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January 14, 2013

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A Hurdler for Christ: Paul’s training manual for victorious Christians

by Dave Malnes

On Saturday afternoon, I watched my two sons participate in a college indoor track meet. Hurdling for the Boise State Broncos, they faced a historic powerhouse in track and field — the Oregon Ducks. My oldest son, Justin Malnes, finished second in the race behind the reigning Pac-12 champion from Oregon, Jonathan Cabral. Justin’s time of 7.99 not only broke the eight second barrier for the first time, but he now owns the 24th fastest time in the nation for NCAA Division I. My youngest son, Jeremy Malnes, set a personal record as a freshman and finished a very respectable ninth in the race. Here are the reports on the meet from Boise State and Oregon.

Justin Malnes in lane three lines up in 60m hurdle final.

Justin Malnes in lane three lines up in 60m hurdle final.

Track and field has always been my favorite sport to watch. With sincere joy and gratitude, I give thanks to God for allowing me the experience to watch my sons participate in this sport at one of its highest levels of competition.

Jeremy Malnes lines up in lane three for Boise State in preliminary race.

Jeremy Malnes lines up in lane three for Boise State in preliminary race.

Several years ago, I wrote a commentary for the book of Philippians. One of my favorite verses from this wonderful book is from 3:13-15.

“Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

(To read the commentary on these verses entitled “The Apostle Paul and Olympic Glory” please click here.]

When you read these verses, I am given the impression that the Apostle Paul would have made a wonderful track and field coach. I believe these particular verses give great tips on how to be a successful hurdler.

The 60 meter hurdles final

The 60 meter hurdles final

Tip #1: “Forget what is behind”

When you run the hurdles, it’s not a good idea to look back. When you are concentrating too much on the previous hurdle to either celebrate your success or anguish over your failure, then you will undoubtedly crash into the next hurdle. As Christians, why do we need to look back when are sins are already forgiven. We are saints in Christ Jesus, so “strain towards what is ahead” and focus on the next hurdle that lies ahead instead of those that are behind.

Tip # 2:  “Press on toward the goal”

In running the hurdles, or any track and field event, the true measure of competition is to race against your best self. Your main competition is the clock, to set a personal record, not necessarily to beat opponents. A person could demolish their previous record, yet finish in last place. Did they win? Absolutely. They beat their best time. It doesn’t matter if a person is in the lead, in the middle of the pack, or way back in last place, the point is to try to beat their time and finish the race. For Christians, so often we try to compare our lives with others. As a result, we lose our perspective. Either discouragement begets laziness or coveting begets following the crowd. If you are being abundantly blessed and feel like you are in the lead in life, Jesus tells us to be careful. If the struggles in life make you feel that you are in last place and struggling to continue, Jesus tells you to “press on” and finish the race.

Tip #3  “Win the prize”

There is no greater accomplishment then being recognized for an outstanding performance. For some who have experienced the thrill of victory, a medal or ribbon is a monument to that achievement. For those who have placed their trust in the promises of God and Christ’s completed work on the cross, they have received the victor’s prize in heaven. A crown of glory that far surpasses any glory an Olympic gold medal can bring awaits those in heaven. That sweet taste of victory absorbs our souls and fills us with hope, peace, and joy. Coach Paul would train his athletes to be a “hurdler” for Christ. With these inspired word found in Paul’s letter to the church in Phillipi, we receive a training manual on how to be a victorious saint in Christ.

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