Running. It has been a while since I wrote an analogous post reflecting on running, but on Saturday I went out for a run and was inspired by my “results”. I have always been a relatively good pacer and quite unable to harness energy for a sprint. My times rarely fluctuate unless I am sick or injured, and that is why I always raced distance. On Saturday, however, I was shocked when I looked at my stats. Mile #1 was 6:50 and mile 2 was 8:45. Almost a two minute difference and I did not notice much of a difference physically. Miles 3-5 were right on my normal groove, smack in the middle of these two extremes. But all the while I felt as though I was putting forth the same effort.
My five mile loop looks pretty flat and unassuming. If you drove it, you would probably never notice much grade change (except the big fly over smack in the middle of mile 2), but my mile times tell a different story. The entire first mile is a very gradual downhill and the entire second mile is a very gradual incline. This is good for me because I do not usually hit my groove until somewhere mid-mile 3 and I always hate mile 1. A gradual slope, almost invisible to the naked eye, sped me up by a minute in my favor and slowed me down a minute when against me.
Life is like that. There are things that slow you down and there are things that speed you up. But I want to reflect specifically on sin. We have all heard the word picture, “a slippery slope”. We have all known people to “spiral out of control” in addiction, lust or sin. When we entertain sin, we often tell ourselves we will only do it once, but once the sin has been entertained it is much more difficult to refuse the next time it comes along. If you make peace with sin one time, it is less offensive the next.
“But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.”
– James 1.14-15
We all have lusts and passions that are sinful. Fighting against them can be difficult at times, and easier at times, but it takes discipline and commitment. When we are carried away and enticed by our lust and give in, then we sin. When we sin, it becomes easier to sin, as lust has a lesser job.
In our analogies, we consider mountain top experiences to be paramount. We are soaring high above the clouds, we can see for miles, we are on top of the world. But have you ever climbed a mountain? It is hard work! Much of the euphoria of being at the top is the accomplishment of having climbed! Scripture speaks of the valley of the shadow of death. Canyons and valleys are deep; they are dark, receiving little sunlight. They are full of dangers. But it is very easy to get from the mountain top to the valley. It is very difficult to get from the valley to the mountain top.
Running uphill burns more calories. It hurts. It’s exhausting and mentally defeating. But in the long run it produces great results. Your time will decrease on a flat run in you train running hills. Your overall self discipline will increase when you fight against that one particular sin of temptation in your life. Running downhill is like coasting. You feel good, you get great times, but it builds little endurance. Giving in to one sin weakens your conviction and opens the door for all sorts of sin. Giving in to one makes giving in to the next that much easier, and soon you are left in a world that you no longer recognize.
God has given us the Holy Spirit to spur us on to righteousness (John 16.8). He has given us everything that we need for holiness and Godly living (2 Peter 1.3). And He wants us to run the race in such a way that we will win (1 Cor 9.24)! That means running uphill. That means striving for the mountain top. That means pushing and persevering, not coasting and giving in to our flesh. What sorts of miles have you been running lately?
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
– James 1.2-4