I recently read an article in the Rocky Mountain News about a local triathlon. After getting soaking wet by swimming, you bicycle for 12 miles and run for 3.1 miles. It sounds like misery to me. What an accurate comparison, however, to the Christian race - the spiritual triathlon!
Part of this race is running. Paul tells us in I Corinthians 9:24, 26: "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it . . . Therefore I run thus . . ." (NKJV). Picture "running" like the two boys I saw last week in Wal-Mart when one evidently said, "I'll beat you to the candy!" Off they ran. When they got to the candy, they darted to the next goal. What fun! At times in the Christian race we are "running." It's fun!
The wind of the Spirit blows through our hair, and joy fills our faces. Many times such running comes during revival crusades, during camp meeting services, during Advent or Easter celebrations, or during a special time of spiritual breakthrough in Sunday worship service. I love those times. I love to run! However . . .
Part of this race is walking. As much as I enjoy spiritual running, I have learned that most of this Christian race is "walking." Paul wrote in Galatians 5:25, "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit" (NKJV). Most of this Christian life is day-by-day, hour-by-hour, step-by-step, situation-by-situation. Nothing spectacular. Reading Scripture every day. Praying every day. Saying "yes" to the Holy Spirit in the minute details of daily life.
Even in a joyous, growing relationship with the Lord Jesus, most of this Christian race isn't "Glory, Hallelujah!" Isaiah wrote it well: "But the word of the Lord was to them precept upon precept, precept upon precept. Line upon line, line upon line, Here a little, there a little" (Isaiah 28:13, NKJV).
Part of this race is standing. In Ephesians 6:10, 11,13, and 14, Paul wrote: "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes . . . Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then . . ."
This Christian race is the only race I know of where you can win by standing. In fact, this is the most difficult part of the Christian triathlon. This is when everything goes wrong-people turn against you, cancer strikes, children rebel, divorce touches your family, an accident happens, or a deep disappointment hits. All the devil's schemes are thrown against you-at once. You can't run or even walk. But by God's grace and power, you can stand!
My prayer for you is that you will encounter many times when you will feel the wind of the Spirit in your face as you run. Run with joy. Laugh. Rejoice.
My prayer also is that when it's time to walk, you will walk with patience, with perseverance, with discipline, and with your hand in the Master's hand.
However, you will probably face times when you must stand. Put on the full armor of God. Plant your spiritual feet. Get ready for the storm. Stand there. By the grace of God, stand!
Running, walking, and standing. A spiritual triathlon. Be strong, brothers and sisters. This isn't an easy race. But, by the power of the Holy Spirit within you, you can and will win. After you have done everything, stand!
James H. Diehl is a general superintendent in the Church of the Nazarene.*
*Holiness Today, January/February 2007