Acts 20:24 “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”
There is a type of race that is longer than the typical marathon of 26 mile (42.195ki) race, it is called the Ultramarathon. Now, anything longer than 100 meters sounds like torture to me, so when I was researching distance running it all seemed like a pathway to pain in my estimation.
Ultramarathons take distance running to another level. What I initially thought of as just a long race actually has a couple different styles to them. The most common distances are 50 kilometres (31.07 mi), 100 kilometres (62.14 mi), 50 miles (80.47 km), and 100 miles (160.93 km), although many races have other distances. For those who compete in such races, their bodies can go through a lot of stress during these grueling tests of human endurance. During races, nausea and vomiting are the most common problems for runners and some may get blurry vision. Sleepiness and hallucinations are problems in longer races lasting more than 24 hours.
Why people put themselves through such grueling runs is beyond me, the endurance necessary to run this race affects the heart, often times digestive bleeding follows, the kidney’s start to shut down, the liver is affected and just about every lower musculoskeletal joint is affected. Throw in nausea, disorientation, and sleep deprivation and you have the formula for trouble.
What drives people to push themselves to run such a race?
When questioned, the runners declared that some of the reasons included:
- Seeking a challenge farther than a marathon.
- Looking to grow as a runner.
- Increase physical and mental toughness.
- Running future marathons will be easier.
- Ultras offer a different vibe compared to marathons.
I have never run a marathon and don’t ever plan on doing so, but what I can ascertain is the quality of endurance is key for any runner that wants to succeed.
There is a christian organization that helps others connect with the persecuted church, it’s called ‘Voice of the Martyrs’. They connect with people who are either currently enduring persecution or have so in the past. Their website allows people to write letters to those currently in prison throughout the world and their monthly magazine gives insight into particular regions where persecution is particularly intense.
For believers who live in regions that are aggressively opposed to christianity, the need to endure is an everyday occurance. To be a believer in strict muslim or communist countries is to continuously be subjected to scrutiny, threats, hatred, bias, and poverty. Most people living in western society have no idea what it means to live under the condition of persecution, and yet for millions it’s an ever present danger.
1 Peter 2:20 “For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.”
Patient endurance is the mark of godliness.
We as believers in democratic republics currently have the freedom to exercise our faith without reprisal, but those freedoms are quickly diminishing.
Great Britain is an early example of how democratic socialism is beginning to take over most of western society. Recent reports give a clue as to where the reach of government is affecting christians:
“A British Airways (BA) employee has lost her fight to openly wear a cross necklace at work at Heathrow.” BBC article, 2006
“Britain experiences umpteenth attack on religious freedom as two women are fired for refusing to remove their necklaces in the workplace. The two are now taking their case to the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg” La Stampa article, 2019
“It’s emerged that a pastor from north London has been arrested but later released after preaching outside Uxbridge Station.” London, England article, 2021
Those who walk in darkness are offended by the cross of Christ. The message of God’s Word is repulsive to those who hate the thought of being held accountable for their actions. The prospect of being labeled a sinner for actions that are deemed normal in today’s culture is labeled as hatred and the more people elected who oppose God’s Word, the greater the persecution increases.
1 Peter 3:13-17 “And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.”
Runners must experience pain to achieve their goal. The longer the run, the greater the strength required.
In an article in the Verge, 2018, Alex Hutchinson explains how the brain’s interpretation of the body signals is maybe more important than the body signals themselves’.
“Once, we believed that the body was a machine, and the secret to optimal performance came from the muscles, the lungs, the heart. Then, we were told that it’s all in our head, and we just need to push through the pain. The truth is that “the brain and the body are fundamentally intertwined,” writes Alex Hutchinson, a fitness journalist (with a doctorate in physics) who competed for the Canadian national team as a runner. To understand the limits of the human body, you have to consider them together.”
This mind/body connection isn’t foreign to God. The encouragement to those running God’s race of obedience has always included both mind and body.
Colossians 3:1-4 “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”
The encouragement is to maintain a correct mindset. Even though our life is but a breath to God, we don’t see with the same perspective. By keeping our minds set above, we keep a godly perspective to life. This perspective keeps the goal in mind when your at mile 5 in a 50 mile endurance race.
Listen to what distance runners know about a correct mindset in an article in ‘Headspace’.
It’s usually not the body that gives out first. It’s the mind. Matt Fitzgerald explored this idea in his book, “How Bad Do You Want It?, where he argues that great performances begin from the mind. “The training process increases an athlete’s physical capacity, but at the same time it changes her relationship with perception of effort,” Fitzgerald explains. “The fitter the athlete becomes, the easier it feels for her to swim, bike, run, or whatever … if the athlete’s physical capacity increased but her relationship with perception of effort did not change accordingly, her race times would not get any better because she would be psychologically unable to access that increased physical capacity.”
The life in Christ may feel at times like an ultramarathon, a sprint, or even a casual walk. There are times when God asks us to endure and other times He asks us to wait. The journey is difficult and progress seems taxing and yet we know this is where He has led us and we press on. Other times it may feel like we have a rush of things to accomplish, people pulling from every side, and then the opportunity is over. LIfe can slow down, matter of fact at times it feels like it comes to a standstill and we wonder what God is doing. Those times of rest can be times of refreshing, opportunities to hear God’s voice clearly, and meditate on His Word.
Endurance can take many forms, from striving long to waiting patiently—in every circumstance, if the Lord is doing the leading, you can be rest assured He will remain faithful until the end.
James 5:7-8 “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.”
There is the reminder: All that is good remains ahead.
Persevere, trust, be patient—your redemption draws nigh and Jesus is waiting at the end.