The Marathon: The Pain and the Reward of Discipleship

By Travis Taylor

Every mile hurts. You’d think it would get easier the more miles you put behind you, but it doesn’t. At least it doesn’t for me. For me, running has always been something I hated, and I’ve never been good at it. I’m not fast, I’m not thin, my breathing gets off, and my form’s all wrong. I’m not graceful and I’m not all that good at it… but I run anyway.

In the spring of 2017, Alyssa (a representative from Team World Vision) approached me about the prospect of Mt. Auburn forming a running team to raise funds to build clean water wells in Africa. Being a long-time advocate for Missions and the work World Vision was doing in other areas, I was on board from the beginning. But initially, I thought she was talking about organizing a 5K (3.11 miles), so you can imagine my surprise when she corrected me with:

Alyssa: “Oh no… it’s a half-marathon”.
Travis: “A half-marathon? How far is a marathon, again?”
Alyssa: “A marathon is 26.2 miles; a half-marathon is 13.1, which is what I’m asking you and Mt.
Auburn to consider”.
Travis: “13.1 miles!? I can’t even run a mile”!

That was in April of 2017, and since then I have now run two half-marathons, a full marathon, and I’m registered to run my first 9.32-mile trail run in February. Running has changed my life. Through the discipline of weekly training, I have built up my endurance to do more than I ever thought possible. It’s been good for me, but it hasn’t been easy.

  • Trying is good, but Training is Essential.
  • Every mile hurts.
  • I’m insecure and constantly tempted to stop or cut corners.
  • Because running is stressful, I often feel like stopping short of my pre-determined distance goals.
  • Sometimes I do.
  • Sometimes I don’t.

Over the last year and a half, I have had many hard and wonderful conversations with God while running out on the road, struggling out on the road, breathing hard out on the road, putting one foot in front of the other out on the road… and this is what God has taught me through the discipline of running.

The Christian Life is a marathon and ALL forward motion counts.

1. Trying is good, but Training is Essential.

The Indy Monumental Half-Marathon is held annually the first Saturday in November. In 2017, my first race, I began training for it in July. There was a weekly training schedule. While I didn’t adhere to it 100% of the time, I was pretty consistent; and by race day, I had worked myself up to ten miles without stopping. If I hadn’t spent five months training to run the race, come November, it wouldn’t have mattered how hard I tried. I wouldn’t have been able to finish the race in the manner I did.

2. For some of us, EVERY mile hurts.

The Christian life isn’t easy; there will be pain; there will be injury. Some will be more graceful than others, but the Calvary Road wasn’t easy for Jesus, so why should we expect it to be easy for any of us. When we choose to live our lives for Christ and begin running our race for Him, we should expect pain, strain, and opposition. But we should also expect that He will support us and provide everything necessary for us to finish well.

3. We’re often tempted to stop, cut corners, or believe we cannot finish.

Temptation is real. Satan accuses us of not finishing well-enough, of not going the full distance required to win the prize. When we are tired and exhausted, we must be careful not to listen to the tempter’s lies and give up. While we may slow down a bit at times to regain our energy or receive nourishment, let us not be tempted to quit or take short cuts that actually guide us off course.

4. Because discipleship is stressful, checking out early sometimes seems easier.

Sometimes I can’t wait to get to heaven… or for Christ to return. Sometimes I get angry with God and want to throw in the towel (practically speaking). Ministry is difficult, and I often become weary of trying to explain to people why they need Jesus! I wish He’d just return, show everyone, and take over! But checking out of ministry, ditching the Church, and neglecting to disciple others is abandoning the cause for which Christ called us to be His witnesses.

5. We were created to keep going.

Finishing one’s race takes discipline, it takes heart, it takes love and commitment. You’ve got to stretch and be stretched if you want to achieve any distance. But none of us runs our race alone, nor are we ever to think that God will EVER be done with us. We were created to keep going! All forward motion counts! As difficult as it may be for us to wrap our minds around the concept of eternity, the truth of Scripture reveals that we WILL last forever. Weakness and death are the result of sin, NOT God’s original design. For those who belong to Christ, we can rejoice in the reward of completion, eternal glorification, peace and mystery if we finish for Christ. What a prize!

May we strive to run well the course God has chosen for us in 2019. Though we may not always enjoy it or be good at it; though we may fail to be swift, and at times lag behind, though we sweat, struggle for breath, and our gait may look strange, may we nonetheless cross the finish line claiming God as the Victor who carried us.

Keep running.