A triathlon is an endurance race consisting of three
consecutive events, usually swimming, cycling and running long distances. I
have neither the inclination nor the stamina to participate in such an event,
although I admire those who do!
|Photo by Funk Dooby 2015|
While at our favorite beach getaway, though, I do enjoy my
own kind of modified triathlon, first swimming alone in a refreshing outdoor
pool surrounded by hibiscus, tall evergreens and palms and frequented by mourning doves, butterflies and a pair of osprey tending to their nest atop one of the
Norfolk Island pines.
Then I join my husband for a long walk on the beach,
searching for special treasures and enjoying the antics of sea birds frolicking
at the water’s edge, a squadron of pelicans flying overhead, and even dolphins
surfacing and diving not far from shore. In the afternoon, we often cycle
through charming beach neighborhoods and have to pedal hard to make it up the
steep bridges connecting the barrier islands!
These consecutive forms of exercise got me thinking about
analogies in our spiritual life. The apostle Paul told Timothy that physical
exercise profits us a little, but that flexing our spiritual muscles is far
more important, for godliness is profitable for all things, in this world and
the next (1 Timothy 4:8). Yet physical
exertion has its place. Paul and other occupants of a ship sailing to Italy
were saved from drowning and shipwreck by swimming to shore (Acts 27: 41-44).
Other mentions of swimming in Scripture are mostly
metaphorical and refer to God’s infinite power. To accomplish His purposes, He
can even make iron swim, or float on water (2
Kings 6:6). To save His people, He will spread forth his hands in the
midst of their enemies as a swimmer spreads his hands to swim, conquering pagan nations (Isaiah 25:11-12), and
He will fill rivers where His enemies once swam with their own blood (Ezekiel 32:5-6).
New Jerusalem, our heavenly home, will be supplied by a
river of blessing so deep that we will be completely submerged in it and will swim
through it to fully experience its goodness and provision! (Ezekiel 47:1-5). These living waters (Zechariah 14:8)
constitute the pure river of water of life gracing the Heavenly City (Revelation 22:1-2). Jesus Christ
Himself is the Living Water (Song of
Solomon 4:15; Jeremiah 2:13; 17:13), which He freely
gives those who believe in Him (John 4:10).
Water baptism (Acts
8:36-39) does not save us (Mark
16:16; John 3:18), but it is a glorious picture of our faith, by
which we are saved (Ephesians 2:8-9),
in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). When we are submerged beneath the
water, we depict the burial of Jesus Christ, and dying to our sin nature, to be
raised to new life in Him! (Romans 6:4).
Once we are saved by believing in Jesus Christ, living water flows from us to
nourish others (John 7:38). What
a transformation from the sorrow we experienced when we had no hope, expressed
by the psalmist David as swimming in his bed overflowing with tears! (Psalm 6:6).
Running is a key component of most triathlons, but even the
most hardened runners must sometimes walk to recover between sprints. Scripture
tells us that we should walk in love (Ephesians
5:2), walk in light (Ephesians
5:8; 1 John 1:7), and walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16,25). Not coincidentally, God is love (1 John 4:8), God is light (1 John 1:5), and God is a Spirit,
and we must worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).
Our Christian walk refers to our thoughts, lifestyle and
behavior. Although we are saved by faith and not by works (Galatians 2:16), we are Christ’s workmanship, saved to do
good works ordained by Him since before time to glorify Him and benefit others
(Ephesians 2:10; Titus 3:8; James 2:14-26).
If we bring our sin nature under subjection, we can run with patience the race set before us (Hebrews
12:1) until we cross the finish line entering Heaven! Paul encourages
us to be inspired by athletes who run for an earthly, temporal prize, yet to
realize that the race we run is of far more significance (1 Corinthians 9:24), and that its rewards are eternal!
Cycling was not a thing in Bible times, but we could
substitute fighting in this analogy of a spiritual triathlon, not in the sense
of brawling or contention, but rather of being a warrior in God’s army. The
patriarch Jacob fought so earnestly in prayer that he wrestled all night with
God Himself, until God agreed to give him a great blessing (Genesis 32:24-30).
Like any good soldier, we must endure hardness (2 Timothy 2:3-4), obey our
Commander (John 14:15,21), and
fight the good fight (1 Timothy 6:12;
2 Timothy 4:7). In spiritual warfare, God gives us His armor of
protection (Ephesians 6:10-18),
He is the Victor (1 Corinthians 15:57),
and in Him we must prevail!
© 2022 Laurie Collett