This past Saturday, I ran in my very first sprint triathlon! Let me tell you, it was BRUTAL! But you know what? I finished! AND I got 11th place in my age group!!!… out of 11.. but still!
During my race, I got to thinking about how a triathlon compares with our walk towards Heaven, our eternal home. Today, I would like to share with you my thoughts about how you can Finish The Course! My aim is that you can have this saved on your desktop, home screen, favorites bar, wherever and turn back to this post when you feel like giving up.. because trust me, I felt like giving up A LOT on Saturday!
If you are unfamiliar with how a triathlon is structured, you have three stages: Swim, Bike and Run, in that order. For me, our swim was 350 Meters (just 50 meters shy of a quarter mile… to put things in perspective). I have trained on the swim and was able to swim up to 500M at times without stopping! However, I have not successfully swam all 500M with my bike jersey on… but I will get to that in a minute.
So there I am, waiting in line to jump into the pool. The race coordinator is scanning everyone’s timer chip with numbers being called out…340..GO!…341…GO!..342..
There I am.. number 346. The scanner calls out my number “346!” and then the magic words shouted out from beside me — “GO!” I jumped into the pool, got my bearings, pushed off the wall with my feet and away I went!
Now, I have been training at a local recreation center in a 25M pool… the race was in a 50M pool (meaning I had to go double the distance than what I was used to). AND, I can not properly flip just yet. So, at the end of every lap (or one length of the pool), I knew just how many strokes it takes to get there. I would then grab the side of the pool, turn, and push off the wall with my feet to start the next lap. However, in this 50M pool, I got to about 30M and there was no wall… I thought to myself “ok, I am wearing my cycling jersey and it is a big heavy, so maybe I need a few extra strokes”… nothing.. no wall… a few more strokes.. still a ways away… FINALLY, I give a few more strokes and I am at the wall!
I grab the edge of the pool, turn around and water is splashed in my face! “Oh yeah.. I am in a race! I am not the only one in the pool!” It was at this moment that my mind is starting to play tricks with me. Not only have I misjudged how far the pool length is, but now I have waves hitting me, my jersey is weighing me down, and people are touching, grabbing and pulling at me to get by! Needless to say, my fear of drowning reared its ugly head and I was in no place to swim calmly.
Once I gave that first turn, I tried to clear my mind of everything that is going on and just focus on breathing and swimming, but I couldn’t! The weight of my jersey seemed like too much to bear!.. and so can our sin.
In our life, we start out strong! We are going through life thinking all is right in the world, and then we sin. Romans 3:23 tells us that “all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God.” ALL. Everyone. Me and you. We all have sinned and felt/feel like drowning!
I continued my swim as much as I could, standing where I could in the pool..grabbing onto the rope and pulling myself as much as it would let me. FINALLY, I heard a voice saying “OVER HERE!! There is a ladder over here!!”
I swam as fast and as hard as I could towards that ladder and there were volunteers all around helping me out of the pool and drying me off, pointing me in the direction of the first transition! I WAS FREE!!
Such is our walk with the Lord! We are in the pool of sin day in and day out drowning in our worldly desires and cares of this world. However, there is a voice from above that has called out to us “OVER HERE!”.. or as John puts it “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 ESV) Christ came to this world to seek and save the lost, and has offered a plan of salvation to all those that believe! His plan is simple: Hear the Gospel Message (Romans 10:10), Believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that only through Him will you receive salvation (Mark 16:16), Repent of your sins (Acts 2:38), Confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Romans 10:10, again), Be Baptized for the forgiveness of your sins (Acts 2:38 and 1 Peter 3:18-22) and Remain faithful until death (Revelation 2:10). If you follow this plan of Salvation, then Christ pulls you from the pool of sin, dries you off, shows you the path and allows you to continue the course!
So you enter into your first transition. Time to breath. Time to reassess your life, dry off and get on the bike to start moving again! And so I did! I hoped on that bike and away I went!
But about 2 miles into the race, I started to get a nasty cramp in my calf. I tried to push through it but it was just too much. I could see my family off in a distance on the side of the road with signs awaiting my arrival, and I was not about to give up! So, what did I do? I stopped. Right there in the middle of the race, I pulled over got off my bike and stretched that calf until my cramp was relieved. In doing so, I seemed to draw some attention to myself as volunteers from all over ran to my side to make sure I was alright.
Likewise, in our walk towards the ultimate prize, we will have things come up in our life that takes us down. We may have financial trouble, lose a best friend to cancer, have a child fall away, lose a job, or even physical persecution. But you know what? You are not alone! Peter tells us in 1 Peter 5:9-11 that others are going through the same persecutions and tribulations that you are! And that is why we need our brethren, our family, our race volunteers to support us, pick us up, get us back on the course and help us finish.
And let me tell you about how much family can uplift you! Nothing will motivate you than going through the torture of feeling like you are going to drown in a pool, then have your calves cramp up mid-bike ride to look up and your beautiful wife and kids are a half mile away with signs jumping up and down cheering you on! If that is not a motivation builder, than I don’t know what is!
And so the race goes on, you finish the bike course and enter the 2nd transition. You take your helmet off, grab some energy chews, put on that race belt and off to the 5K!
After enduring all that pain in the bike ride, it made me think of Ephesians 6:10-20. Did I have everything I needed on the bike portion? Not exactly. I did have my Gatorade and water, but I didn’t have a banana or energy chew to give a quick potassium boost to relieve my cramps! But man, you better believe I grabbed everything I had and kept it with me on my run!
Such is with life. When we fall down and go through the “2nd Transition” phase where we reassess once more about what went wrong, what was lacking, and what we can do to make sure it doesn’t happen again. And I guarantee you, when you do this self-audit, that something from the Armor of God was missing! GUARD YOURSELF! Put on every piece of armor so that next time you will be ready!
And ready I was! That last run segment took everything out of me, but once again, my family was there to cheer me on! And not only did they cheer me on, but other participants commented on how they were encouraged by my family encouraging me! THAT IS WHAT HAPPENS! When you encourage someone, other people watching from a distance get encouraged to finish the course as well!
And that is what happened. After seeing them on the mile marker, I had 2.1 miles to go.. and I could see that finish line! I could hear the crowd roar after each participant was crossing the finish line! But once again, I was getting cramped up. This time, both quads! Never in my life have I had a quad cramp.. and it hurt like no one’s business!
I wanted to quit! I wanted to give up and have the golf cart ladies take me to the end.. but I didn’t! Not too long before my cramps I just saw my wife and kids cheer me on. I just heard other participants say how they were encouraged and pushed me to keep going. And so I did! With every ounce of energy, no matter the pain, I ran across that finish line and collapsed in my wife’s arms!
I DID IT!
1:35:03.. that time will forever be in my mind. One hour, 35 minutes, 3 seconds. The time it took for me to complete my first sprint triathlon!
One of these days, we will have another counter over our heads. The length that we have been alive on this earth. Once our time is up, we will finally say “I DID IT!”
And so have hundreds of thousands of faithful men and women. They have done it too! They are rejoicing in Heaven with Christ and all the Redeemed! And you know what? If you keep striving to finish the course, you will be there as well!
How great a day that will be!
Passages to highlight:
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 -“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
2 Timothy 4:6-8 – “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”