Thursday, August 9, 2012

OnFire #283 Lessons from the Treadmill

OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #283 Lessons from the Treadmill

While I was on PEI for vacation, I ran in a 5km “fun run,” a semi-competitive race organized as part of a local summer festival, the O’Leary Potato Blossom Festival, for those who are wondering. I had been looking for a 5km race to try and this one was close to my mother’s cottage, so at the appointed time I showed up, paid my money, stretched and finally lined up on the starting line.

My goals in the race were very modest - not to embarrass myself by tripping over my own feet, and to finish without walking. I set a comfortable pace under the warm morning sun and hoped I would be OK. Lots of people passed me, but I wasn’t running to compete, I was running to cross the line.

At about the half-way point, it was fun to pass some of the people who were now walking. I kept on plodding, one foot after another.

A fun thing happened at about the 3.5km mark. I passed a girl about 11-years-old who was walking. As I pulled up beside her I asked, “You’re not going to let an old, bald, fat man beat you to the finish, are you?” About 30 seconds later she passed me and I didn’t see her again until the end.

What a joy it was to see the finish line. People were gracious enough to clap. I made it, and actually managed a decent time for a first timer. I had never, ever, run that far before in my life, so 31:28 wasn’t too bad.

When I joined the gym back in January, the longest I could run on the treadmill was about 2 minutes. I went twice a week all winter, and gradually built it up until I could run a whole mile. I kept working on my endurance until I figured out that 5km was within reach. What a difference training all winter made in my strength and endurance.

Romans 5:3-5 says, “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” 

Paul reminds us that suffering is not in vain. We often think that our trials and difficulties are nothing but frustrations and problems which hold us back from what we hope to do in life. On the contrary, suffering can produce good things in our character.

There are character traits which we can’t develop without facing challenges and troubles. That’s not so different from my time in the gym. I would not have been able to run that race if I had not strained and tested those muscles all winter.

I want to be clear. God does not bring suffering into our lives to teach us lessons. However, God is a redeeming God, and He brings good from the bad by doing this work in our hearts.

I wish there was another way to strengthen my body to give me more power and endurance. Likewise, I wish there was another way to gain perseverance, character and hope. However, it helps me to know that my struggles are actually workouts for my soul, strengthening my faith and developing deeper levels of perseverance.

Some struggles seem hard at the time, but someday we’ll look back and see that we have gone on to handle even tougher ones. And that gives us character and hope to trust in God as we face the next challenges.

I hope this helps. Be on fire.

OnFire is a bi-weekly letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. Troy is the Pastor of Family Ministries at Highfield Baptist Church, Moncton NB Canada. This letter published Aug 8, 2012. Scripture taken from New International Version, 1984. To subscribe or reply, email Archives are located at Blog located at

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