I know of a man who has made a career connected to the 10 million strong community of Spartan racing. If you’re not familiar with such races they are obstacle courses (often brutal) where runners are challenged to push beyond their limits. Cargo net climbs, balance beams, slack lines, Atlas-chain-sandbag-log carries, Tyrollean traverses, mud pits, barbed wire crawls, fire jumps, gauntlets, ape hangers, crossing bridges and boxes … all sound like punishments straight from some sadistic boot camp. I can only imagine how demanding Spartan races are on a runner’s mental and physical strength.
Most Spartan racers will euphorically relate to you the endorphin flooded satisfaction following their race. Their sense of accomplishment is subjective to their contentment of being baptized in muddy water and their cuts, bruises, and sometimes broken bones become trophies more precious than any medal. They make great recruiters with appeals such as, “You’ve got to try this - it will change your life! If you can handle this you can conquer any hardship or difficulty which life can throw at you. The discipline and adventure of Spartan racing is character transforming.”
The poet Robert Browning wrote, “Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp…” An individual’s abilities are meant to be stretched with purpose.
Paul, who frequently relied on athletic images to relate the will of God, said in Philippians 3:13-15, “I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.” (The Message Paraphrase)
While the notion of being physically fit and participating in a Spartan race is enticing to even my brittle 55 year old mind, I’m grateful that only Jesus can guide me to being truly transformed.
“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.
1 Timothy 4:8
Only God can create me to be the best version of me that He designed me to become. The image of the Spartan race is helpful though because of the similar involvement of training, discipline, and involvement in overcoming obstacles. Face it, we can employ the entire universe of the internet simply cataloguing the obstacles we encounter in life; spiritual, physical, mental, emotional, and multi-dimensional. Being involved in the war of the worlds between a physical and spiritual realm requires unique outfitting and preparation. Life hurts. We receive innumerable glorious gains and profound losses. What an encouragement it is that while we may be bruised, under pressure, perplexed, and knocked down we are not abandoned by our Coach and Trainer. (2 Corinthians 4:9) He didn’t leave Jesus in the grave and He won’t abandon us to the mud and mire of this world’s most straining races. Psalm 16:9-11, “Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because You will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will You let Your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand.”
If your faith is in Jesus Christ? You can and should euphorically relate to everyone you encounter the satisfaction of the race. Your sense of accomplishment is subjective to your contentment of being baptized in Christ and any internal or external cuts, bruises, and sometimes broken bones should express the blessing, “But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.” (1 Peter 3:14) Then you can authentically recruit and appeal, “You’ve got to get in on this - Jesus will transform everything about your life!”