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RACING THOUGHTS

My Pace Maker

By Laura J. Bagby
CBN.com Sr. Producer

CBN.comI could feel my steps getting heavier and heavier as I slogged my way through, my breathing too shallow and much too labored for one claiming to be fit and healthy. The more I pressed in, the more I felt like I was sure to falter and faint with exhaustion. Would my knees finally buckle and succumb to the harsh pavement? I couldn't say for sure, but with my heart lurching out of my chest and my stomach dizzily plummeting at every tread, I did know one thing: this was the worst I had felt in a really, really long time.

The disturbing thing is I had done this willingly.

Along with many other gung-ho foot stompers, I decided about a month ago or so to participate in a local fundraising run, a first for me. I was nervous but optimistic about my upcoming success. After all, I figured I am young and thin and just got a great medical evaluation: blood pressure and cholesterol way below normal, and blood sugar in the normal range. This shouldn't be too difficult.

But I forgot one thing: No train…lots of pain.

Sure, I was "working out" here and there, mostly walking a couple of times per week for half an hour to an hour. But I wasn't doing any heavy-duty, serious kind of physical activity that required me to check my pulse for signs of impending death that is, until the Monday of my first jog.

I only went about 30 steps or so, and, honestly, I felt like a human earthquake every internal organ was being jiggled in a directionless, clumsy gymnastic routine. Yeow!

Pain isn't fun, but if you want to be a good athlete, it comes with the territory. The same can be said for us as Christians. As we venture out into new spiritual territory, learning about God's holiness, making decisions that go against the cultural norms, crucifying our fleshly desires every day as we seek to keep the pace with Him, we are going to feel the burn. The Bible talks about trials and tribulation for those in Christ Jesus. We can't avoid the pain, especially if we want to grow in Christ. And growing in Christ is God's will for each of us.

Muscles have to be stretched and strained in order to be strengthened; so, too, must our faith be stretched to the limit to get our souls in line with the rhythm of God. Keeping step with Christ requires discipline. It requires a willingness to do things that don't seem natural sometimes. It requires effort not that we must do works in order to be saved. No, we are saved by His grace. We put the effort in as a means of working out our salvation, as Paul says in Philippians 2:12, as we undergo the sanctification process.

We need to remember that the more out of shape we are spiritually, the more pain we will feel, just as we do when our physical bodies are exhausted after being unused to rigorous exercise.

The good thing is that the pain doesn't last forever. After we suffer for a little while as God breaks us and remolds us according to His will, there will be a newness of life in us. Tasks and behaviors and thinking patterns that used to trip us up will no longer waylay us because we have the spiritual muscle and intestinal fortitude to accomplish the job.

Recently, as I was jogging, I realized I found myself running stronger and longer. I had more endurance than I did the day before. My body was getting used to the pattern. It was keeping the pace. I felt good, alive. And I was grateful that beyond the momentary ache was something better for me health, a sense of well-being, accomplishment.

Now, if physical exercise is good for the body, how much better for us to train our souls? First Timothy 4:8 says, "For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come."

Now that's a race worth running in. Whatever your race and whatever your pace, do it with all your mind, soul, and strength, seeking to finish with Him and for Him.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us" (Hebrews 12:1).

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