Inside: There is a reason Paul tells Christians to run the race set before them with endurance. Life is filled with obstacles! How do we train? How do we overcome the fear of failing? Who will help us along the way? What can an Obstacle course teach you about your walk with God?
It was 6 months after my 5th baby was born. I was 20lbs overweight and drained from the demands of caring for 5 children. I survived each day only by consuming an insane quantity of coffee and I crashed at the end. Something needed to change. Then, one night I got this crazy idea…I should sign up for a Spartan Race. WHAT?!!! I nearly smacked myself as soon as the idea popped into my head! But, it kept nagging at me so I put out an “all call” on Facebook, looking for friends crazy enough to run it with me. Sure enough, 5 others committed themselves to this insane idea. We signed up as a team and there was no turning back!
Completing an Obstacle Course race requires a person to overcome their fear while completing a series of obstacles in an attempt to “keep up” with others and make it to the finish line.
During a recent run, while training for my 3rd Spartan Race, it suddenly dawned on me how much that sounds like our Christian walk!
What an obstacle course will teach you about your walk with God…
OBSTACLE COURSE: The day before my first Spartan Race, I was consumed by fear. My head was filled with nonstop negative thoughts. I was ready to give up because I was certain I wasn’t strong enough to survive.
“I am too weak, no matter how much I worked out, it won’t be enough.”
“The obstacles are too hard and I don’t have the upper body strength.”
“I didn’t spend enough time running and won’t have the endurance to make it the entire course.”
What made the difference was that I knew I had a team with me and that gave me courage. I was not alone.
CHRISTIAN WALK: Fear is paralyzing and Satan knows it. His attacks on our thoughts are aimed at creating and fostering our fear for that exact reason. He makes us doubt God’s goodness and we question His plans for us. We are afraid to step out in faith because Satan points out how uncomfortable, or even dangerous, it could be.
“It will be socially awkward.”
“It might mean financial insecurity?”
“Following God’s commands open me up to ridicule and scrutiny.”
Satan tells us we are hypocrites because we still struggle with sin. He brings back memories of sin we already repented of and convinces us we are unworthy of grace.
What God says about our FEAR:
Isaiah 41:10 “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Hebrews 13:16 ‘So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” ‘
What an obstacle course can teach you about your walk with God is that FEAR can keep up from living fully for God. The good news is that we don’t have to live in fear if we trust in Him to lead us and that gives us courage. We are not alone!
OBSTACLE COURSE: Obstacles on the course vary in difficulty. Some are harder for certain racers than for others. The course designers are strategic! Often, obstacles that require the same muscles are grouped so that you are really fatigued. Something you could have done when you were rested (for example, the monkey bars, my nemesis!), is now 10 times harder than it should be and you fail! Even worse, the MOST DIFFICULT obstacles (burpee makers) are set up in front of the spectator area so that you succeed or fail in front of the crowd, which adds a ton of pressure!! But somehow, you make it learning that you are capable of more than you ever imagined.
CHRISTIAN WALK: Obstacles in our life are a guarantee! The Bible tells us to expect trials, persecution, and suffering. In a fallen world, where the ground produces thorns and thistles, we deal with sinful people that are self-centered. We forget who God calls us to be and fall into temptation. We are constantly facing obstacles in our lives that must be completed. These obstacles may come one after another so that we grow weary. What normally would not elicit a strong negative response brings us to our breaking point. The worst is when it happens in front of a crowd when your reaction is on display for many to see & hear! (Anyone else ever have a kid go into total meltdown-mode in the middle of the packed grocery store?!)
What does God say about OBSTACLES:
2 Corinthians 4:8-9 “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”
James 1:2-4 “ Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
What an obstacle course can teach you about your walk with God is that OBSTACLES are to be expected and will be exhausting. But, it is through them that we learn about who God is and who He wants us to be. He grows and changes us. This is called sanctification, and yes, sometimes sanctification sucks! (Read more about that here!) But through this process, we learn God is more capable than we ever imagined!
OBSTACLE COURSE: The Spartan community is vast and contains people of all ages and fitness levels which is one of the reasons it is so awesome. But it is easy to look at other racers and fall into the comparison trap. Many racers are in much better shape and spend more time training. They are willing to spend more money on entry fees, travel and gear. It is easy to get intimidated if I let it go to my head. And then some are slower and not in as good shape. They walk the course, need help to complete obstacles and skip some altogether. It is easy to get smug if I let it go to my head. Thankfully, the atmosphere during a race is all about helping others. I share tips with less experienced racers and take advice from those that are more experienced.
CHRISTIAN WALK: The “unspoken sin” many of us fall into is comparing our spiritual maturity to another’s. God convicts each Christian of their particular sins at particular times. What one person struggles with, another may not at all. We must be careful not to condemn others based on our personal convictions. (Read more about that here!) Comparison goes the other way as well. It is not wrong to see a Godly woman and want to learn from her, but it can leave us feeling like we are not “as good” and even make us feel ashamed. When we focus more on a person and what SHE does, rather than what God has done through her, we will inevitably be disappointed.
What does God say about COMPARISON:
Romans 12:3 “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”
Galatians 6:4 “But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.”
1 Corinthians 11:1 “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”
What an obstacle course can teach you about your walk with God is that COMPARISON is fruitless. It does not grow us nor condemn us, though it can make us feel prideful or miserable. We are called to help Christian sisters that need direction, instruction, and comfort. We are blessed by Christian sisters that are further along in their walk with God and have the wisdom to share. But we must always remember that each relationship with God is unique and comparing it to another’s is pointless.
OBSTACLE COURSE: Training matters! A racer would be a fool to show up to an obstacle course without training for it at all. Not only do they risk sheer exhaustion, but also serious injury. Racers should run, lift weights, practice obstacles and focus on proper nutrition. Those in better shape, who train the hardest, are more prepared for obstacles they will face on the course and experience more success. That’s reality!
CHRISTAIN WALK: Training matters! A Christian would be a fool to attempt to live “worthy of the calling to which they have been called” if they are not pursuing their relationship with God. Not only do they risk not growing, but completely falling away. (For clarification purposes, I am not referring to losing one’s salvation, but rather living in a state of rebellion and not experiencing the joy that their salvation offers.) Christians should be in the Word, pray often, share Jesus with others, and focus on living each day to God’s glory. Those that are in better spiritual shape, who are diligent in this pursuit, are more prepared for the obstacles that they will face in life and experience more intimacy with God. That’s reality!
What does God say about TRAINING:
Provers 1:2-7 “To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth — Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
What an obstacle course can teach you about your walk with God is that TRAINING yourself in God’s righteousness brings peace and gives us strength for the obstacles of life. We remember we are not alone and are prepared for the race set before us.