It’s been a long time since I’ve run anywhere other than to my car… in the rain. But all that changed recently when I laced up my shoes and set out to conquer a local loop. The goal: 3 laps (1.2 miles each).
Almost immediately, my legs were on fire, followed by stomach cramps and blisters. Half way around my second lap, the pain subsided, and I settled into a rhythm. Then, in the middle of a song, my bride called just to “check in”. I passed an elderly couple who were having fun watching me try to keep pace, breathe, and talk on the phone.
Nearing the end of the final lap, my excitement started to build. Not because of the finish line, but because of what comes right before it – the final sprint; the “burn out”. I opened up my stride, and then, with nothing left, I sprinted. All the way through. It’s an amazing feeling.
You may love running, or you may hate it, but either way, you’re probably wondering what this story has to do with equipping and encouraging the saints.
This is not a typical article about “Running the Race”. The Bible does compare the Christian life to a race (1 Cor. 9:24-27; Heb. 12:1-3), and there are plenty of well-written blogs on that topic. But, last week, as my feet were hitting the pavement, I was struck with a slightly different analogy.
Running is Like Studying the Bible.
Notice that I didn’t say running is like reading the Bible. Reading can be casual and doesn’t always mean comprehension. Studying requires intentionality, time, and effort. Pastors and teachers often get more out of their own sermons and lessons than anyone else because they’ve spent hours in the Scriptures studying and countless more meditating on and praying through those same verses. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Any believer can study the Bible and understand it.
Running and studying the Bible have many parallels, but the one that strikes me the most is the similarity between the final sprint and growing in your knowledge of God. If you’ve never experienced the “burn out” at the end of a long run, you’re missing out on a great feeling of exhaustion and accomplishment. But, there is a comparable experience that comes when you’ve studied and understood a passage of Scripture. If you’ve never experienced that kind of study, you may be missing out on knowing God.
My goal in this article is to persuade you of 2 things:
1.) Regardless of your training, YOU can study the Bible, and 2.) it’s worth the extra effort.
5 Reasons YOU Can Study
1. you can Begin with the end in mind
Set a goal. It’s that simple. Pick a passage. Pick a book. Just pick something. Then make it your goal to understand it – to know God in it.
2. you can Run in circles
I think the reason many people fail to experience the exhilaration and life-changing impact of Bible study is because they move on too quickly. We want to read the Bible in a year (a noble undertaking to be sure), but we miss out on the chance to internalize the Scriptures. Whatever you decide to study, don’t choose anything larger than a single book. Then read it, over and over again. Think about it. Internalize it. Don’t go in a straight line. Run in circles.
3. you can Set the pace
An important part of any distance run is the pace, and you should set it at something manageable. I didn’t sprint those 3 laps. In fact, it had been a long time since I’d run anywhere, so my pace reflected my ability. Don’t rush. Be realistic. In other words, you probably shouldn’t start with Isaiah or the entire book of Psalms.
4. you can Be ready for distractions
Whether it was physical or mental exhaustion, I expected difficulty. You should too. Study isn’t always easy. There may even be a few well-intentioned distractions, like a mid-run phone call from my bride. It can also be a struggle to stay focused. Take small breaks if needed, but stay on task. Be ready.
5. you can Finish
The Scriptures are as deep as the Author, so we’ll never know everything in the Bible. However, you can understand it. You can read a passage, follow the argument, learn more about who God is, and make appropriate applications to your own life. You can know God through the text. Don’t be satisfied with anything less.
It’s Worth the Extra Effort.
Knowing God produces the greatest joy you can have in life. In fact, it is life (John 17:3). As you behold His glory in the Word, your love for Him will increase, and you will be transformed more and more into His image (2 Cor. 3:18). Do you need any other reason?
Now I realize that not everyone enjoys running. So, to some, comparing the final sprint at the end of a long run to the joy that comes from knowing God more after studying the Bible is laughable. But, running aside, we can all agree that studying the Bible takes work, and we’re not always eager to read it, let alone spend extra time digging out the meaning of the text. Sometimes, we even feel inadequate for the task, so why bother? Why not leave the “heavy lifting” for those who have gone to “Bible school”?
But studying the Bible is essential for knowing God and, as a result, growing in godliness ourselves.
Running may not be commanded in Scriptures, but disciplining ourselves for godliness is. “train yourself for godliness; 8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 9 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. 10 For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” – 1 Timothy 4:7b-10
Study your Bible.
YOU can know the living God.
It’s worth it.
photo credit: http://jimbuchan.com/i-need-my-second-wind-how-about-you/tired-runner