1 Corinthians 9:24-27
24 Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way as to win the prize. 25 Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. However, they do it to receive a crown that will fade away, but we a crown that will never fade away. 26 Therefore I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air. 27 Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
2 weekends ago I completed the Troutbeck Triathon!
I set my sights on this as a personal goal about a year ago – did a year without touching alcohol and sugar and all that stuff.
It took discipline and training and commitment and apart from having a cold and still battling with Achilles pain the week before I felt about as prepared as a semi-disabled guy that hasn’t participated in any competitive running or swimming event for 16-years and has never cycled other than riding my bmx to primary school can be – boy did I underestimate triathlon!
Triathletes are some of the fittest sportsmen on the planet and their speed, strength and endurance are legendary. In order to complete these events they have to be supremely disciplined and when it comes to raceday the split seconds count to the extent that they even shave their arm hair to reduce drag, they wear aerodynamic helmets, swim caps and trisuits which are just made from this amazing material that is basically a combination of lycra and spraypaint – they don’t leave a lot to the imagination!
I thought of wearing mine here this morning to give you a visual but everytime I put it on I hear this theme song start playing and this video clip plays in my mind:
Its called FAT GUY IN A LITTLE COAT
The night before the race we were up in Connemara and its misty and cold and the wind is lashing about in the pine trees, I woke up at 2am with a tight chest – I used to suffer from asthma as a younger guy but hadn’t used an inhaler for several years and didn’t have one up the mountain with us. I began to panic and fear began to take hold of my body – fear of failure, fear of embarrassment, fear of disappointing myself and confirming that I was just a washed up has been who will never amount anything.
Can you hear the lies and the accusation of the enemy and how cruel and cynical he is?
And I was just sort of drowning in this sea of despair. The kids started waking up from the wind and there was no power, it was dark we were in a strange and unfamiliar environment and the enemy was closing in.
At about 4am I just got my trisuit on and went and sat in the lounge and started stretching and praying and trying to regain some composure.
I felt comforted and assured that the God of Adventure was with me and leading me through this trial.
As an adventure-based leadership trainer I have become increasingly aware that it is not fair for me to routinely require that campers push themselves and face fears and step out of their comfort zone when I’ve been doing it for so long that I am no longer challenged in any way by any of the activities that we do on camp.
So I was excited about the opportunity to be tested. I began to pray and control my breathing by counting and praying and speaking the promises of God over my life and my family and taking my place as His beloved son and a steward of the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ – I took my place in the advance of the Kingdom of Heaven and felt peace like a river wash over me.
I began to feel more alive that I have felt in a very long time!
It felt like minutes later I was in the Troutbeck dam swimming madly towards the buoy at the far end of the dam and gasping for air with each icy stroke.
I turned onto my back to catch my breath and do backstroke for a while and realized that I was in 4th place after about 300m! I turned over again and gave it all I had to give for another 450m and dragged myself out of the water in 6th place. I sat down beside the dam to put on my brace and all of the remaining competitors exited the dam and passed me as I sat there tightening the straps on my brace and getting my shoes on so that I could run to the bike transition up the hill.
I literally thought to myself “good race, job done, I’ve given everything I came here to give” Now if you understand triathlon it is swim, ride, run. My particular race was 750m swim, 20km ride up and down the nyanga mountains and then 5km run.
By the time I was on my borrowed racing bike my friend and coach who had exited the dam in 2nd place, was waiting for me. “Come on bro, lets go!” he shouted. All I could hear blaring through the loud speakers was “fat guy in a little coat!”
I’ll speed this up – he coached me all the way up on the first lap which is a 3.3km loop straight up and then straight back down – on the way down at about 60km/hr he had a blowout and was effectively out of the race.
He had to run back to the start and get a new wheel fitted before rejoining the race so I carried on on my own for the next lap and as if I needed any help knowing the difference between me and a professional athlete he caught back up to me on the third lap to keep encouraging me!
After the 20km ride we began the 5km run. By this stage I had pulled a fat in my thigh on the bike so the run was more of a hobble. I had been having physio and dry needle on my Achilles and partially severed hamstring for 6 weeks to prepare me for the race and the dull ache got progressively more and more acute as we ran.
My friend trotting along right beside me didn’t stop talking at one point he said “I tell you what I’ve got a nice big stick of biltong in the car and if you don’t stop running I’ll share it with you as soon as we get back down the hill” I think I stopped running immediately!
I don’t know how many of you have ever done a triathlon before or played 3 rugby matches back to back to back, I had no saliva in my mouth, you know when you get that white ring around your lips? I don’t know why God designed the body to do that, I guess it’s just like a bullseye for the hosepipe!
By this point my back was in spasm and tensed so hard I thought that I was going to break a rib, my Achilles felt as though they were going to explode out of the back of my leg and then my friend said “when you were lying on your back in that hospital bed and the doctor said you would never run again did you ever imagine that one day you would be here at the African Triathlon Championship as a competitor?”
I wanted to cry but I couldn’t afford to lose the moisture.
What I instantly began to realize was that, triathlon and completing that race had nothing to do with my physical ability but it was all, and continues to be, an elaborate spiritual training exercise and bootcamp that God has been leading me thru for the last year.
Even down to the minute details and winks that He gave me as the race was about to begin – the race official came to me and asked which event I was doing as there were onroad and offroad and short and long and mini and elite races all taking place in succession so the marshals needed to know what race you were in to direct you around the course.
Once I told him he knelt down and using a permanent marker put a big blue X on my right knee. The last time that anyone did that to me was 16-years ago when the doctor used a permanent marker to put a big blue X on my right knee during the preparation for the surgery that would save my leg from amputation.
Instantly I recognized God’s hand in the story.
LEGEND OF BAGGER VANCE – see the field
How many of us are hacking away at life as though we’re chopping weeds out from under the front porch?
God wants to pull back the curtains on eternity and show you what your heart has been longing to be true since your youth.
The truth, that world that has ben pulled over your eyes to hide is that you have an irreplaceable role in the story that is unfolding around you.
You have a unique and timeless and powerful role that was made just for you – where the churning of the tides and the seasons and the turning of the world become one – you’ve got to seek that place with your soul – seek it with your heart not your head.
Its just you, that ball and that flag – the home of your authentic swing and all that you are. “Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way as to win the prize.”
Paul is not talking about disciplining our bodies to compete in triathlons although the discipline and focus required for that has had positive benefits throughout my life.
Paul says if you want to win in the game of life run with every ounce of energy that you can summon to serve your turn long after your strength has gone.
And the best part about the race of life is that we are not alone – just like my brother, coach, motivator with me every step of the way around the triathlon we too in the race of Life have a friend that sticks closer than a brother and his name is Jesus. “Jesus said come all who are thirsty and all who are weak – come to the fountain of life and drink”
So friends if you have been running and you’ve got the white bullseye around your lips, you’re panting like an old dog and feel like there is no way to win anymore. Then I think its time for you to see the field.
Its time to see deeper and go further with God than you’ve ever gone before!
I believe that HE wants to show us the field and the real story that is unfolding around us and when we set our eyes on the prize let us run with endurance tha race marked out for us – run in such a way as to win the prize, run for your life!