In the Bible's New Testament, Paul often compares Christ-followers to athletes and living a life that glorifies Christ to running a race. If you've been associated with athletics very much, you can probably relate very well to this analogy. You may recognize these verses...
"...let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with endurance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."
‒ Hebrews 12:1-3
"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air."
‒ 1 Corinthians 9:24-26
"However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me‒the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace."
‒ Acts 20:24
A Word From Our Founder
At the same time I began to become competitive in triathlon, God began to show me ways in which I could employ the same kind of effort, determination, techniques, and strategies that I used in triathlon to my Christian walk. Similar to Paul's analogy, the thought of using triathlon as a metaphor for the Christian life intrigued me. The more I thought about it, the more meaningful the triathlon-life metaphor became. I was amazed at how well it all fit together. I was convicted by how much further along in my Christian walk I should be. (Thank God for His grace and forgiveness!)
As with almost any analogy, comparison, or metaphor, this one will break down if taken too far or applied in an inappropriate context. And there are a couple of obvious differences between triathlon and our Christian walk such as we don't compete with others or have to "perform" for God's love. Although, God does promise rewards for our faithfulness and obedience!
I have to admit that at times in the past I've momentarily considered whether or not using something as trivial as a sport (even a great sport like triathlon) to explore the eternal spiritual truths of our Creator was somehow inappropriate, whether disrespectful or irreverent. However, I'd always be reminded that this is how we always learn things—by association.
We learn by relating something we don't know to something we do. Something that's abstract to something concrete. Something complex to something simple. In the same way, that's how we teach. We use the tangible to explain the intangible.
How do you teach a five-year-old the concept of addition? You hand her three apples. And then two more apples. Then ask her how many apples she has in all. Whether you use five, four, or nine apples, or even use apples at all, is insignificant. But the learning how to add is not.
Throughout our existence, God has used analogies, metaphors, and various other forms of symbolism from the temporal world we know to teach about the eternal world we don't.
Jesus uses countless parables, many are metaphors: wise and foolish builders, new cloth on an old coat, sower and the soils, workers in the vineyard, talents and moneylender, among others. We can understand them because they are based on familiar experiences.
One of the most significant metaphors used in the Bible is marriage and family relationships. It relates the bridegroom and the bride to Christ and the church. God is the Father. Jesus is the Son of God. We are God's children, brothers and sisters in Christ.
If something is important, God will tell us. If it's really important, He'll show us. But if it's absolutely essential, He allows us to experience it. Hear and you will forget. See and you will know. Experience and you will understand.
We are better able to understand spiritual relationships because we experience physical ones.
In fact, the purpose of our physical experience is for spiritual understanding. God created us as physical beings to have a spiritual relationship with Him and leaves us here in our physical existence with a spiritual purpose.
It took God sending Jesus for us to experience him so that we could understand Him and know Him eternally. Know Jesus. Know God. No Jesus. No God.
Often, when we are told things or shown things, we think we understand them. However, as time goes by, we are soon flooded with so much noise and misinformation that we can become confused and disoriented.
This began with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. God told them and showed them. But they didn't understand. The experience and understanding came later…and from a different "teacher." Unlike the five-year-old girl learning addition, they were handed a single apple; and they learned division.
When we begin to make life decisions based on misinformation in a disoriented state, the results can be disastrous. This is why experiential metaphors can be so incredibly useful. Not only do they help us to understand, they can help us stay focused and keep us from being deceived. As we continue to experience, we continue to understand.
As we journey together through the sport of triathlon, we'll explore the TriLife® Metaphor (triathlon-life). Similar to the way that the experiential metaphor of marriage and the family can help us understand how we relate to God, Jesus, and each other, the TriLife Metaphor can help us understand how we can live for God, Jesus, and each other.
Our mouths may say we understand, but what does our race performance say?
My prayer for you is the same that it is for me...that the TriLife Metaphor applied throughout Tri4Him and the TriDot Training System will give you a fresh and clear perspective, inspire and motivate you, and offer you many specific ideas, techniques, and strategies that will help you live a rewarding life, pleasing to Him.
Get ready to put on your goggles, clip-in your pedals, and lace up your shoes. The race has already begun.