Like many of you, I am a walker. Recently I read yet another article about the health benefits of a regular walk, especially after a meal, how walking lowers blood sugar, regulates blood pressure and if done daily, strengthens the heart. But that’s not the only reason I love to walk. You see, as much as I love music, I walk in silence, listening with my ears to hear the world around me and listening with my heart to hear what God wants to say to me.
I think the Apostle Paul may have been a runner or walker as well. In Philippians 3:14, he speaks of moving forward in his relationship with God in what seems to be a physical as well as a spiritual exercise. He says “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus”. This is not the only time Paul references athletics and sports in his letters. Paul himself may have been an athlete or at least been around sporting events.
Growing up in Tarsus, in present day Turkey, he lived in a well-developed city with all things Roman. They had a gymnasium and a stadium. As a devout Jew, he may or may not have been physically involved but he was near this culture. He uses sports to describe the effort and focus of living the Christian life as “boxing” in I Corinthians, “wrestling” in Ephesians, and “running” or “striving” in Acts, Romans, 2nd Timothy and many other places.
Most athletes don’t train and compete because they “have to.” They love their game and want to be the best they can be. After a victory, players don’t complain about the laps the coach made them run or the pain of “leg day” in the weight room. They are excited about what they and their team have accomplished. They won a victory!
What if we approached our relationship with God in the same way? The Christian life will be tough, it will require sacrifice, it will require disciple and perseverance, more than an athlete will ever know. Our victory is not only our hope of a reward in heaven but in the taste of heaven that we can have here on earth. It comes when we know that Jesus Christ will walk (or run) beside us here and now and is transforming us to be in his perfect image, day by day. May your walk of life today be blessed by feeling his presence and listening to his voice.
(Steve Berger is pastor of First Methodist Church Minden, a Global Methodist Church. He is the husband of Dianne, his partner in ministry, they have two adult sons, a dachshund, and love living in Minden.)