Go Run!

Here is a comprehensive list of ALL the times when it is advisable to miss a scheduled run:

Number One.  When it would make you a worse runner or a scoundrel.

That’s it.  No other rules apply.  It’s only a little more complicated than that.

Obviously, if running would be injurious to you, then it would make you a worse runner.  Don’t run if you would injure yourself more.  If you’re just sore, go run.  If you ran twenty miles yesterday, then running twenty more miles today would probably make you a worse a runner too.  It’s all just common sense.

It’s the scoundrel part that makes it more complicated.  For example, you would be a scoundrel to run instead of going to your best friend’s anniversary party.  That part’s simple.  However, the complexity comes from the fact that there is probably sometime during the day when you can fit that run in.  Can you get up a little earlier?  Note that getting up earlier neither makes you a worse runner nor a scoundrel.

Sick?  How sick are you?  Tired? So what.  Is it raining?  Snowing? You get wet on purpose every day when you take a shower; it won’t hurt you.  Don’t feel like it.  You’ll be fine once you get going.

Stop the excuses. Make some time.  Go for a run.

Christianity is just as simple.  There is one way:  John 14:6 says, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  You either believe Christ is the answer or you don’t.  It’s black and white, simple as pie.  Once you believe that, it gets a little more complex as we struggle to become more Christ-like, but, just like there is one rule for whether or not you run, there is one rule for whether or not you’re going to Heaven.

It’s a convoluted world out there, but there are some things that are still uncomplicated.  I like simplicity.

Dean

Recovery Runs

I love recovery runs. There is no pressure to accomplish any particular goal except to cover a certain distance or time. The idea is to work some soreness out of your legs and you don’t have to run hard to do it. As a matter of fact, you have to run slow. I always run a recovery run the day after a hard run. Running hard will take its toll on your body and it needs rest. I believe active rest is best that day after a hard workout or race and an easy recovery run is perfect.   If I am going to take a day off, I would prefer it to be the day after a recovery run. Your legs get stiff with lactic acid build up from running fast and an easy run will help to alleviate that soreness.

So how do you go about a recovery run? Easy. That’s the key. A couple of minutes slower than your regular pace is not too slow. A little faster is okay, but not necessary. At the fastest, thirty seconds to a minute slower than your average run is appropriate. Run slow, take it easy, and enjoy the lower effort! Think of it like lying on the beach, or relaxing to a good movie. I always think about recovery runs as a reward for working so hard the day before.

Recovery runs will help to prevent injury. Keeping your legs as loose as possible is an important part of keeping yourself on the healthy track. In addition to the run, take time to stretch when done. Pay attention to particularly sensitive muscle groups and spend a little more time on those, gently stretching them.

If it is important to run easy the day after a hard workout, it is even more important to recover from a race. The longer the race, the longer the recovery needs to be. My (and a lot of other folks) rule of thumb is a day of easy running for each mile of the race. For a 5K, I will run a recovery run the day after the race and then at least two more easy days before getting back to hard running again. For a marathon, I will run recovery runs for a week and then run easy for another two to three weeks before attempting to run hard again.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” It’s a good way to look at recovery runs. Each race is the end of a journey, some short and some long. Either way, new beginnings are always intriguing. Any time we are tested and we become tired and worn; it is good to remember that we are New Creatures in God’s eyes.

  • Recovery runs are a reward for working hard. Enjoy them without guilt!
  • As a rule of thumb, run one easy day for each mile of a race to ensure your body is ready to get back to hard running.
  • Each mountain we climb, whether a race or difficult life circumstances, new beginnings are welcome. But nothing beats the new beginning of becoming a new creature in Christ!

An excerpt from Devotions v1.  Pick up a copy today at www.RunforGod.com.

We All Have Talents

Thirty-eight years ago this month (May), I ran my first sub-five minute mile. I was a ninth-grader at Pointe South Junior High School in Riverdale, Georgia. I remember that day acutely because I had been trying to run a mile in under five minutes for the entire season, and I was successful on my final attempt, the County Championship. Coincidentally, that was also the first one mile race I ever lost. Isn’t it funny how God will keep our ego in check!

Fast forward thirty-eight years and I stood on the starting line of the Market Street Mile in Chattanooga, Tennessee. My goal? Run a mile in under five minutes. The gun went off, I felt great running straight to the front of the over-thirty race. I never looked back and finished the mile in 4:55, the same time I had run thirty-eight years ago the first time I had broken the five-minute barrier. Hopefully, that’s not my last time, but it may be. I don’t know what God has in store for me tomorrow.

God gave me a gift: Running. He has made my body in such a way that I am able to excel at something I love to do. But, if I use it strictly for my enjoyment, I am completely missing the point and I am dishonoring the very God who gave me the ability to do what I do. For about thirty-four of those years, that’s exactly what I did. But, as I have grown closer to my Lord, He has shown me ways to impact others through the sport of running. I don’t know what He has in store for me in the future, but I have seen enough to know that following His will is never a bad thing.

He has allowed me to travel down some dark paths. They were places I would never choose to go. They were disappointing in some cases and painful in others. But, in the end, I have seen what the mighty hand of God can do when I choose to trust Him and go down that path, regardless of the immediate appearance of the direction.

Why is that important? I would never have followed His path to Run for God if He had revealed the entire picture to me from the beginning. I’m pig-headed. In addition, I found that really tough circumstances can lead to great things. But, it only works when you do two things: 1) Make yourself available to be used by God in whatever your area of talent may be, and 2) Follow His path no matter where it takes you.

My talent happens to be running, but maybe you have a talent for comforting people. God wants to use that talent, maybe through visiting nursing homes, for example. Or, maybe you can fix anything and God would enjoy seeing you repairing things for people who need it. I have heard a lot of people say, “I don’t have a talent.” To that, I reply “poppycock!” I know a lady who’s talent is sending thoughtful notes through the mail. They never fail to make my day! There’s something God wants to use you for…

Do you think God gave you that talent just so you could use it for yourself? Colossians 3:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” When you help others, you are serving the Lord! Jesus tells us this in Mathew 22:37-40, “And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” When you honor God with your talents, you are proving your love for Him and for others, fulfilling the commandments that Jesus considers the most important.

What are you doing with your talent? Are you sharing it? If not, what are you waiting for?

Dean T.

I’m Not Qualified

Have you ever used the phrase, “I’m not qualified” or something similar? Maybe it’s “I can’t do that”, “I’ve never done that”, or “I don’t know what I’m doing when it comes to that”. Sure you have, we all have. Many times that is an appropriate answer, but sometimes it’s simply not.

I like photography, it’s one of my hobbies, and I feel I’m actually pretty good at it. I mean, I’m not National Geographic material, but I do understand what makes a good photo. I’ll never forget years ago someone asking me to shoot their wedding. I considered it for about 1-second and kindly said no. My response was, “I’m not qualified”. Sure I can shoot great pictures of flowers, kids, and sunsets, but all those things are easily replicated should something go wrong. If my battery goes dead on a wedding day, I can’t simply ask everyone to come back tomorrow for a redo.

The example above is very similar to why we here at Run for God do not have our own race timing system. By the numbers, it makes pretty good sense for us to make that investment, but we don’t. The reason is the same reason that I will not photograph a wedding. We need people who are qualified and specialize in the area of timing, people who do it every weekend and are known for getting it right, because just like that wedding, we can’t ask everyone to come back tomorrow to run that race.

Now I would argue that the answer, “I’m not qualified” is the correct answer to the scenarios above. But when is the answer, “I’m not qualified” misplaced? When it’s God calling!

When is the answer, “I’m not qualified” misplaced? When it’s God calling!

 Almost eight years ago God made a request of me that initially I dismissed. He was very clearly prompting me to start a running ministry. Number one, I wasn’t a minister. Number two; I wasn’t even that good of a runner. I mean there’s no way that a marginal runner who doesn’t know the Bible like he should, would ever be asked by God to start a running ministry. In my mind, God had tapped the wrong person for this job because obviously, “I’m not qualified”.

Think about this. Matthew was a tax collector, a pretty “worldly” job in those days. He went on to become the author of the first book in the New Testament. Peter was a fisherman, and went on to become the rock on which Jesus built the church. Paul was a persecutor of Christians, killing them just for being who they were. He went on to be one of the greatest Ambassadors of the faith authoring over a dozen books of the Bible.

God wants us to answer His call in any situation. “I’m not qualified” is never an acceptable answer. Many times God will use those who are not qualified, by worldly standards, to do great things, so that there is no other explanation for what happened than Him. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is a gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Even in our salvation, God calls us when we are not qualified.

Today, God may be calling you to do something that sounds crazy, something you may not be qualified for. Believe me, I get it. I’ve been there, and it seems as though God has me there often. But the only correct answer is, “Yes God”. It may be something as simple as talking to a coworker about Jesus, or going on a mission trip. Maybe it’s something a little more complicated like making a drastic life change because you know it’s what God wants.

Eight years ago God called me to start a running ministry. I felt inadequate, but I stepped outside my comfort zone. The result is Run for God. The credit can never come to myself, Holly, or any of our staff. The credit can only go to God, and to what He can do through someone who simply says, “I’m willing”.

Have a great day everyone!

Mitchell

When Two Worlds Collide

For those of you who don’t know, I wasn’t always a runner; I haven’t always been the Run for God guy. Nope, in fact, my profession since I graduated high school has been a general contractor. That’s right, I grew up on jobsites, swinging hammers, toting lumber, and hearing all the normal conversations that take place in this setting which is usually far from spiritual. I love being a contractor. I love taking nothing one day and building it into something beautiful the next. To me, it’s very satisfying.

Over the last several years I’ve been somewhat removed from that setting due to the growth of Run for God as well as the weak housing market. My partner and brother Jerome was very understanding in 2010 when I told him I felt the Lord calling me to start a ministry that we all know as Run for God.

As of late, I’ve been making a return to the job site. I’ve got great people around me at Run for God, which has allowed me to step back into a world that has dramatically changed. Or has it? You see, as I sit here typing this blog, I’m sitting in my truck on one of our job sites. There are dozers, dump trucks, men chewing and smoking tobacco, foul language, and the smell of fresh turned dirt permeating the air. I won’t forget walking up on a job a few weeks ago and a sub-contractor that I’d known since I was a kid was using words that I hadn’t been exposed to in some time. Had he changed? Nope, but I had.

God really began to open my eyes to the fact that He had changed me. He had taken me out of an environment that’s not always so Godly so that He could change my heart and place me back there to point people to him. Something I would have never done years ago.

So where does God have you right now? Do you shy away from those who don’t have a relationship with Christ because your fearful of what they might say, think, or do? If you don’t shy away, are you blending in? Or, are you shining the light of Jesus to the very people who may need to see it most?

Don’t try to compartmentalize God! Don’t try and show Him off in some areas and hide Him in others. Let the love of Jesus flow into all areas of your life and make it your goal to reach those whom you’d never expect to reach. Matthew 5:16 says to, “let your light shine before others.” Is your light always shining before others? Go ahead; let your worlds (church, family, job, recreation) collide! Who knows, maybe it’s stepping outside your comfort zone and teaching a Run for God class whereby your recreation and spiritual worlds collide?

Mitchell

Absolute

Absolute

adjective | ab•so•lute | \ˈab-sə-ˌlüt

: Free from imperfection. Pure, outright, unmitigated, free from mixture.

As many of you know, I coach a group of junior triathletes in my hometown. These kids and young adults are great. They’re a hard working, passionate, and coachable. Lately however, we’ve been dealing with the fact that our team has rules, and there are consequences for those rules not being followed. I have several rules on our team that tend to be the topic of much discussion from time to time. Rules like, no cell phones, be prepared, always listen, be ten minutes early, do your best, and always represent Jesus. I’m known for being firm on these rules and excuses just aren’t acceptable. I’m convinced that the pillars of who we are as a team should be “absolute” for anyone to associate those qualities with us. Notice that none of these rules have anything to do with being fast, but often being fast is the result.

Over the past few weeks I’ve noticed that one of my rules has begun to loose it’s meaning, and honestly, much of the blame can fall to me. It was the rule of being prepared. If you know anything about the sport of triathlon, you know that it takes a lot of preparation. There are three sports with three sets of gear, three environments in which you exercise, and simply put, three areas in which you can be unprepared. I’ve told our athletes that their gear bag should always be prepared for their sport when they show up for practice, and their sport is triathlon. It’s not swimming, biking, OR running, it’s swimming, biking, AND running. Sure, on most days we are only doing one discipline, but there are days when we as coaches decide to work on something else, and our athletes need to be ready. Long story short, I call it the One Bag Rule.

As I mentioned, this rule as of late, has begun to lose it’s meaning, and it’s because I had not done my part in making it “absolute”. Athletes were approaching me saying they had forgot this or that because it was in a different bag or because they didn’t know that we were doing a certain workout. I had allowed my lack of “absolute” consequences to begin eroding one of the things our team stood for, preparedness. It was time for a change!

I sat all of our athletes down and explained why I had always had the One Bag Rule and that going forward this rule would be “absolute”. There would be no excuses, and that failure to have all their gear in one bag at every practice will result in them watching everyone from the bench at that particular practice. Wouldn’t you know that at the very next practice three athletes showed up without some of their gear? They were devastated to know that while everyone was hitting the trails to run, they would be sitting at a picnic table silently while processing the fact that they would be doing their workout later that evening alone. To them it seemed harsh. To me, I could sense the judgment from being what seemed irrational. But at the end of the day, I fully understand one “absolute” truth about the sport of triathlon, your career, your education, and your life. If you are not prepared, you will not be successful. Vince Lombardi may have said it best when he said, “The will to win is not nearly as important as the will to prepare to win.” That is “absolute” truth.

So let me get to my point.

Society today says there is no “absolute” truth. It says that there is no black or white, but rather, gray is the safe place to be. It also suggests that rules are merely suggestions, and consequences, well there is no place for those. Society these days says to do what feels good, not what is right. It’s your life, live it how you want. Today, it almost seems that apathy is to be desired rather than avoided.

Let me be completely blunt about the growing trend of how society views “absolute” truth. It is wrong! It is wrong because along with “absolute” truth come “absolute” consequences.

If you’re apathetic to your job, it will lead to termination.

If you’re apathetic to your spouse, it will lead to misery or worse.

If you’re apathetic to your beliefs, it will lead to confusion.

If you’re apathetic to your schooling, it will lead to failure.

If you’re apathetic to your community, it will lead to displacement.

If you’re apathetic to Jesus Christ, it will lead to an eternity separated from Him.

God’s word is clear. It say’s in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or WHATEVER you do, do it for the glory of the Lord.” In short, this passage is saying that everything we do should be done in a way that brings honor and glory to God as if he were physically standing there watching us. How many times have you seen someone do something in someone’s honor? There is no apathy there! Whatever it is they are doing, they do it with everything they have. In 2014, a gentleman by the name of Bob Natoli, along with his son and son-in-law, held a fitness fundraiser in honor of a young lady who had been killed by a drunk driver. That day those three men broke 6 world records. No apathy there! These men set an example of how we should honor God in everything we do.

In closing, I would associate the word apathy with being lukewarm. You’re not hot, you’re not cold, and you really just don’t care. Jesus has a clear message for those who try and bring this attitude to a relationship with him. He says in Revelations 3:15, “I know your works, that you are neither cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of my mouth.” Jesus wants “absolute” followers.

Today, live your life free from apathy and rooted in absolute truth. Be hot toward the things that matter and cold toward the things that don’t. Stand firmly and proudly on the convictions you know to be “absolute” but the world says are irrational. Be a leader of Biblical principals and not a follower of worldly desires. Be the person who doesn’t participate in idle chatter so that when you do speak people listen. Be the person that people look at and say, “There’s something different about them, and I want it.” Be a reflection of Jesus Christ.

Mitchell

The First Run for God Race

This weekend was the seventh running of the Run for God Run at the Mill. It was a great day with runners coming from all over the country filling the country roads of northern Whitfield County. God put an exclamation point on the day when the last runner came down the hill toward the finish line. We always gather everyone to the finish line for the last finisher, but this race was special. It turned out that the last finishers, a group of three, contained a rather small-statured person in the middle. We had a three year-old girl finishing a 10K! Of course, that just made the cheers even louder as the adults backed off and let the little girl have the spotlight. It was awesome!

As I said, this was the seventh time we ran this particular race and we have hosted many other races in the last seven years, but the first Run for God happened way before Mitchell Hollis ever created the concept. Pastor Charlie Bridges talked about the first Run for God before the races began. John 20:1-2 says, ”Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” Mary ran to the disciples.

The disciples responded in verses 3-9, “Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb. So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first. And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed. For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.”

They ran to the tomb, and John indicates that this may have been the first race! The first Run for God participants were Mary Magdalene, Peter and John. And then comes the greatest part of the story when they find out that He has risen and is alive. It changed their lives forever.

Today, we run or walk for various reasons. Some of us do it for weight control, while others like the feeling of being more fit. Some just want to be more healthy in general and others like the thrill of competition. Whatever the reason, it’s important to understand that God gave us running for all of those reasons and much more.

But, our most important run of all is when we emulate Peter and John and run towards Jesus. The difference is that we know He is alive. We have the luxury of knowing what He has done and the hindsight of all of the Biblical writers. How about you? We’re all running in one way or another. The question is, are you running towards Jesus or away from Him? There’s no place like the safety and comfort of His arms! It will change your life forever.

Dean

Knowledge or Relationship

This past Saturday we hosted the 7th Annual Run for God – Run at the Mill in Dalton, GA. This 5K, 10K, and Half Marathon was the first event we ever hosted, and is, to this day one of my favorite events. Maybe it’s the onset of spring, the fact that it’s close to my home, or that we’ve always been blessed with perfect weather, but I always look forward to race day at The Mill!

Last year at this race I began doing something different during our pre-race announcement, prayer, and National Anthem ceremony. I began to simply pose the question, “Do you know where you would spend eternity should you leave this earth today?” As you may already know, the Lord has really been pushing me outside my comfort zone when it comes to evangelism, and posing this question in front of hundreds of people was about as far removed from my comfort zone as you can get.

This year, the Lord laid on my heart something a little different, and He did this the night before the race. On race morning as I took the stage, I told the crowd that I’d like to introduce someone very special to them. I asked my pastor Charlie Bridges to join me as I formally introduced him to everyone. I explained that Charlie was my pastor, my friend, and one of my mentors. I went on to explain to everyone that there is no other way that I would introduce Charlie. I’d never say this is Charlie Bridges from Grove Level Baptist Church. I’d never say this is Charlie Bridges, the husband of Lynn Bridges. And I’d never say this is Charlie Bridges the guy who drives a white Chevrolet. No, I would only introduce Charlie as my friend or my pastor.

How I introduce Charlie matters. The pastor of Grove Level, the husband of Lynn, and the guy who drives a Chevy, all indicate that I know who Charlie is. But the fact that I describe Charlie as my pastor and my friend indicates a relationship.

Over 2000 years ago a very similar conversation took place. It took place as Jesus was talking with His disciples. He asked them “Who do men say that I am?” They began telling Him about all the rumors and who people were saying that He was. Then Jesus looked at Peter and asked what could be considered the most important question in the history of the world. He asked Peter, “Who do YOU say that I AM?”

So why is this question so important as it pertains to Jesus? Because, here again, how we describe who Jesus is matters! I’ve heard people describe Jesus/God in many ways. A supreme being, the creator, all knowing, the “Man” in the Good Book, JC, and many others. But none of those indicates a relationship. I’m always comforted when I hear people say things like my Father, my Savior, or my Everything because this indicates a relationship with Jesus Christ in the same way that me introducing Charlie as my pastor/friend indicates a relationship with him.

Who do you say that Jesus is? The answer to this question has eternal consequences.

Have a great day everyone.

Mitchell

When God Speaks

Have you ever noticed that there are times that God shows up at what seems to be a strange time unannounced? Now I understand as a child of God that He’s always there, but sometimes it seems as though He just busts down the door of our hearts and sets up shop for a bit.

This is exactly what happened to me a few days ago. I was driving into town for a meeting just like I do a couple times a week, when God kicked down the door to my heart and seemed to say, “Listen, we need to talk!”

I was listening to the radio, which is always on my favorite local Christian Radio Station J103, when a song came on the radio. It’s a song that I’d heard several times lately, but this time it was different. It was almost as if God were saying these words to me Himself. When the song ended, I couldn’t get a hold of my favorite DJ Ted Gocke fast enough to find out what that song was he just played.

The song is “Even If” by Mercy Me. It’s fairly new.  After researching I learned that it was written by Mercy Me’s very own Bart Millard, who has a child that struggles with a chronic illness. Not only can you hear Bart’s struggle through this song, but you can also easily relate it to your very own struggles in life.

We all have different struggles, some different than others; but we all serve the same God who IS able to take those struggles away with His Mighty Hand.  BUT, even if He doesn’t, our hope must remain in him.

So the next time you are driving down the road and a song comes on the radio and you find yourself emotional, remember, that could very well be the voice of God speaking through whomever your listening to. Listen to what’s being said! God speaks to us in many ways; we just have to be listening.

Have a great week everyone!

Mitchell

Listen to “Even If” by Mercy Me.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B6fA35Ved-Y 

 

Hear the story behind the song.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YR8zYeY25HY

 

“Even If” by Mercy Me (Lyrics)

They say sometimes you win some

Sometimes you lose some

And right now, right now I’m losing bad

I’ve stood on this stage night after night

Reminding the broken it’ll be alright

But right now, oh right now I just can’t

 

It’s easy to sing

When there’s nothing to bring me down

But what will I say

When I’m held to the flame

Like I am right now

 

I know You’re able and I know You can

Save through the fire with Your mighty hand

But even if You don’t

My hope is You alone

 

They say it only takes a little faith

To move a mountain

Well, good thing

A little faith is all I have right now

But God, when You choose

To leave mountains unmovable

Give me the strength to be able to sing

It is well with my soul

 

I know You’re able and I know You can

Save through the fire with Your mighty hand

But even if You don’t

My hope is You alone

I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt

Would all go away if You’d just say the word

But even if You don’t

My hope is You alone

 

You’ve been faithful, You’ve been good

All of my days

Jesus, I will cling to You

Come what may

‘Cause I know You’re able

I know You can

 

I know You’re able and I know You can

Save through the fire with Your mighty hand

But even if You don’t

My hope is You alone

I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt

Would all go away if You’d just say the word

But even if You don’t

My hope is You alone

 

It is well with my soul

It is well, it is well with my soul

Commit to the Finish

I saw a great picture this weekend of what God wants us to be. Let me set it up:

I was watching the Run for God Junior Triathlon Team compete at the Clermont Draft Legal Challenge in Clermont, Florida. We had some great performances and it’s always inspirational to watch these young people work hard to reach their goals. This was the first race of the season and the first ever draft-legal race for several of our athletes. They did a great job! I don’t want to take away from anyone’s performance, but I’d like to focus on one athlete in particular.

This was a very unusual weekend because there were two races, one on Saturday and one on Sunday. The races were identical, other than a few entrants who would only race one day. Lane Hollis completed both races and was on the podium in both. On day one, the race went like this:

Lane came out of the swim within 15 seconds of the leader. By the time they were on their bikes, he was in a pack of three riders who would ride together for the duration of the bike portion of the race. The three of them swapped duties at the front of the pack and worked together to keep their distance from a pack of fast cyclists behind them who were trying their best to catch up. Going into the run, Lane and the other two guys were headed for a battle over the 1.6 mile run course. Lane is a fast runner and we knew he had a chance to take the overall win.

The course was out and back on a single road, so we watched them run over a hill and out of sight and waited for them to return hoping to see Lane come back over the hill first. As the time for them to return approached, I was nervously watching the top of the hill. When I saw the first head appear it was clear right away that it was not Lane. As the leader came down the hill and into the last 300 meters of the run, there was a large gap back to the next runner. When I saw the second place runner, it was still not Lane. My heart sunk, but I knew Lane was one to give it all he had, and so I was disappointed for him (not IN him).

Lane finished third, but he was disappointed in his run, and I also knew that he could run faster. I asked him what went wrong and he said that he didn’t feel good on the run from the first step. He also said that his stomach was hurting and that affected his run. We talked about the fact that you don’t use your stomach to run and that, unless you were debilitated in some way from the issue, you can’t let that slow you down. If it’s just extra pain, you have to dig deep enough to push it to the side and just run (I know, heartless coach, right?). It was still a good day, but it just seemed unfinished.

On day two, race conditions had changed and it was unclear how things would play out. As it turns out, the swim and first transition were similar, but there was an unfamiliar guy who had a lead and the second place finisher from the day before was in second place again. Lane was in a pack of athletes about ten to fifteen seconds behind the leader. The pack grew as some strong cyclists entered the pack from behind, but they could not catch the leaders. As they entered transition, the pack had worked its way back down to three representing the third through fifth spots. When they came out of transition, somehow Lane had worked his way into second place. I found out later that the second place athlete had crashed his bike just before going into transition. He would get up and continue, but he started the run in fifth place.

As they began the run, Lane and his good friend Sam Tullis were in pursuit of the leader. They had about 15 seconds to make up if they were going to catch him. Just like the day before, the anticipation of seeing them come over the hill was excruciating! When they came over the hill, I couldn’t believe my eyes! All three of them were shoulder to shoulder with 300 meters to go. It was going to come down to who could finish the fastest. As they came down the hill, Lane surged into the lead. He had committed to the finish line first. The other two responded by picking up the pace and staying with him. 120 meters from the finish line, Lane hit another gear and pulled away by about 10 feet. As soon as the finish line was clearly in sight, the older and bigger athlete (Justin Free) who had led the entire way until Lane and Sam had caught him surged ahead and took the victory over the last 40 meters. Lane used all he had left to finish second (Pictured Above). The top three were separated by five seconds! What a great battle!

So, why do I share this? I think this was a perfect picture of what God wants from us. My first thought was that He wants us to commit to the finish in everything we do. He wants us give it all we have. He doesn’t want us to give up when things get tough. Just like Lane and Sam ran as hard as they could all the way through the finish line (even though they finished second and third), God wants us to give our best no matter what the outcome is going to be. Lane didn’t win, but he left everything he had on the course. God tells us that we won’t win every battle. He tells us that we will face tough situations. In James, the phrase is, “WHEN we face trials,” not, “IF we face trials.”

But then I thought about it some more. God wants us to put everything into each situation we find ourselves in, but He wants more than that. You see, Lane was the first to launch himself to the finish line by starting his kick first, but that wasn’t the beginning of his commitment. Lane had committed himself to that finish line before he began that race. He could “see” that finish line the night before as he thought about race strategy. He committed himself to that finish line weeks, months, even years, before by working hard in practice even when things got tough. He had “conditioned” himself to deal with adversity before the adversity came. When he didn’t face the adversity to his liking the first day, he dug deeper and found a way to overcome it the second day. Lane told me after the second race that his stomach once again hurt, but he was able to push it the side and not let it be a factor in the outcome.

We are going to be disappointed. The Bible clearly tells us that we are all sinners, so many of the letdowns will be failing to live up to what God wants us to be. But, how are we going to respond to those failures? God wants our very best, our “first fruits.” He doesn’t want us to give up just because things don’t go the way we think they should. In addition, He wants us to prepare for all of life’s battles by forming a daily relationship with Him through Bible study and prayer.

But, we must be careful how we define failure too. Lane finished second. While it is good to think about how to finish first next time, that’s kind of the point. God doesn’t always give us victories, but He wants us to continue to give our best. Lane put everything he had into trying to win that race, but he didn’t. However, he kept his chin up because he knows that he did the best he could do on that day.

This applies to all of us. We may not be vying for a win in a triathlon, but we may be victorious by going for a run five days this week. Maybe our success is getting to the local food bank to volunteer and share Jesus with someone. Perhaps your battle is with the food you eat? Or, maybe it’s teaching a Bible study class. Whatever you do, do it with all your might and with His help. One thing I know is true; you have to commit yourself to the finish line of whatever race you enter, and that starts now. It requires planning AND execution. To be more specific, it requires planning in order to execute to the best of our ability.

Dean Thompson

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