“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
Here is the moment. The heat of the day is upon you as the sun makes known its blistering presence. Other runners are stretching and warming up. Eye contact is limited to quick glances as everyone is at high focus. A nervous sensation begins to build at the base of your stomach as you look up to the gathered crowd of observers. You begin to question, “What am I doing? Why am I here? Am I good enough? Am I ready?” Then the official calls out, ”Runners, on your mark!” The nervousness hits you with force now, seeming to reach your throat as you realize that it is now too late. There is no turning back. You have to go through with this. You reluctantly get your feet into the starting blocks, your head down as you place your hands into position on the ground. You feel sweat rolling down the side of your brow. You can hear the steady but firm breathing from the other runners. The official calls out again, “Runners, set!” and the whole world goes dark. Surrounding sounds meld into utter nothingness. The anticipation of the starters gun weighs heavy. Silence.
Now what? What do you do in this moment? There is a lot of uncertainty between the starting line and the finish line but there is even more so now. At least during the race you are active, you are moving, and you are doing. But what about now, this moment before the gun sounds? What do you do with this moment? It is nothing but the sound of deafening anticipation.
My experiences as an athlete and as a Christian leader have taught me that this moment is both real and highly important. Many races and many ministries have been lost in this moment. This is where focus can be lost, where doubt can creep in, where lies can penetrate our psyche, where all our preparations can be rendered null and void. One small moment seems to carry all the weight. Fear sets in.
In the last few weeks I have written out of Ephesians 5 so as to encourage you during your time of rest and summer preparation. Now, as, you find yourself in the starting blocks of the summer trimester, I want to encourage you in this moment of anticipation. Prep is behind you. Leadership and discipleship is ahead. In between, however – silence. This silence can cause us to be neglectful, or it can bring pressure-induced anxiety. There seems to be little to nothing that can be done about it. No more training. No more resting. A flurry of activity is about to explode, but in the words of Juba the friend of Maximus, spoken at the end of the movie Gladiator, “Not yet – not yet.” For the moment, there is just anticipatory quiet and in it is found the birthplace of victory or defeat.
That doesn’t sound so encouraging does it? It’s coming though. Hang in there. For an athlete, the ability to prepare and handle this moment is as crucial, if not more so, than the competition itself. Mental preparedness is more than half the battle. If an athlete cannot keep calm in this moment, remaining focused and confident, then defeat will come before the competition even begins. The opposite is just as true.
In all reality, this anticipatory moment exists in all walks of life, not just in athletics and ministry. Musicians experience it. Those in business experience it. Doctors certainly experience it. And the list goes on. I reference athletics though because it is an activity that the Apostle Paul tended to compare the Christian life with. Paul ministered in a Greco-Roman culture where athletics carried a strong emphasis. We all know that the Olympics began in ancient Greece and the Romans were quit fond of competition. Thus, this pre-event anticipatory moment is a reality to the human experience, crossing both time and culture. We all have to know how to handle it.
Paul, speaking to his young protégé, Timothy, makes a distinction, however. Where as athletes and others learn to inwardly focus their mind and lean upon their studious preparations, the Christian can lean upon a confidence that comes not from themselves but from the author and perfecter of their faith (Heb. 12:2). Training has value he says, but godliness has a value that far surpasses everything (1 Tim. 4:8). It keeps us steady and focused in every situation, before the race, and during.
Last weeks article spoke into knowing the will of God through the wise application of God’s Word in our life. This is the same principle at work. Godliness is the will and wisdom of God at work and on display in our life. Paul is telling us that when we are walking in step with God’s Word, His promises will hold us both now in the anticipation, and in the work of the race that lies ahead. We remain calm, we remain steady, we remain focused, and we remain fearless in the knowledge that God is with us. He leads us to His victorious finish line when we remain in step with Him.
The pressure is taken off as the confidence of obedient faith is put on.
So what now? It’s time to run. GO!
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” – Hebrews 12:1
Go Deeper – Grow Stronger!