Summary: Understanding our ministry
I remember the months leading up to the time when I entered into the US Air Force, I was spending every day working out. I was not in the best shape of my life but I also wasn't far from where I needed to be either. There were three main requirements for our physical endurance. We all had to perform at least 30 push ups in under two minutes, at least 45 sit ups in under two minutes and we had to run two miles in under 15 minutes.
My pastor at the time was very excited I was joining the armed forces and was a huge supporter and in fact, he not only encouraged me, he guided me in the early stages of my work out. I discovered almost immediately that I needed to focus on my push ups and my running. So that’s exactly what I did. Each day, i pushed a little harder and ran a little farther and did one more push up.
Finally the day arrived when I landed with about five other people in Texas for basic training. When the time came for our first physical endurance evaluation, I had to hide my smile because i knew beyond a doubt I would pass the sit ups and the running portion. I still struggled with the push ups but I knew they could help me with that.
We began with our sit ups and I passed that with no problem. Then, we moved on to the push ups, which I was about ten away from where I needed to be. The instructors came over to let us know that this was an intake evaluation and they wanted to know where we were and what they were working with. They were not at this point concerned with us passing each step.
Finally the run came. I struggled with running but in the weeks leading up to this, I was running faster and longer than I ever had in my entire life. I still remember to this day, running for about an hour straight, a run that included running up and down hills. So, I believed I could pass this. I was wrong!
As I began running, the one thing that stood out in my mind was that everyone was passing me. My immediate thought was they were going for gold and trying to impress the instructors. I, on the other hand, had no intention of doing anything other than passing the two mile marker in under 15 minutes.
When I arrived at the two mile marker, I was barely running, I was completely out of breath and I was shocked when I heard the instructor yell out, “Twenty-five minutes.” I was devastated and didn’t know what to think anymore. My spirit was broken.
As I began basic training and specifically the cardiovascular exercise, we began wind sprints. I will gladly tell you that wind sprints are both terrible and effective! In a wind sprint, you are with a group of five other individuals running at a moderate pace. Whomever is in the back sprints to the front of the group and then the process is repeated, again and again and again. You are running a moderate pace for close to a minute and then sprinting as fast as you can for about ten or fifteen seconds. Those sprinting intervals become more difficult over the course of the run but they are highly effective.
I didn’t realize it at the time but those wind sprints were conditioning my body to handle the two mile run. It was more than just getting in shape, the wind sprints helped my endurance and my speed. At the halfway point through basic training, I was capable of running the two miles in about seventeen minutes. Later, at the end of Basic, I completed the requirement of running under fifteen minutes with a time of 14:40.
Sometimes there are things in our lives which we must undergo and endure even though we may not understand the reason(s) for them. In this particular case, I really didn’t understand why or how wind sprints were helping me but they were.
The same truth can be applied to the Holy Scriptures. To understand them, interpret them properly and for the transforming power of the Gospel to take affect, we must understand the context behind the words we read. For many years, I have found complete comfort in specific passages such as Jeremiah 29:11 which reads, “For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
This well known verse has often been citied when believers are facing difficult situations or when they are at a crossroads and unsure of their next step. I’ve even reminded myself of this Scripture following a rejection letter when I sent out my resume for a pastoral position which I was interested in. I used the Scripture to refer to my own circumstances that God was in control and he knew what he was doing. In short, he had my back.