Sermon Illustrations

Building a Relationship with God (Running the Race)

It was the summer before my Senior year at Jamestown College. I had taken up riding my bike several times a week and had gotten up to riding 10-20 miles in a single go. Needless to say… I was feeling pretty good about myself. So when school resumed and they began advertising for the “Fall Team Triathlon” my friends and I thought we would sign up, and win it! Glory would be ours.

My friend Ken volunteered to swim the 20 laps… I volunteered to ride the 8 miles… Bill volunteered to finish us up with the 2 mile sprint. Now, one thing you should know about us three… is that we were not what you would call… highly trained and toned college athletes. I know that it’s not easy to believe looking at me now… but I was not a Herculian Athletic God in college. We were, the three average Joes… racing against 10 teams of the college’s best athletes. Don’t start laughing just yet.

Well… Ken swam his 20 laps… finishing about in the middle… and when he was done he hit the pool deck gasping for oxygen… he didn’t move for the next four hours or so. But for me… the race was on. It was now my job to make my way to the head of the pack on my bike. Now… my bike was this beautiful grey mountain bike, and I had taken great pride in achieving speeds of 20… even 25 miles per hour on that bike… so I was utterly confident that I would be able to overtake the lead in no time. The thing that I hadn’t accounted for… was that Mountain Bikes are like the SUV’s of bikes… the guys on the 1 pound racing bikes soared past me like I was standing still. You notice how I manage to blame it all on the bike right there? Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it… it was all the bike’s fault.

So what did I do? Slow and steady wins the race? No… I sprinted as fast as I could and as long as I could on my mountain bike to try to keep up with the racing bikes. Now… keep in mind I had done no special training… had not practiced much… had not built up my endurance… nor was I in particularly fantastic athletic shape… so it would be amazing for me to tell you I overtook the racing bikes. Yes… that would indeed be amazing for me to tell you that… however… it absolutely did not happen. No… a few hundred yards down the path I was at a dead stop doing that thing that athletes do when they work too hard for too long. And I came in at last place.

By the time I got back to the College, Bill refused to run since it was such a hopeless cause, and we… were the only team with a DNF (Did Not Finish). It was sad and pathetic… and we really hoped that they wouldn’t publish the results in the newspaper. You know… the thing that sticks out in my mind wasn’t about how out of our league we were… no, I firmly believe that the race was winnable… we just were utterly and hopelessly unprepared for race ahead of us… and we utterly and hopelessly failed. Now, it may be easy to say that we should have known better and we should have done a better job getting ready for such a big athletic competition… but the more I think about it… none of us is in a place to say anything, because we all live our lives much like Ken, Bill and Myself.

We daily take for granted how hard it is to run the race that is life, and we don’t do near enough preparation and training before venturing out to supposedly win the race. By preparation and training… I’m talking about getting into contact with the God that both gives and sustains life… I’m talking about relying on the God that pours out blessings and sustains us with HIS strength, I’m talking about praying, reading scripture, and living our lives in line with God’s plan. You know… the sort of things that can turn a bad mood into a good mood, a bad day into a good day.

But far too often… like Ken, Bill, and Myself… we throw ourselves in… assuming our natural talent, grit, and tenacity will make up for lack of work and preparation. To steal a line from Dr. Phil… how’s that working out for you? We just can’t do it, and if we THINK we can do it… we are fooling ourselves. No matter how hard we try or how lucky we get… it just doesn’t work. We need more…

It begins for us… with a commitment to begin training seriously… to take a step forward in our personal lives with God. This is the building block for everything else that is to come the next three weeks… because your personal relationship with God effects EVERYTHING you do. The more time you spend praying, reading, meditating, attending church classes… the more you will see your lives changing… the more you will see God working in your life. If you still aren’t convinced… if you think it’s REALLY not important… if you think you’ve done just fine huffing and puffing on your own… well Paul has something to say to you! In his letter to the Corinthians… remember our dear friends from Corinth, good old “What happens in Corinth stays in Corinth…” Paul says, you think it doesn’t matter how you live? You think it doesn’t matter if you go to God or not?

From a sermon by Spencer Homan, Stewardship of Self - Forward Steps 1, 11/19/2009

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