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Pressing forward in your race

The Apostle Paul often compared the Christian life to a race. We know he lived in Ephesus for three years, and during the time he lived there, he probably witnessed Olympic-style competitions in a stadium that held as many as 100,000 people.

Vase depicting ancient Olympics

I’ve been a casual jogger for years, but I’ve never won a race. One reason I’ve never won a race is that I’ve never actually entered a race. I’ve never been in a 5K, or any other race – until now.

A good friend has persuaded me to enter a Sprint Triathlon that will be held in Newport Beach, California in September.

It involves a half-mile ocean swim, a 12-mile bike ride, and a 3-mile run — a mini- triathlon. Piece of cake, right? The first thing I noticed as I started to train is that there is a difference between my casual approach to jogging and actually training for real competition.

When I first ran three miles, my left knee started to stiffen and feel like an old wood board. The next day my calves were so sore I could hardly walk. So I can only say “God willing,” I’ll do this race — if my left knee and my other 55-year-old body parts hold up.

There is something different about high-level athletes. They don’t take a casual approach to their sport. They don’t just dabble at it when it’s convenient. Every day they get up and their mind is focused on their goal. They read magazines about their sport, they set goals for themselves and push themselves to achieve those goals.

If they are training for the Olympics, they want to win gold – they are aiming for the prize. And it involves intensive, focused, training over months and years.

I interviewed John Naber recently, who won four gold medals in swimming at Montreal. He said he figured out four years ahead of the Olympics, while still in high school, what time he would probably have to hit to win gold in four years, and that became his intense focus as he trained – hitting that mark.

In Philippians 3:12, Paul writes: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”

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Mark Ellis is a senior correspondent for ASSIST News Service and the founder of  He is available to speak to groups about the plight of the church in restricted countries, to share stories and testimonies from the mission field, and to preach the gospel.

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