By the Rev. David Olson
I could see it on their faces as one by one they crossed the finish line. It was a look of joy, relief, and pain all at the same time. I was standing with my kids at the finish line of the Carilion Clinic IRONMAN, cheering and watching the racers cross the finish line.
An unseasonably hot June day was taking its toll on the participants. Despite the heat and the exhaustion from their efforts, they couldn’t contain their joy at having finished the difficult race.
Almost 2000 triathletes had toed the start line that morning. Having the racers and all their family and friends come to Roanoke to be a part of the race was a huge win for our city. Economically, but also in furthering Roanoke’s reputation for being an outdoor and adventure hub of the Southeast that people should come visit or move to.
Having done a few of these races in the past myself, I know that finishing a half IRONMAN triathlon is a huge accomplishment. It takes a lot of hard work and discipline to put in the training necessary to swim 1.2 miles, bike 56 miles, and run 13.1 miles all in a row.
You have to train for months, and you have to train multiple days a week. Whether you feel like it or not, whether you are sore or tired or sick, no matter the weather or the conditions, you have to show up and put in the effort to do what you need to do in order to be ready to run the race.
And when you think about it like that, I guess it makes sense that the authors of the New Testament often compared the life of discipleship and following Jesus to running a race.
One of the most well known of these verses is from the Book of Hebrews, “Therefore since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that easily distracts, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).
Like preparing for and running a race, being a follower of Jesus also takes a lot of discipline. Because if we are taking the call Jesus places on our lives seriously, then it is a disciplined life. Whether we feel like it or not, whether we are tired or sick, no matter the conditions, we need to have the dedication and discipline to keep showing up and saying and doing the things he asks us to do.
There are so many other things in our lives that can pull us away and distract us from being committed to a life of faith. There are always other opportunities and options that can keep us from coming to church and making our faith an active part of our life.
The hard part is having the discipline and determination to live this life of faith regardless. But just like training for and racing in an IRONMAN, it is always worth the effort.
Grateful to be running this race alongside you,
Image Credit: 2021 Carilion Clinic IRONMAN 70.3 Virginia’s Blue Ridge Triathlon Facebook.