For years, I despised running. In fact, my body complained if I ran and I used its moaning and groaning as adequate excuse for not running.
How did my body complain? Shin splints throbbed in my calves. Knees popped or twisted. This says nothing of the lactic acid burn in my quads (but that didn’t stop me from biking, so let’s not open a can of worms).
Running a mile would have me panting like an overweight dog, but I regularly walked three or miles without any strain on my lungs. A two-mile jog made my face red enough to stop cars, but ten-mile bike rides caused no ill-colored face-painting.
Three miles? That may as well me a million. Except for now, I regularly run three miles. Am I a beet-faced huffer-and-puffer? Not unless I’ve taken a week off from the routine.
In our spiritual life, we can have the same sort of aversion to exertion. A wonderful occurrence captured in the Gospel of John Chapter six illustrates one such circumstance – a physical rowing event with spiritual implications.
The chapter begins with the feeding of the multitude. It was an awesome display of Jesus’s power and compassion. At the end, the disciples picked up enough leftovers to feed them another day and Jesus sent them across the sea ahead of him.
It is dark. The wind starts to howl. Waves crash into the boat. The disciples rowed on.
They got about three miles (I didn’t choose that distance arbitrarily and I don’t think John mentioned it in passing either). Exhaustion overwhelmed them. How would they ever make it across? Obeying Jesus was proving impossible.
Enter Jesus “walking on the sea” (v. 19) toward the discouraged and disgruntled group. As he gets near, they react in fear.
Remember, it was a dark and stormy night. In the midst of their trial, they were aware Jesus was absent but they didn’t expect him to appear.
How like them we are! Jesus gives us a project. We spring into action. Sometimes, we leave him behind in our excitement. Something pops up to hinder us. We slump in defeat. When Jesus joins us, we’re afraid.
Why do we fear? Why do we work in our own strength? Why do we let the inevitable storms overwhelm and discourage us?
We’re human. Enough said.
Jesus reassures us in these times when we have gone three miles too far, leaving him on the shore behind us. What should we do now?
“Then they willingly received him into the ship” (v. 21). Time to give Jesus the wheel of our speeding vehicle. We need to willingly submit to His plan for our lives.
You know what happens next? It’s amazing. Three miles that seemed like a million just minutes before fade beneath the preeminence of Christ.
“An immediately the ship was at the land whither they went” (v. 21). With Jesus in charge, a marathon isn’t too far for us to run. He takes us to the finish line of our goal with ease.
Are you feeling a little fatigued? Check the hold of your ship. Make sure Jesus is on board. Once he’s present, hand him the tiller and watch the miles blur past.
With Jesus, a million miles won’t even seem like three.