Create A Goal - The Runner's Devotional

Create a Goal

You’ve determined your purpose for running, but you should also have goals. They will provide momentum and push you through the tough times. Your purpose is the big idea—what you hope to achieve long-term. Goals are more immediate and short-term. By setting realistic goals, you will be able to enjoy each run and eventually fulfill your purpose. This doesn’t mean, however, that everything will be easy. Yes, goals will help keep you focused, but difficult moments will come. This is true in your spiritual run as well. In preparing young Timothy for his race, Paul explained that he should be prepared for those difficult, sometimes very painful experiences:

Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules. And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor. Think about what I am saying. The Lord will help you understand all these things. . . . So I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen. (2 Timothy 2:3-7, 10)

In this passage, Paul uses the soldier, the farmer, and the athlete as his examples. What do these three people have in common? They have to work hard and “endure suffering” in order to accomplish their goals. The athlete must follow the rules, taking no shortcuts, to reach the finish line. The soldier must leave civilian life and independent living and submit to the officer’s commands to have a successful military career. A farmer must till, plant, and weed—hard work—in order to reap a harvest. Paul was in a Roman prison when he wrote that he was “willing to endure anything” to do what God had called him to do. Soon after writing that statement, Paul paid the ultimate price—execution for being a follower of Christ. He suffered, but it was worth it.

Discipline and “suffering” are necessary for more than farmers, soldiers, and athletes. Students need to forgo free-time activities, entertainment options, and sometimes sleep to study for exams or write their essays. Parents have to move their schedules around in order to attend their children’s events and sometimes have to scrimp and save for future expenses such as college. Workers sweat and strain, sometimes in terrible conditions, to earn a living.

Christians often must adjust their schedules in order to spend time in the Word, to pray, and to worship. And moved by compassion, they will invest themselves and their resources to help the needy and to spread the gospel. Those choices may seem difficult at the time, but in light of their ultimate purpose (to glorify God), the choices are worth it.

The Runner

I’m exhausted from everything that happened at work today. And the drive home—what a mess. But tonight’s the night—the season premiere of four of my favorite TV shows! I have been waiting for this, especially after last season’s cliff-hanger, and I’m excited to see what will happen this season. I’ve been thinking and planning for this night for a while. I even put it on my calendar. Today was crazy, so it will be a nice time to relax.

Yeah, I didn’t get my run in, but it’s no big deal. I don’t think one day will throw me off. I know the race is only two weeks away, but missing today won’t hurt my training . . . or will it? I have worked so hard to get to this point, to reach my goal—to run and finish a 10K. I’ve made it this far because I’ve stuck to my running schedule, my training plan; otherwise I would be lost and would have given up long ago.

So why am I suddenly distracted and making excuses now? Sure, work was a zoo, and traffic was a beast. And, yes, I would love to sit on the couch and watch my favorite shows. But I’m so close to my goal. And isn’t that why we have DVRs?

The Race

Life is filled with potential distractions that can take our focus off our goals. In running, the distractions can include how we’re feeling (physical discomforts), other activities (some trivial, like TV shows), the time that running requires, or others’ opinions. In our spiritual lives, if we focus on stresses and problems such as job pressures, relationship drama, financial setbacks, and physical needs, the burden of those thoughts will weigh on us and slow us down. We may begin to doubt our capabilities and God’s sovereignty. Instead, we must remember that our sufferings build endurance and can bring us closer to God. And we must keep pushing ahead in our spiritual training.

Second Timothy 2:11-12 continues: “If we die with him, we will also live with him. If we endure hardship, we will reign with him.” We will reign with him! These trials are only momentary bumps on the road to eternal life with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

The Result

Instead of focusing on life’s complications and struggles, press toward your purpose with the vision of winning and the hope of harvest. God is good. He is here for you. And only through him can you fulfill your ultimate purpose—to glorify God.

What are your goals in your spiritual life? If you decide that you need to have a regular time of Bible study and prayer, a possible goal would be to read and study a book of the Bible by a certain time and to spend thirty minutes a day in this process. If you decide that you need to learn more about Christian doctrine, a possible goal would be to attend one of the adult education classes at your church each time they are offered for a year. Or you may decide to read a couple of the Christian classics. Other goals for spiritual growth, toward fulfilling your purpose of glorifying God, could include getting involved in an outreach, service, tutoring, or other program.

My Story

I hated running. In junior high, I dreaded the mile test. We had to finish in under twelve minutes, and I think I barely made that with my run/walk regimen. Even when I started working out regularly in college, running was not my workout of choice. I’d rather use the elliptical or rowing machine than run.

That’s why I’m amazed that within the past couple of years I’ve completed three triathlons (one as a relay--I was the runner) and numerous road races. It’s awesome how God created the human body to push and train itself to reach new goals. I remember struggling to run for a few minutes, but here I am after one year as an “official” runner training for a ten-mile race, a sprint triathlon, and soon a half marathon.

My first race ever was the Chicago Fleet Feet SuperSprint Triathlon (375 meter swim/6.2 mile bike/1.55 mile run). I’d never really trained for anything like this before, and I took it very seriously. On many days, I’d have to get up super early to work out before work, then come home and do another workout. Swimming, biking, and running became my life in addition to an already busy schedule. After I completed the race and had that finisher’s medal in my hands, I thought about all the discipline I put into training for the event. How could I be so disciplined to wake up early to swim or run, but when it came to waking up early to read my Bible or spend time with God, I just couldn’t do it? The realization convicted me, and I knew I had to change my priorities.

The ultimate race I need to run has spiritual implications. If I want to finish the race God has called me to, then I need to be disciplined in my training for that race by spending time in prayer, reading my Bible, living a life to serve the Lord, etc. In the end, it won’t matter how many miles I’ve run, how many personal records I’ve set, or how many races I’ve completed. Only one race matters. So I’ll be training, because that’s the race I want to finish well.


Think It Through

1. Without goals, you won’t achieve your purpose. What are your current physical/running goals?

2. What are some of your spiritual goals?

3. What goals would help you stay in good spiritual condition?

4. How can you make Christ “real” so that others may see him in you?

On Running

Why should I set goals?

Setting goals has numerous benefits. First, setting goals will help you develop self-confidence as you accomplish them. Second, having goals will motivate you to work harder and be more persistent in your workouts. Third, goal setting will give you insight into your abilities and, hopefully, build your enthusiasm. Finally, working toward achievable goals highlights important aspects of running, helping you improve.

From the Book:

The Runner's Devotional cover image

The Runner's Devotional
By Dana Niesluchowski and David R. Veerman

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