Ask athletes why they compete and they will tell you for the prize. Yes there’s pleasure in the activity but serious athletes compete to be the best. Runners, swimmers want to be fastest; jumpers, throwers to go higher or longer; divers, gymnasts to perform more intricate and perfect manoeuvres. They have an aim, a target, a purpose and their focus includes their diet, their training through practice and watching others, how they relax, how long they sleep. I was thinking about swimming the English Channel, not personally but about those who do. It’s a long gruelling challenge requiring training and preparation and then a minimum of 7 hours in the cold water with life-threatening hazards.
you will not have a thick black line running along the bottom of the ocean or lake to help guide you in a straight line. You must learn to lift your head and sight certain points in order to stay on track. … something that you can see each time you lift your head to look forward… practice sighting these markers during your warm-up.
The emphases above are mine, because I can take solid advice from this for the race I am in. The channel is 21 miles wide at the point most people swim, but they can swim 30 miles or more because of tides and such. I have tides in my life that try to pull me off course, obstacles and weights that want to affect my course. Money, work, family, friends, fear, taxes, pride, weight, weather, temper, sorrow, illness, contentment, settling, and on and on. Not all those things are bad in themselves, mostly they are part and parcel of life but do they hinder my race? Does my attitude towards them cause me to stumble?
The biggest hindrance is taking my eyes off the prize. Turning my head and looking away from Jesus. He is the point I need to look at to stay on track. I have to practice keeping sight of Him no matter what waves might rise up, no matter what storms might come, no matter what cheering or booing I might hear on the sidelines. Him and only Him. It’s His approval that matters, His advice that counts.
Swimmers in the channel have a pilot to lead them, the pilot goes ahead, plans the route, has food and drink to sustain the swimmer. He knows the waters, has navigated them before, he knows the shipping routes and the huge tankers on the busy routes know him and avoid him and his swimmer. I have a pilot. He has gone ahead of me and planned the route. He has food and drink to sustain me. He knows the waters because He has navigated them before. He knows what is around me and the enemy knows Him. Just like that swimmer I need to keep my eyes on the boat and trust the Pilot.
It takes practice, day after day learning about Him, coming to know Him, following Him, endeavouring to trust Him. I fail, I flounder, I fall but He picks me up, dusts me off and sets me on route again. Pilot, coach, companion, encourager – everything I need He provides, He is. And ultimately He will present the prize “well done good and faithful servant” and a place with Him forever.
More than I deserve, more than I could ask for and everything I want.