An Excerpt from "Best Season Yet: 12 Week to Train"
Sometimes suffering is inevitable. Sometimes it’s a choice.
Ultrarunners choose to suffer every time they step to the starting line of a long race. They know it’s going to hurt. They just don’t know how badly.
Whether it’s a race, soccer or lacrosse game, or tennis match, your all-out effort may shove you to the brink of your physical limits. Or the mental pressure may be so unsettling that your stomach revolts in violent protest: you puke. But you must press on. You must choose to suffer.
Thinking about an upcoming one hundred-mile race, the athlete knows what’s coming. In the first few hours, he’ll settle in, trying to face the long path ahead. Somewhere along the way, his foot will begin to hurt or a painful blister will develop. He’ll fight a constant battle to take in—and keep down—sufficient calories and fluid. His eyes will droop from sleep deprivation, his quads rebelling while his back throbs with pain. Yet, despite knowing what lies ahead, he will start when the gun sounds, running toward the place where the trail intersects with suffering’s lonely path.
If he knows he’s going to suffer, why does he voluntarily choose to do so? He chooses to suffer because it will be worth it in the end. Enduring indescribable fatigue and pain, he will cross the finish line, triumphant.
Think about those who chose to suffer for more noble reasons than finishing a trail race. Paul and Barnabas traveled together, preaching and teaching in Iconium. Though many Jews believed, some weren’t convinced of the gospel and rallied the Gentiles. They plotted to kill Barnabas and Paul, but undeterred, the two men simply left to preach in nearby Lystra. When they healed a lame man, the crowd misunderstood their power. Thinking they were actually the gods Zeus and Hermes, the people bowed and prepared to offer pagan sacrifices to them. Of course, Paul and Barnabas protested, proclaiming they were mere men, servants of the true God. But unbelieving Jews from Antioch and Iconium, seeking to entrap the men, rallied the crowd. Paul was dragged from the city, stoned, and left for dead.
Most people—if they survived—would take that as a sign never to return. Not Paul. He ventured back into the city, bruised and bleeding. The next day Paul and Barnabas traveled to Derbe to preach, but soon they returned to Lystra, the place of Paul’s intense suffering. They couldn’t keep a good man down.
Why? He had placed his hope in the future and in God’s coming kingdom.
Team Truth: Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God," they said (Acts 14: 21b-22).
Team Time: If you’re an athlete, you will suffer. Sometimes we endure suffering better if we’re not alone. How can you help your teammates endure—and embrace—inevitable suffering? Record a specific example.