Finish well.