By Joshua Stewart, Pastor Goodwill Church, New Paltz, NY
Reprinted with permission of the author.
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This past weekend, I participated in my first Spartan Race with a group from our church. For those unfamiliar with these races, they are regionally-staged events that combine terrain distance running with a variety of physical and strength challenges. They have become wildly popular, and have spawned a number of similar competitions like the Tough Mudder, the Warrior Dash, and even one where zombies chase after you (no, not real zombies).
I must confess a couple things. One, I was not sure how this would go. Over the past few months, having grown frustrated with my lack of physical health and stamina, I have committed myself to a regimen of proper diet and fitness. However, I knew full well that I had not prepared adequately for the rigors of the Spartan Race. And two, I have always struggled with sloth. I know this may come as a big surprise, but part of the reason I remain so busy is because I have to, because my propensity to stop and remain stopped is overwhelmingly present in my life, and always has been. So the prospect of the Spartan Race, quite honestly, was an intimidating challenge.
Let me put this simply and bluntly: this race changed my life.
I needed this race.
I needed a new perspective, and I got it.
The last few weeks have been a painful time for me. In the midst of a very fruitful yet busy season of ministry, my mother was involved in a horrific car accident, walking away with only a broken hand. However, the hours following the accident (awaiting the full battery of test results) were among the most stressful in recent memory. Added to that were litany of other personal, relational, and ministerial strains that brought me to the starting gate of this race hobbled, beaten, and in need of personal triage. As we began the rapid ascent up the first hill, something happened in me.
It was a picture of the human race.
It was the Spartan Race of this Earthly life.
It was as if God was giving me a tangible illustration of my life as a follower of Christ.
The Bible speaks with regularity about the race of life. Paul’s writings, most prolifically, capture the analogy of our journey from birth to death, and the comparisons we can make to a distance running event. You’ve heard the expression, “Life is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.” I think that’s wrong.
Life is a Spartan Race.
As I traversed the steep hills and jutted valleys of Tuxedo Ridge, God gave me a tangible vision of the human experience. There are none of us that have it easy. There are none exempted from the pain and weariness of the confines of this Earthly existence. With every step, I recognized the need for intentionality and care because, at any moment when I least expected it, I could lose my footing and crash to the ground.
There are countless analogies of the Spartan Race and the Human Race, but here are seven major takeaways, seven deep correlations I drew from running my first Spartan.
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